Digiday Brand Summit 2012

I took one for the team this week, trekking out to idyllic Deer Park, Utah, to attend Digiday’s Brand Summit. Speakers included executives, marketers and social media leaders from Kellogg’s, General Mills, Nielsen, Nestle, Fox, Turner, MGM Grand, TaylorMade, Saatchi, OMD and others. If I can exclude the conversations about snow conditions and s’mores technique, there were three big recommendations coming from the podium. And perhaps I bring a certain bias to the discussion but photos-as-messaging-unit was a recurrent theme throughout.

1. Target your audience, not the hot new platform

Montana Triplett, director of digital for Hennessey, acknowledged the huge audience and excitement around Pinterest, but it’s not on her list of priority media channels for 2013. “Moms pinning pictures of Halloween costumes aren’t our demo.” (She does, however, expect Instagram to play a big role for Hennessey in 2013, now that the service offers a mechanism to avoid the under 21 crowd.)

Asked if the search era is giving way to a social media era, iCrossing president and CEO Don Scales cautioned against strategies that are built to serve a distribution channel instead of a brand story. Neither search nor social defines the current era, he said: “It’s a content era.”

In a conversation about mobile advertising strategies MGM Grand’s Donna Goff put it most concisely: “Target humans not the device.” Technologies and platforms change fast but your customers are still humans, motivated by the same kinds of things that motivated them 20 years ago.

2. Tailor your message to the medium, not your comfort zone

To paraphrase the comments of several speakers: Whatever question you ask your agency, its answer will involve online videos and rich, beautiful imagery for your corporate website. It may not be the right tool for the job, but it’s right there at the top of the toolbox.

(Tammy Gordon is director of social for AARP.)

Meanwhile, according to Jim Cuene, interactive marketing director at General Mills, “In social media video isn’t awesome — but images are.” Hennessey’s Triplett echoed the sentiment: “A photo of a liquor bottle works better for us than a celebrity video.” Two more examples of brands behaving like publishers: Create content, give your customers access to it, make more of whatever they liked. Cuene pointed out that General Mills has been exercising its publishing muscles for nearly 100 years, starting with Betty Crocker cookbooks back in the 1920s.

3. Emotional rewards can be as powerful as monetary one

To hear some pundits talk about success in social media (such as this one), you’d think the secret to digital marketing is scavenger hunts with cash handouts for the winners. So it was refreshing to be reminded by several experienced social-marketing practitioners that emotional rewards — a reply in Twitter, say, or the opportunity to see the photo you submitted on the brand’s homepage — inspire participation as effectively as prize money. Many of us, it turns out, want fame more than fortune.

(Esty Gorman is director of strategy at Iris Worldwide.)

And building an emotional connection drives more value for your brand. Traffic from Hennessey’s social programs has a lower bounce rate and results in longer time-spent on their sites than traffic from paid ads.

Digiday’s photo contest was its own case-in-point. They asked conference attendees to post pictures to Instagram and Twitter marked #Digiday, and one participating photographer would win an iPhone lens attachment. I was surprised to see two guys posting pictures from their Samsung phones. “What’ll you do with the iPhone accessory if you win?” I asked, and they shrugged their shoulders. Turns out they just got a kick out of seeing their pictures projected above the stage during breaks. I’ll admit that barely qualifies as “fame” but it was enough to do the trick.

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