Lessons on innovation from 4 millennial marketers

Young marketers from Boston Fine Arts Museum, Kiip, Adobe and Retention Science share their tales of delivering digital marketing

Digital innovation is less about ‘lightbulb’ moments and more about improving inefficiencies and foundational capabilities, such as technology and data, to deliver better experiences.

That was the view of four millennial marketers at this year’s Adobe Summit, brought together to discuss how they’re helping their organisations cope with digital disruption.

Senior manager of database marketing at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Rebecca Sisson, said there wasn’t any email and social activity occurring when she started five years ago. Her first focus became what could be done from the ground up to introduce digital capabilities into the arts museum.

“The first thing we did wasn’t exciting: It was building a data warehouse,” she said. “We needed to take all these disparate areas of the organisation with their own systems attached – ticketing, dining, parking for example – that were all doing their own thing, and organise these into one cohesive space to then leverage.”

Rather than invest technology dollars into high-profile tech activities to immediately engage with audiences, such as iPads, Sisson said the organisation opted to get the foundations right.

“There was recognition that combining our data, and getting that to that space [integration] was the foundation,” she said.

The pressure put on the marketing team to innovate its customer engagement strategy couldn’t be fulfilled without making that first investment, Sisson said.

“We can’t start with the biggest, brightest shiniest ball in the room; you have to have that foundation first,” she added.

Adobe manager of display media operations and analytics, Matt Scharf, said the motivation for his recent digital advertising initiative, ‘project iceberg’, was to deal with inefficiencies around how viewability influences digital attribution.

“This concept of a lightbulb going off above your head is not true. There’s more light when you embark on a path that twists and turns and opens up new standards and leads to innovation,” he claimed. “For me, there’s no direct path between the ideation and actual innovation.”

While associations and industry focus on increasing viewability and establishing measurement standards, the unspoken problem is that marketers still give credit to ads that are never seen by end users, Scharf said.

“Iceberg was about getting under the surface and isolating those ads at a cookie level, then removing ads never seen and pulling those out of attribution so we only focus on things with media exposure and had the chance to have a positive influence on the user,” he explained.

Scharf said he initially treated these ads as waste. But towards the end of the project, he realised unviewed ads also provided a valuable analytical benefit and represented a naturally occurring control group.

“We could use those to analyse if media was performing better than expected, and how effective media was in driving ROI of business,” he said.

Brian Wong, founder and CEO of mobile advertising startup, Kiip, said his mobile marketing company launched with the aim of recognising a consumer’s moment of achievement using rewards. The idea was initially focused on gaming but quickly extended to fitness, finance and professional achievement.

Earlier this month, Kiip announced a partnership with Mastercard to power the priceless moments mobile initiative aimed at improving customer retention.

“It’s an evolution for us where we’re not only using moments as way of advertising and reaching a new customer, but using moments to build a better relationship with an existing customer,” he said.

Wong said innovation has also come from the broader thinking presented by Kiip’s board and key strategic investors: Interpublic Group, American Express Ventures and Verizon Ventures.

“My original idea was very games-based, until a few of our board members came along and pointed out that moments happen outside of games too,” he said. “Thinking about food, fitness, sports, music and finance was a much cooler idea.

“Another one that happened recently was moments with connected devices, which is even more mind-blowing. Think about moments with your wearables, or even your connected car… we’re testing around moments when you need to fill up with gas, so the moment that’s happening, we’d serve up an ad for Shell or Exxon.”

Related: Marketing must take charge of innovation, says TBWA chief
CMO Council: CMO/CIO friction inhibiting digital marketing innovation

Jerry Jao, CEO and co-founder at marketing consultancy, Retention Science, said the million dollar question he’s trying to help marketers answer is: How do you turn those customers on your site into brand loyalists and advocates?

“Most products and services don’t have that brand equity with customers. So our innovation is around how we can create a journey with our customers,” he said. “The one-to-one journey is something the industry has been talking about for a while now. At the end of the day, that comes down to understanding customers, who we’re talking to, and how they’re using products and services.

“Those are all ‘moments of truth’ or little signals that enable us to discover a customer’s frustrations. It’s listening to end users and then looking for innovation and creativity around that.

“It’s innovation not by innovating, but by following.”

More from Adobe Summit 2015

Nadia Cameron travelled to Adobe Summit 2015 as a guest of Adobe.

CMO Australia conversation on LinkedIn: CMO Australia, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

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