Conference advice: Avoid the buzzwords and getting buzzed

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For reasons unrelated to festivities post-sundown, in my mind, every conference is tied to a drinking game.

The word uttered all too often at mobile marketing conferences from 2007 to 2010 was nascent. I even remember a speaker saying that we were “on the nascent side of nascency.” Double scotch after that one.

Over the years, customer journey is on my “jeez, I’ve heard that 32 times today” list, as is data-driven.

Authentic was the winner (or, viewed through my bloodshot eyes, the loser) from the first panel that I attended at the recent Advertising Week in New York to the very last.

Millennials are forcing brands to be authentic. Drink.

The political climate ripe with fake news is forcing brands to be authentic. Drink.

The only way to build your personal brand is through authenticity. Drink.

I do not dispute the importance of knowing what you stand for, acting in ways that are anchored in truth, and determining how your essence can resonate with customers, prospects, employees and other stakeholders.

Authenticity is, however, the latest cliché. Frankly some of the advice offered from Advertising Week stages was misleading.

Sure, the virtue is important to many millennials, but what about other generations? Are those like me who are Baby Boomers more forgiving or naive? Gen Y? I think not.

Advertising Week was hardly Advertising Weak but I did find other generalizations that did audience members a disservice.

Millennials, we were told, desire experiences instead of things. Many do, but how different is this from the long-ago established concept of the bucket list? Maybe, and I’m not sure about this, millennials get to that place first, but in my house, goods are being replaced by experiences. The latest one was a bucket list trip to Lambeau Field where my wife wore a Packers jersey, I wore a Seahawks jersey, and we hardly could fit the memories into our luggage for the trip home.

One last nitpick or is it a fight to pick?

A panelist said that millennials don't need to create white papers for everything. They often tell stories through photos. Another on stage said that brands should only deliver images when communicating in digital channels.

As a former journalist and two-time book author, it was disappointing to hear all the talk about visual communication supposedly displacing words.

One can’t deny that the ease of taking and sharing pictures with smartphones and via social networks has dramatically changed the way that many engage. To illustrate that point, it was said that a trillion snaps will be sent through Snapchat this year.

But I picture a future where the printed word has additional moments in the sun and continues to serve as a complementary communications method serving all generations.

Beyond fighting the urge to imbibe, here are three actions that I recommend that you take as you listen to your next conference program:

First, do not fall for absolutes tossed out by the “experts”. Not all millennials have abandoned Facebook. Not all mobile users watch video. Not all will use a mobile wallet. I urge you to dig deeper and to seek to understand your particular target audience.

Second, do attend with open eyes and ears. One of the biggest mistakes made by mobile marketers is that they work with an old playbook. Times and products change often. If someone is quoting statistics from 2014 or even 2016, challenge them or yourself to be current. It will make the difference between a winning program and a loser.

Third, don’t fall for shiny objects. Marketers often seek to decide what technology or social network or mobile feature will be the difference maker. Of course, it’s up to a brand’s customers and prospects to decide.

And here’s a bonus action for you.

Think more broadly than just your category.

As was said at Google's Think2017: "You're competing not only with other brands, but with the best experience your customer has ever had."

Remember, you can only deliver that if you expand beyond the buzzwords. And stay away from at least the drinking games.

Jeff Hasen

Jeff Hasen is a digital strategist with Possible Mobile in Denver, Colorado.

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