IDSD2016: Improve Conversions Through Immersive Brand Storytelling

Interactive Day San Diego

At Interactive Day San Diego (IDSD2016) I had a chance to share insightful perspectives on creating purposeful content. It is amazing how the world has evolved and the digital landscape continues to advance over time. Ads have changed dramatically since the late 90s when I got my start in advertising. Back then social media meant chain emails, the only cookies that mattered were chocolate chip, and Television reigned king of media. Today the world fits in our pockets, ads already know what we like, and virtually anyone is reachable 24/7.

Here are the takeaways from my experience at San Diego’s must-attend digital marketing event:

User-Centric Methodology

UCSD Media Lab Director, Dr. Don Norman’s opening keynote brought to light the humanity behind “user-centric” methodology. Using anecdotal critiques Dr. Norman is pushing to go beyond demographics or psychographic metrics to build “well-rounded”products that feel intuitive to the user. Focus groups and surveys can lead to incomplete or tainted user data and is not enough to truly understand what users want from a system. Instead he advocates adding more user testing to the development cycles. Being an interactive designer and having spent many late nights pressing buttons and testing links I found  his words comforting.

Brands Should Live Independent of Devices

The next session I attended at IDSD, Mirum Shopper’s  Managing Director, Laura Karmarkar discussed the psychology behind the “endowment effect.”   I was surprised to learn, “92.5% of retail sales happen in-store.” She explains how brands need to live independent of devices in an omni-channel world where someone may start a purchase funnel on a phone, move on to a tablet, and conclude on a desktop computer or retail outlet. The rise of consumer intermediary services like Uber and Airbnb, now offer the power to fulfill needs in record time and with minimal hassle. So by establishing a real-time brand presence both online and off, brands can respond to customer demand quickly building up trust and awareness. Consumers have been transformed by the recession and are saving more fearing financial uncertainty. Brands however have the opportunity to aligning their values with those of a generation that seeks meaningful life experiences and community. The goal of using content to educate and entertain, needs to also get people talking and sharing. Millennials in the U.S. now outnumbered both baby boomers and Gen Xers in the workforce and Ms. Karmarkar is keen at identifying successful brand partnerships that drive their participation, stimulate social interaction, and build trust for future exchanges.  For example H&M and the Coachella music festival  set up interactive pop-up stores on festival grounds and created a lot of buzz on social media with it’s hashtag #hmlovescoachella. This strategy empowered the consumer to drive a conversation on trending fashion and share their Coachella experience.

The Magic of Tidying Up

Another interesting partnership involves “The Container Store” and Goodwill Inc. TCS flipped the concept of contraction defense strategy on its side with its response to Marie Kondo’s decluttering manifesto titled, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. Rather than giving up market share, the retailer embraced the KonMarie method and offered organizational workshops and in-store demos. By setting up donation stations throughout all of its stores, TCS and Goodwill encouraged consumers to “do the right thing”, get rid of clutter, and visit a TCS location.

Content Creation Is Only Half The Battle

Digital Content Strategist, Ronell Smith’s session titled, “Everything you know about content marketing is wrong”. Mr. Smith defined content creation as only half the battle when building rapport with audiences that have grownup to see advertising as deceptive and inauthentic. Mr. Smith  looks to make brands more relatable by emphasizing their brand purpose over alongside their promise. It takes a lot of soul searching for a brand to figure out what it stands for and what purpose it serves. He estimates 12 -17 month to shepherd  audiences beyond what’s above the fold and past the first page of search results. In essence Mr. Smith defined content marketing as a long-term relationship between savvy audiences and an ever evolving stream of content that motivates action and builds on stories. Considering good content usually live in the social ecosystems and average of 3.2 days before it begins to lose search relevance.

Improving The Storytelling Experience

In another session, “There’s Always a Story to Tell”, GoPro’s Lead UX Designer Ha Phan gave a talk describing GoPro’s recent design and development efforts. By explaining the concept of “Atomic Moments”, Ms. Phan reveals how GoPro cameras can quickly capture the “smallest atomic unit of a moment” as a high quality clip, provides tools tools for editing the best parts, and finally facilitate sharing their creations through built-in social media connectivity. Users have complete control on how to manage authenticity through the use of intuitive firmware that can ultimately improve the storytelling experience. She also described the challenges that come from designing new technologies that push hardware to its limits to bring fresh products to market. Ms. Phan is determined to make the storytelling process a natural extension of our human need for connection. Featuring great examples of user-generated videos including a before/after make over of her cousin’s hang gliding video, Ms. Phan demystifies the process of creating highly shareable videos.

Defining Purposeful Content for Niche Audiences

Award nominee, Morgan Spurlock’s gave an inspiring closing keynote highlighting a wide range of original and socially conscious content that speaks against corporate deception and media manipulation. Regardless if you love him or not, you probably have watched one of his documentaries. As an accomplished writer, producer, and director Mr. Spurlock described his creative process, a few hilarious guerrilla fundraising strategies, and some recent projects created by his NY based production company, Warrior Poets. He went on to emphasize the many new opportunities available for content creators to deliver content that may live outside of the mainstream. It boils down to being resourceful and defining purposeful content for niche audiences. Good stories about relevant issues and causes need to join forces with brands that share, support, and are willing to promote the same values.  As culture creators we have the responsibility to bring about social change. By focusing his offerings on under represented groups, he is able to establish meaningful connections that bridge empathy and highlight a brand’s ethos. Through relatable brand ambassador Warrior Poets is creating documentary series like “Present / Tense”.

Intimacy In The Digital Age

Journalist and storyteller,  Jillian Rose Reed explores topics important to her generation in what can be described loosely as a femme-centric version of Vice. He then followed to talk about  “Sexish” another series that uses a body-positive approach to explore sexuality in a way that speaks to both men and women about intimacy in the digital age. Challenging taboos and social hypocrisy host Megahn Tojens does a lot more than provide information, she is  also building a path to empathy by sharing her experience through immersive reporting with a global audience.

Put Yourself In Someone Else’s Shoes

Finally Morgan’s third example, “What We Teach Girls” is a powerful web series that explores how media and advertising can undermine the role of women in society. By putting himself in someone else’s shoes he has developed a unique style and point of view that resonates with audiences and bridges corporate funding with brands that find value in his message.

As the event wrapped up, prizes were awarded, and people began to clear the main ballroom. I finally saw my chance to approach Mr. Spurlock and thank him for his generosity.

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