5 Key Take-Aways from Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo™ 2019

May 9, 2019
Contributor: Heather Pemberton Levy

Marketing leaders learned to rethink customer engagement and get creative with technology in a world where consumers have more choices than ever before.

Over 1,800 marketing leaders arrived in San Diego this year for Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo 2019 amidst a backdrop of more pressure to innovate, drive customer experience, and deliver insights in a world where consumers are inundated with options. What Gartner and industry experts made clear over three days: Successful brands invest early in new opportunities to connect with customers in meaningful ways. Read on for our five key take-aways from the 2019 conference.

Key Take-away No. 1: Help them out

In the opening keynote, Rethinking Digital Customer Engagement, Brent Adamson, Distinguished VP, Gartner for Marketers, discussed the pressures and anxieties of today’s consumers and encouraged marketing leaders not to use tech to reach out blindly to them but rather to ask, “How can we use our big data and marketing technology to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes so we can see how they think and feel? How will this investment or capability help our customers solve a problem or improve their lives?”

For marketing disciplines spanning personalization, content marketing, customer experience and branding, pay attention: Messages focused on helping the customer accomplish something increase the predicted impact of the commercial benefit index (e.g., brand intent, purchase, repurchase and increased cart size) by nearly 20%.

“At the end of the day, consumers don’t just want you to show them that you know them, they want you to help them get something done,” said Adamson. “Proving you know the customer in the absence of helping them, can do immense damage.”

Heather Pemberton Levy, VP, Content Publishing, Gartner interviews Maureen Mullen, Chief Strategy Officer, Gartner for Marketers on Facebook Live from Marketing Symposium

“Genius” brands, in particular, make big bets on digital and create content that helps their customers through the purchase process according to Maureen Mullen, Chief Strategy Officer, Gartner for Marketers in a  Facebook Live interview about her session In the Company of Genius about the 2018 Digital IQ Index results. Ford Motor Company reallocated television advertising spend to reach millenials on YouTube with videos that compared vehicles such as the Ford Escape to the Toyota RAV4. Proctor & Gamble invested early in building up its product lines on Amazon with long product descriptions and earned high search visibility.

Key Take-away No. 2: Get creative with technology

Are you ready to let artificial intelligence (AI) create your content? In the session, Move Over Giorgio: Why Your Next Creative Director May Be an AI, Andrew Frank, Distinguished Vice President, Analyst at Gartner for Marketers, stated that by 2022, content creators will produce more than 30% of their digital content with the aid of AI content-generation techniques — increasing productivity and advertising effectiveness, but also disrupting the creative process.

After walking the audience through AI’s attempts at image creation in the natural world (read: not there yet), Frank showed effective examples of how this technology can optimize language to generate ideal response rates for digital campaigns. Here’s where machine learning can make a difference in personalization at scale.  

Chris Ross, Vice President, Analyst at Gartner for Marketers, described the genesis for atomic content in a Facebook Live interview about micronarrative messaging. His research for content marketing leaders centers on a more human approach to understanding buyers’ pivotal moments so that brands can differentiate their messaging. In other words, marketing leaders must focus on buyer journeys while they experiment with options to scale content creation.

Heather Pemberton Levy, VP, Content Publishing, Gartner interviews Chris Ross, Vice President, Analyst at Gartner for Marketers, on Facebook Live from Marketing Symposium

Key Take-away No. 3: Sell the marketing story

Ross also summarized highlights of his session for CMO Circle attendees on how to Market the value of marketing to the organization. Marketers should think strategically and borrow tactics from external marketing campaigns for internal programs. “Segment your audience and know what kind of information is important to each of them,” Ross said. For example, the CEO will be less interested in the number of clicks and likes than the broader impact of marketing initiatives on the business.

In her CMO Circle session on Top Questions Every CMO Must Answer for the Board, Maureen Mullen, coached senior marketing leaders on how to respond to tough questions from board members. “Any good board member is going to push their marketing team to use technology to solve consumer problems,” Mullen said in a Facebook Live interview at the conference. She encouraged marketers to explore how technologies, from chatbots to AI, can make a difference for consumers versus focusing on experimenting with the technology alone.

A second theme for board members involves how marketers rethink their use of creative formats. Citing Lancome as an example, Mullen commented that the company had taken a cue from Instagram and realized that posting images of real women on its product detail pages worked better for selling foundation than its product finder tool.

