This article originally appeared in the June 2015 edition of the Marketing GPS Newsletter.
In this issue, we’ll complete our look at what we learned while attending the South by Southwest Interactive Conference. You’ll recall from the previous issue that we’d made the trip to Austin while researching topics for our Sixth Annual Marketing GPS Workshop, held June 10 in Colorado Springs. Our chosen Workshop topic – Google’s Eroding Audience: Shoring Up Marketing in a Post-Search World – was inspired in part by presentations and discussions at “Southby,” regarding the rapidly changing role of search in digital marketing. In conducting nearly two dozen interviews, we also uncovered five other important topics:
How developing content and brand advocates are more important than ever
Two underutilized predictors of emerging trends: patents and Big Data
Digital marketing’s continuing evolution
The launch of Meerkat, a video-streaming app
Neuroplasticity: how social is changing our thinking
We examined numbers one and two in last month’s issue. This time, let’s take a look at numbers three through five: the evolution of digital marketing, Meerkat and neuroplasticity. (The Marketing GPS Workshop, incidentally, will be video-recorded and we’ll cover it here in a future issue.)
Digital Marketing’s Continued Evolution
Driven by the increased usage of mobile devices, the rapid evolution of digital media has created new opportunities and avenues for marketing. Creativity, innovation and dollars are heading away from traditional advertising toward this exploding field, with over 4.5 trillion online ads served annually. As we discussed in last month’s issue, brand advocacy and content marketing are now vitally important tools for marketers to break through the deluge of messages – both editorial and advertising – that computer and mobile users experience daily on websites and social-media networks.
Deploying these tools requires the participation of many corporate departments, not just Communications. Corporate silos are finally crumbling, according to Stephanie Losee, Managing Editor at Dell. The company now produces playbooks and internal workshops for each campaign, to ensure all contributors are on the same page. “We used to have advertising versus digital,” says Losee. “Now we have a creative group, a performance group and a disruption group.” All three groups use resources from across the enterprise.
The user-empowered quality of social networks is another reality that exerts a strong influence on digital marketing. Marketing content must include an outward focus on customers or members, as opposed to focusing solely on the messaging organization. General Electric’s Linda Boff, Global Executive Director of Brand Marketing, states that “GE Corporate reorganized its web ecosystem according to what customers want, not its organizational structure: one YouTube page instead of twenty.”
Video is rapidly becoming one of the most important forms of messaging, and live streaming makes video even more enticing to consumers and marketers alike. The introduction at Southby of Meerkat, a live video-streaming app available on iOS and Android, generated considerable buzz. Meerkat users can sign in using Facebook or Twitter identities (or manually with an email address), after which they can find others to watch videos they stream, or watch videos streamed by other users. This is often called “Meerkating,” a name deliberately similar to “marketing.”
The app gained more than 200,000 tweets by the end of March. Southby attendees used Meerkat to live-stream many of the sessions—without much intellectual-property controversy, because the streams can only be saved on the local device, not anywhere online. The app directly links withTwitter and Facebook accounts, letting people stream a live video to their Followers or Friends.
Twitter recognized the importance of mobile-based live-streaming, and quickly announced it had acquired Periscope, a rival streaming app. Twitter publicly launched Periscope on March 26, after which the site cut off Meerkat’s access to Twitter’s social graph (meaning users must individually build their followers on the app instead of just importing them from Twitter). Meerkat’s Facebook functionality is a direct result of Twitter’s distancing itself, and has broadened Meerkat’s popularity.
Apart from providing the similar functionality of live-streaming to users, Periscope also gives users an option to let anyone play the stream back – unlike Meerkat streams, which currently can’t be saved for later re-viewing.
Neuroplasticity: Digital Technology is Changing How We Think
With the ubiquity of digital devices and always-available communication, it’s not hard to understand why many believe technology has altered human physiology. It makes us think differently, feel differently, even dream differently. It affects our memory, attention spans and sleep cycles. This is attributed to a scientific phenomenon known as neuroplasticity. This means that experiences reorganize neural pathways in the brain.
Dan Machan and Felix Morgan of digital agency HeyHuman discussed neuroplasticity at Southby. They noted that at one level, all the information offered by the Internet and its interactive technologies helps us to organize our lives and free our minds for deeper thinking. However, at the same time, the powerful neuroplasticity of the Net and its supporting technologies can cripple our attention spans – making us uncreative, and impatient when having to deal with the very different reality of analog (i.e., real) life. In addition, the related technologies of search, social media and mobile are tending to devalue the retention and memorization of information which, over time, can reduce the brain’s ability to retain information.
Neuroplasticity poses a challenge for many businesses and brands as some struggle to come up with meaningful content to engage their audience. It is, however, mandatory that brands be willing to change and redefine themselves in response to the fast pace of technology-induced change. Marketers must develop skills to present information simply, creatively, and in ways that allow consumers to “get involved” and to remember what they’ve experienced.