This past week I spent five magical days with some of the most inspiring and forward thinking individuals in our industry at SXSW Interactive. I learned and saw A LOT, so I’ve broken my week into a two-parter: Part I: Lessons and Part II: Experiences.
1. Testing and data are King!
At eROI, everything we do is built around tracking, testing, and growing smarter with our results. So when I saw a large turn out for sessions on A/B testing, and performance tracking – I became more than confident that we are on the forefront of where the industry is headed.
Dan Chuparkoff VP of product at Civis Analytics, lead a compelling session called “Everything You Think About A/B Testing is Wrong”. Not only that, but there is no single right answer—different people like different things, which is why we need to focus on segmenting our audience for those different preferences. If we ask someone “What animal is best? Kitten, puppy, or lizard?”, there is no “right” answer. Individual preference, it’s a thing! And most people aren’t addressing this in their testing. Our audience is made up of lots of different people, various segments exist within the sum of the entire group, and if you’re doing click races, the “best answer” only pleases your biggest group. We must start with understanding that segments have differing values, and by using data science, we can create segmentations by scale.
To truly breakthrough in our content creation, Chuparkoff says we need to:
UNDERSTAND: Survey your users, ask them lots of questions, measure what they click on, and where they came from—entry points to your site, what keywords they searched to get to your site.
REACH: Talk to segments over different channels, create segment-optimized landing pages, use segment-optimized media targeting.
ENGAGE: Match the right content to the right segments, avoid showing detrimental content to the wrong segments, and just use Ryan Reynolds in all your ads. It felt so great to see that the industry is backing the practices we use with our clients at eROI, and especially my work on Taco Bell. I can’t wait to jump into new testing strategies for the upcoming quarters!
2. Brand Storytelling is critical, but we’re still missing the whole story.
Nick Law, Global Chief Creative Officer at R/GA and the mind behind the emotionally powerful “Love Has No Labels” campaign, spoke of their method for storytelling from a deeply emotional place: “Once you see it, you can’t unfeel how you felt.” Law says there are two ways to go about establishing this feeling in brand storytelling: continue to produce content that people like and want to share so they continue to think about it, or put a platform out there that uses storytelling and systematic design.
“The power of a story is its revealed moment. That’s what’s hard about watching a movie over and over—once the moment is revealed, it becomes boring… If you want to sustain a behavior, you need to build a system, a good system that gets more powerful over time.”
When asked about the opportunity brands had to tell a more compelling story that the users can relate to and feel, Law stated, “We came from a world where we told the story that the brand wanted to say. Brands need to align their message with the audiences message. Every brand has an audience with a message they want to say. Every brand has a value, otherwise they wouldn’t exist as a business. The problem isn’t the brand, it’s the legacy of the message and what they want to say.”
Another hot topic in brand storytelling was the issue of inclusion. Many panels and short films spoke to the representation of all genders, races, and sexual orientations. Madonna Badger, credited with creating the Calvin Klein ad featuring Mark Wahlberg, spoke about dissatisfaction with the industry and her bold choice to stop using women as objects in her campaigns: “Objectifying women can lead to young women and girls turning the lens on themselves, which can affect their cognitive power and self-esteem.” Her new focus #WomenNotObjects strives to include accurately and respectfully represented women.
Finally Tyler Ford, a writer, speaker, & media personality who identifies as agender, spoke about the lack of inclusion for the today’s teenagers as they grow up in a world where same sex marriage is now a fact, transgender models walk runways, and Miley Cyrus says she doesn’t “relate to what people would say defines a girl or a boy.” In an original survey of 1,000 12- to 19-year-olds, J. Walter Thompson Intelligence found that 81% agreed that gender doesn’t define a person as much as it used to.
3. Why happiness is Hard and How to Make it Easier.
Andy Puddicombe, former Buddhist monk and founder of the meditation app Headspace, gave the closing keynote on how to find happiness in our everyday life. In the hustle and bustle of SXSW, the idea of slowing down our thoughts and being mindful of what we choose to entertain was the perfect pause in a conference where individuals are being awarded for their constant forward thinking.
“Just because we have the ability to think all the time, doesn’t mean we need to do it all the time. We need to sort out what thoughts are useful and which ones to put aside.”
Puddicombe closed out his keynote by leading the room of a few thousand people in a 10 minute meditation. For those 10 minutes the room remained silent and still: a perfect reminder that in the stressful industry we work in, happiness and contentment is still at our fingertips. We must focus on maintaining our mental health in order to retain our long term brain power to produce ground-breaking strategies and technology.