Julia Smith
Julia Smith 19 December 2018

Finally, the brands have their say

As we finish 2018, it was refreshing to attend an event that focused on letting the brands take centre stage. MAD//Fest was promoted as being a disruptive event which threw the event rule book out of the window. It did not disappoint and the insights from all the speakers were some of the most engaging viewpoints that I have heard in 2018.

The key themes that dominated the event and which are going to feature heavily in 2019 included Measurement, Social Responsibility, Trust, Transparency, Performance, Results, Corporate Responsibility and the most prevalent of all, Customer First.

So what did the brands have to say?

Moonpig’s CMO, Andre Rickerby, kicked off his session with the idea that brands need to go back to the emotional meaning of what role they serve in consumers lives, rather than focusing on the functional aspect to what they deliver. He gave the example of Black Friday, saying that everyone would have received marketing around Black Friday but there were few email marketing messages that communicated an emotion to the consumer – other than a feeling of missing out of deal.

Brands should explore what their products mean to consumers; providing an emotional sense and elevating their message to reflect that.

For Moonpig, their cards serve the emotional purpose of bringing joy and optimism to their recipients’ lives. They operate in an intimate space, so they maximise their opportunities around that.

The CMO of Huawei talked about how marketing and brand/product innovation need to go hand in hand. It is imperative that brands have clear brand purpose and that this filters across product innovation and marketing. For Huawei, it is making the world possible and they demonstrated how they achieve this through their latest releases. One of them was a unique product innovation that helps deaf people hear. It translates the words on the page into sign language, using an avatar that appears via the app Storysign. The parent holds their phone over the book and the avatar signs the words on the app to their child.

They have also created Anti shake technology with their cameras to help a wildlife photographer with Parkinson’s take clear photos.

Their final example that they presented was their use of a phones AI translator to compose a song of a hump back whale. This might knock Nick Knowles off the number 1 slot if released!

Dan Thwaites, CSO, of International performance agency Tug talked about how creatives can learn the importance of the "drop by" with other teams and the notion to ‘share early, share often’. There needs to be a more cohesive approach to making media, creative and technology work together and Tug are offering training in 2019 to train creatives on media and tech and vice versa. The premise being to shorten the gulf between the different skill sets and actually learn what each other does and work together to improve output, understanding and efficiency.

Monzo were one of the most interesting sessions as Tristan Thomas, Head of Marketing and Community, explained how they have a different approach to banking rather than to the marketing.

Tristan talked about how High street banks have neglected consumers, yet they spend a fortune on branded TV advertising that does little to connect with the disengaged consumer. Monzo is now competing against the big banks and winning market share away from them because of their unique approach of wanting to make money work for everyone.

“You become a shareholder in your own bank,” said Tristan. “Transparency, fairness and involving customers in what we are doing is why customers love Monzo.”

They are digital-only, so they are the challengers to the High Street bank. They are capitalising on the fact that no one trusts the traditional bank and that’s why they’ve seen a shift in consumer behaviour.

A number of other brands talked about in-house versus using agencies. Many agreed that they were initially anti agency as they believed that someone in-house knows their brand better. However, they quickly learnt that agencies provide real knowledge and expertise that you can’t get in house; as well as delivering a different approach to accessing new markets, understanding tech and delivering innovating and cutting-edge creative technology.

Brands will no longer accept spending money on advertising that doesn’t deliver. What they do spend their budget on, has to deliver strong results.

Jenny Stanley, CEO, Appetite Creative said: “The event had a refreshing informal feel to it which allowed better conversations between brands, agencies and technology companies. It was much appreciated to have brands take centre stage and reassure us that a lot of the predictions and challenges for 2019 were inline with our own client’s comments and viewpoints.“

Another common school of thought was that to fuel growth, you have to deeply engage with your community and more importantly, build a strategy that is customer first.

“We will always invest money in advertising where it makes sense for us, if it brings new customers in through advertising and it resonates with the consumer, then those will be the channels that we commit more spend to in 2019, “said Tristan Thomas, Monzo.  “The time is past where tech companies can claim that they are independent of society and don’t need to think about whether their impact is positive or negative. As a company, we are proactively thinking about how we ensure that the impact we have is a positive one.”

As we come to the end of 2018, it felt right for the brands to have the final say. This sets the stage for 2019 to be the year that we listen more to each other and work together across media, creative and technology, more cohesively and transparently.

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