Building a genius marketing organization session, Christi Eubanks, Jonathan Gibbs, Gartner Marketing Symposium Xpo 2019

In order to sell the right marketing story to the organization and the board, marketers need the right data. In their session on How to Build a Genius Marketing Analytics Organization,  Christi Eubanks, Managing Vice President, Gartner for Marketers, and Jonathan Gibs, Chief Data Officer, Gartner for Marketers, said that as the need for data skills continues to rise on marketers’ priority lists, leaders can take comfort that evolving skills don’t translate to higher salaries.

The experts described how Genius brands align their operational model to their data stack. They hire more junior data engineers to build a pipeline of data before they hire data scientists. The lesson, according to Gibbs, is to build your foundation first, and then to advance to analytics.

Read more: The Secret to a Genius Marketing Analytics Organization

Key Take-away No. 4: Spark customer engagement

In his guest keynote, Influence: The Hidden Forces That Shape Behavior,  Dr. Jonah Berger, Professor at the Wharton School of Business, challenged the audience to think beyond digital as the primary means for creating influence and viral hits. “We tend to think of word of mouth as digital,” Dr. Berger said and noted that the percentage of word of mouth online is only 7% to 10%. “Most word of mouth is offline, face to face,” he said.

Digital plays its role in the influence equation and can often spark offline word of mouth. To build the spark, marketers can use Dr. Berger’s six step formula to tap into the psychology of how influence works:

  1. Social currency

  2. Triggers

  3. Emotion

  4. Public

  5. Practical value

  6. Stories

“How can we trigger people so they take the desired action at the right time?” Dr. Berger asked. “Triggers serve as advertisements for your brand, reminding people of your product even when it’s not around.” As an example, Dr. Berger suggested that peanut butter acts as an advertisement for jelly. Or “weekends were made for Michelob” uses “weekend” as the trigger for Michelob beer.

Dr. Jonah Berger, author of Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior, Simon & Schuster, 2017 speaking in a guest keynote at Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo 2019

“What’s the thing in the environment that will remind people of you even when you’re not around?” Dr. Berger challenged the audience of marketing leaders.

In the Tuesday guest keynote on The Secret to Creating Universally Joyful Products and Experiences, designer Ingrid Fetell Lee cited research that joy by sales people in retail environments increased the amount of time people browse and spend; doctors in a state of joy come to a correct diagnosis more quickly; and joyful negotiators reach more win/win agreements. Challenging the myth that joy is a distraction to success, Ms. Fetell Lee walked the audience through her method for adding joy to products, workspaces and daily life.

Ingrid Fetell Lee, author Joyful, The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, (Little Brown, 2018) describes the key ingredients of joy.

For example, one airline wakes passengers with soft rainbow hues, creating a joyful customer experience. The mattress company, Casper, created a glow light that gradually dims to help people fall asleep or lights up to awaken them, utilizing one of Fetell Lee’s key ingredients for creating joy: make the mundane magical.

Key Take-away No. 5: Know your purpose

Purpose driven brands outperform the stock market by 120% and National Geographic is no stranger to building purpose into its brand. Jay Wilson, Vice President, Analyst at Gartner for Marketers and David Friedlander, Vice President of Consumer Insights at National Geographic discussed the importance of building purpose into campaigns to connect with consumers.

At the core of National Geographic is the model: When people understand the world, they care more deeply and take responsibility for it. National Geographic has used technology to drive connection and create empathy in its storytelling and branded the magazine’s iconic yellow rectangle as a familiar icon. The company launched a major campaign called Planet or Plastic, measuring success by how many people took the pledge to reduce their plastic consumption.

According to Wilson, nearly 66% of Millenials and Gen Z express a preference for brands that have a point of view and stand for something. When it comes to Gen Z, however, new traits emerge.

In his session on Conquering the Digital World of Gen Z, Jack Mackinnon, Senior Principal Analyst, Gartner for Marketers, revealed the key traits of Gen Z from a Gartner study in October, 2018. With a population of over 90 million people ages 0 to 23 years, Gen Z represents $2.8 trillion in buying power “of the most diverse generation ever.”

Conquering the Digital World of Gen Z, Jack Mackinnon, Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo 2019

Gen Z distinguishes themselves from Millenials by seeking out information that boosts their or their friends’ success.

“Focus your strategy on boosting their brand,” Mackinnon said. “You can’t sit back and do the same old on social media with Gen Z. You have to shake it up.”

He encouraged brands to create content rooted in Gen Z values: identity, creativity and passion. Political engagement is the norm for Gen Z; 60% say they want to change the world versus 39% of Millenials. Here’s where a brand’s purpose can matter (think Adidas).

“Don’t be afraid to speak up,” Mackinnon said. For this growing and large audience, their desire to engage in issues and the world gives brands the opportunity to build meaningful connection using the technology, data and creativity at their disposal.

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