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Hi, y’all, from Louisville, Kentucky!
Okay, not literally. I’m back in New York, for better or worse. Actually, mostly for the better, as I couldn’t physically take all the bourbon, barbecue, fried chicken, fried pickles, fried mac & cheese balls, and banana pudding (which may or may not have been fried).
While I was inspired by the bourbon distillery tours and the center honoring Louisville’s native son Muhammad Ali, I had the greatest of all times joining the Louisville Digital Association for their annual Digital Crossroads event, sharing the stage with luminaries such as Jason Falls, my 3x-colleague Leo Morejon, and my 1x-colleague Jenna Watson.
I wasn’t sure what I was going to talk about; a typo in a draft of the program listed something I referenced about “chat bots” as “chat box,” so I really could have spoken about anything. And then, over lunch with my She Runs It mentee Jill, I mused that I should review a bunch of talks I gave around 10 years ago while I was at 360i and compare them with what’s happening in tech today. Paring down more than 200 slides to 124 for a 30-minute talk, I then annotated it and posted it to SlideShare at mrktr.net/louisville.
For those who get nostalgic for when the duopoly (if the term had existed) would have referenced Google and Yahoo!, QR codes were so pervasive that they were slapped on ads on garbage trucks (really), and Second Life was the closest most people had ever come to experiencing virtual reality, you’ll probably enjoy the whole deck. For the rest, here are a few parting thoughts I shared that hint at what to expect for the next decade:
1) Brands still matter. Expect a continued focus on direct-to-consumer brands that can get around the middleman, especially when that middleman is Amazon. How well will these continue to scale? Will the ad economics continue to hold up? In the near-term, this is a high-growth area. But beyond that, established brands matter too, and many will keep thriving. Consider Kaepernick & Nike. Call it a stunt. Call it political. You can hate the guy and hate the shoes and still acknowledge that this brand plays an outsized role in our culture. For better and worse, brands will keep shaping culture, and they’ll continue to be responsible for a disproportionate share of corporate valuations.
2) Very little goes away entirely. Technologies and trends take a long time to mature and become ingrained as a habit. Expect more evolution than displacement. Even QR codes, which are still around through various platforms, represent the larger idea of seamlessly connecting the physical world with digital screens. That kind of idea won’t die any year soon.
3) Control wins. Bet on what shifts the power to consumers and giving people control over what, when, and with whom we interact. Even voice-assisted devices are less about tech innovation and more about controlling our homes and how we access information (they’re also good for playing Jeopardy!).
4) Newton’s 3rd Law constantly applies: For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Conflicting trends happen simultaneously. We consume more long- and short form content. We’re more concerned about privacy, but more people also want to share content publicly and earn influencer status. We buy directly from individual brands but spend more on Amazon. Bet on opposite trends coinciding.
5) Most laughably dumb ideas now were laughably bad a decade ago. You can prevent these. Ask what are your goals, what problem are you trying to solve, and does this fit in with any way an actual human being behaves. There are Garbage Truck QR Code ideas all the time that we can prevent from happening.
That’s what I’m making of myself. I’m also looking for any excuse to get back to Louisville. My next trip, as an aside, is a family visit to Birmingham, so I’d love any recommendations.
So, what are you making of yourself?
PS: Happy Halloween. Please tell me you’re relieved to get one newsletter today that otherwise has no reference to the holiday.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY…
LEARN. TRY. SHARE.
THE NEW ABCs OF POT
THC is just one cannabinoid, and other non-psychotic varieties are making their way into consumer products. For those like myself newer to the nuances of the cannabis business, here are examples of which other cannabinoids could become household names.
HOW TO TRANSLATE STARTUP SPEAK FOR THE CORPORATE BUYER
Serial Marketers community member and veteran digital chief Perry Hewitt has some great advice in TechCrunch. She writes, “The annual report is your friend here. The focus may be digital transformation or global collaboration or risk management, and aligning to this priority may enable your client to get buy-in internally. Make sure you are fluent in the visible, budgeted, CEO-led, cross-departmental initiatives — and how your solution plays a role here.” Read the whole piece; it’s all great advice.
PLAY: YOU ARE JEFF BEZOS
You’re Jeff Bezos. You have $156 billion. What do you do with it? Do you end homelessness? Fix Puerto Rico? Rebuild Flint, Michigan’s water system? Pay your taxes? Give everyone at Amazon a 100% raise? Play Kris Ligman’s game to see what options await you, whether or not you feel such wealth is obscene or deserved (or both).
READ: THE LAWS OF BRAND STORYTELLING
I can’t resist adding in a plug for a book written by two of my favorite marketers and serial authors, Ekaterina Walter and Jessica Gioglio. I have my copy and look forward to diving in soon. Their description: “Packed with inspiring brand stories, original strategic frameworks, and useful tips, The Laws of Brand Storytelling shows you how to use storytelling to positively impact and differentiate your business, attract new customers, and inspire new levels of brand advocacy. The authors lay down the law―literally―for readers through a compelling step-by-step process of defining who you are as a brand, setting a clear strategy, sourcing the best stories for your business, and crafting and delivering compelling narratives for maximum effect. Win your customers’ hearts and minds, and you win their business and their loyalty.”
WOW, TOP 25?
Had to share this. My alma mater 360i is on this list of the top 25 US agencies from the past 50 years. And this company is about as esteemed as it gets. Wild. What do you think of the list?
Want to include your event below? Just reply with the details.
WHAT VCs WANT TO SEE
New York, NY
Gotham Media always puts on thoughtful events with some great people. You can use the code “Serial” to get $10 off the already reasonably priced tickets. About the event: “Our event will feature a conversation with VCs about what they look for in companies seeking funding. How much value do they place on the product versus the team? What questions do you need to be prepared to answer? Is venture funding always the best way to raise funds? If you’ve got the questions, we’ll provide the answers (or at least most of them!).”
Half Moon Bay, CA
This is an excellent event series; I went last year, and their lineup is full of memorable speakers. Everyone in the room has some impressive background and story. Request an invite via the link. “This November please join us for a probing, wide-ranging conversation about the tech-inflected issues that affect business and our world. Techonomy’s breadth is unlike other “tech” conferences. This year’s theme is Harnessing Tech for Responsible Growth, and as always we will address many of the issues facing leaders today.”
THE REALITY MIXER
Los Angeles, CA
I love Tameka’s work, and this should be a great addition to LA’s event calendar: The In.flux Reality Mixer is a pop-up innovation lounge, blending TED-style talks with immersive technology demos and a digital art installation. Speakers and attendees from across advertising, VR/AR/AI, academia and entertainment will gather to learn, network and get creatively inspired. It’s the first of a series of events produced by long-time conference programmer Tameka Kee (eMarketer, Digital Summit, ad:tech, etc.) who is offering Serial Marketer readers a special discount (use code SERIAL for 20% off).
I’ll probably return for my 13th straight year. Registration is now open. Are you going? I’m already making plans with 4C’s Aaron Goldman to eat Cinnabon in the Vegas airport again – but none of those mini-bons. Full-size ‘bons are for closers!