COLLISION CONFERENCE TAKEAWAYS
Last month we attended Collision Conference, a massive international tech and startup conference attracting thousands of entrepreneurs, investors, and marketers from all over the globe, held in New Orleans’ Convention Center and bookended by Jazz Fest. The event took place over three days with speakers and pitches during the day, followed by happy hours and handshakes after hours. Speakers ranged from Brett Favre to Fortune 500 CEOs, and even featured a few of New Orleans’ finest: Big Freedia, Chris Shultz, and Steve Gleason. The speakers and panels focused on the role and future of technology in various industries.
A highlight for our crew was the pub crawl the night before the conference kicked off. A tradition of Web Summit (the larger, international version of Collision Conf), the pub crawls have become famous ever since Uber struck a $37 million investment deal at pub in Dublin during one. Alyson Kilday, our CEO, and I lead a pub crawl of 20 guests from Denver, San Francisco, Dubai, Russia, and Colombia to the assigned bars on Bourbon Street. As good New Orleans ambassadors, we quickly steered the group towards Warehouse District bars and then to Frenchman. Evidently everyone had a great time in New Orleans as Paddy Cosgrave, Web Summit and Collision Conference founder, agreed to bring the Conference back to the Big Easy for three more years!
The following day was Marketing Day with back-to-back speakers and panels. Some of the main takeaways from the tech + marketing talks were: Facebook is king – some think it could even replace the web; storytelling is the apex of creativity; and the future of social media is messaging apps. Having spent most of my day at this stage, here are some key insights from key executives in tech branding, marketing, and public relations.
Branding: The day kicked off with About.com’s CEO, Neil Vogel, explaining his company’s massive rebrand from a cluttered, quick reference site in 2013, to the user friendly and engaging site it is today. In order to modernize the brand, Vogel created vertical brands within the parent company of About’s categories of pre-existing articles. Following the mantra, “happen to things before they happen to us,” About launched a health resource site called verywell.com. The site incorporates modern branding, responsive UI/UX, and doctor-written articles from their archive.
Advertising: SapientNitro’s CTO, Sheldon Monteiro, spoke of the importance of merging marketing with technology to gain ROI and real time results. He argued as high as 81% of companies need to restructure their marketing to put technology first and that the gap between brand promise and customer experience frequently hurts revenues. In order to fix these issues, Monteiro founded the first Chief Marketing Technology Officer University.
Even Ogilvy is beginning to shift its focus away from traditional “Mad Men” to acquiring specialized communications companies and developing tech products, as explained by Worldwide Chief Digital Officer, Brandon Berger. He also stated that the agency looks East instead of West for inspiration – taking cues from Asian social media trends, which is something I’m proud to say Hop & Jaunt also has a keen eye on.
PR: The panel featuring Rick Hamann from The Onion and Peter Koechley from Upworthy moderated by Molly Wood from APM Marketplace was particularly entertaining because Hamann and Koechley used to work together at The Onion. They shared valuable insights on what motivates people to share stories on Facebook, their benchmark for success and highest used social platform, respectively. The most shared content are authentic stories and video content, so they suggested repurposing stories by posting them on to different mediums then measuring traction.
Having a unique and compelling story was considered the best way to get coverage by Susan Butenhoff of AEC. Journalists receive an overload of pitches introducing their startup with “hey, we exist!” To avoid pitching blindly, she suggested doing a “good, bad, and ugly analysis” of your brand before researching key influencers and journalists. To paraphrase – be voyeuristic yet sensitive to your audience and remember that what’s disruptive today is commonplace tomorrow.
Overall: entertaining, informative and exhausting. We are so fortunate that the 2016 Conference chose New Orleans as its base. I’m already looking forward to next year’s!