Too much digital marketing remains intrusive says Havas Media's Amy Kean at DA University

Too much digital marketing activity remains intrusive and programmatic trading is missing a trick were two of the conclusions drawn at the latest DA University event hosted by London digital agency Digital Annexe, which saw a wide range of marketers, technologists and futurists debating the question what will digital marketing look like in the year 2020 and what should marketers be doing today in order to make sure they don’t get left behind.

Speakers at the event included BBC presenters Gareth Mitchell and LJ Rich, global senior journalist at The Future Laboratory Peter Firth, Duncan Smith of Mindlab and Liam Reynolds of TrueUp along with Sean Singleton, Ryan Boulsfield, Chris Robinson and Dr Karandeep Singh from Digital Annexe, but it was head of futures at Havas Media, Amy Kean, who claimed that despite the huge leaps forward in technology, digital marketing still has much work to do over the next five years in order to better understand consumers and integrate more seamlessly into their lives.

She said: “Digital marketing has lost it manners. When I first started working in digital pop-ups were the big thing and we measured the ad spend dedicated to pop ups because they were a really big part of the industry, but when you think about it, despite all the progress we have made, digital is still pretty rude and we are certainly not user first we are consumer first.”

“Digital marketing can still be incredibly repetitive. Programmatic is missing a massive trick at the moment in not being regularly refreshed and by not being more creative. A person might look at a pair of shoes online and then for weeks afterwards those same shoes are always there popping up. Research shows that that approach really only resonates with around 10 per cent of people. That’s quite a worrying statistic when considering the amount of marketing budgets that are being dedicated to this kind of activity.”

“It is really important to take people’s emotions into account more when you are communicating digitally. Our task as an industry over the next five year is to find ways to be less intrusive and less annoying. We need to be more thoughtful and get more focused on consumers. Digital relationships are evolving incredibly fast, as fast almost as tech and over the last two decades tech has gone from something that used to terrify us to something that we are terrified to be without.”

At the event neuro marketer Duncan Smith, MD at MindLab, reinforced Kean’s beliefs that the best way forward for digital marketers is to focus on understanding the factors that make consumers reach their decisions.

Smith said: “Our decision-making is powered by unconscious emotions, which makes much market research unreliable. Neuromarketing helps to understand communication effectiveness, and consumers are more emotional than you think. Emotions ultimately power our decision making. We don’t always make logical considered decisions, even when we think we do. Almost all of your mental life is outside of your conscious control. Implicit tests measure our gut feelings and are actually better predictors of how we are likely to behave than explicit responses.”

The key emotion that drives much of our decision making is fear of failure and BBC presenter Gareth Mitchell concluded that too often organisations and individuals fail to innovate simply through a fear of failure. Mitchell said: “Failure is not a bad thing. If you are not failing regularly then I would suggest that you are not trying hard enough. From Charles Babbage and the analytical engine he never quite got round to building right through to mini discs and the MPs players that led on to iPods, mistakes were made and valuable lessons were learned, so mistakes and even disasters are just a vital part of innovation.”

Big Data will play a huge part in how data is collected, analysed and used in the next five years and Dr Karandeep Singh, head of analytics and insights at Digital Annexe, outlined how clients can find the genuine value and insights in big data. He concluded: “It is all about ‘conversion analytics’ not just data analytics. Brands should spend more money on data analysis than in marketing effort because they can ultimately make more conversions from the same traffic. Brand should concentrate on the –non-converting’ traffic rather than the converting traffic.”

Peter Firth, a journalist with The Future Laboratory, spoke about the convergence economy and how creating partnerships could become a large part of brand building in the future.

He said: “You could try to reach out to an industry that seems little to do with your brand, and create something new that really intrigues your consumers. Or you can create partnerships not with just one or two brands, but with many different brands. Define what you are about by your values and relationships, not by a singular vision of your brand identity and you have to understand that consumer tastes and preferences do not exist in silos, and realise they don’t want to shop in silos either.”

Chaired by Digital Annexe MD Julian Mitchell, the event also gave marketers the opportunity to interact with the technologies that are set to hit the big time in the coming years, from iBeacons and Controlr right through to Virtual Reality and Oculus Rift.

Mitchell said: "It's been a fantastic day and we had so much energy from the stage and also from the audience. The questions have been amazing and I was pleasantly surprised by the depth and the insights we got from the floor. We've learned loads, so we'll start planning next year's event."

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