The Future Hunter's Erica Orange and Jared Weiner got us started with some opening remarks. The warm up was worthy and got us all pressing forward into a day of data, mobile, shopping experiences, authenticity and granule insights on human behaviors.
Jessica from Saatchi & Saatchi X forced us into a conversation about emotion and the contrast with the big "asterisk" data conversation. She made a case for a complement with the rational data we use in the form of "gut" check and the importance of emotion. Jessica's story of CoverGirl was certainly a good example, putting emotion on a pallet and selling it in Walmart. Yes, emotion on a pallet.
Our next discussion was led by Todd Henry, the author of Louder Than Words. His story of asking people to walk along a plank of wood on the floor vs a plank 100 ft in the air and how the risk / reward equation changes helped clarify the risks we ask people to take when taking on new opportunities. But, Todd's best story which came out of his more recent book, Die Empty, used a tree metaphor. The idea was presented by a DJ he met who talked about going out on a branch and Todd asking the snarky question, "what happens if you go too far out on the branch and it gives way?" The DJ had a brilliant response. The branch falls and starts to grow a new tree (fan base, participants and revenue are the tree). This is a natural metaphor for how innovation happens, by going far enough away from the tree trunk out on a branch. Nature is so beautiful.
From here we digitally walked into one of the North America's largest shopping centers, the Mall of America. Emily Shannon walked us through all the trials and tribulations of managing the digital strategy for a gargantuan mall. She had some amazing points and insights, but the threads pulled into the next discussions included the text response team (which we tested and tweeted the results), her perspective on beacon technology, augmented reality and the power of digital media blended with physical spaces for a "phygital" experience. Her example of the "Twizzard" was a brilliant example of a snowstorm of tweets inside the Mall of America. A blizzard without frostbite, but plenty of digital content to enjoy, finally chocolate has some competition for our attention.
The next sessions were breakouts and the conversations in between. The ConAgra Foods conversation was around wearables and food brands. With a mere big toe dip into the possible data coming from mobile, Thatcher Schulte had the crowd looking on with open mouths and wide eyes. The term "big data" needs a rebrand to "huge effin gargantuan data" once you add in mobile and human data from all the human / technology interaction data points. Could someone get on that rebrand? Soon.
The Red Bull presentation with InfoScout was a waterfall dive into what Red Bull knows and (strangely enough) doesn't know about the crazy people who buy their drinks. It surprised us how much was unknown for such a dynamic brand like Red Bull. Yet, we shouldn't be, the shopper insights world needs to be scaled to match the number of unique places you can shop. Red Bull is certainly bought in a large variety of venues and consumed in an even larger contrast of spaces and places. The point seemed to be, even with all the resources Red Bull has, it is still a constant and deliberate hunt to find more knowledge on the human being consuming your brand.
Now to the conversations in between. We were pleasantly surprised by the number of tweets, instagram photos and updates in social media on the conference. We were equally pleased by how much attention our book, The Physics of Brand, is getting with this analytical crowd. The world of research is just as hungry for new thinking and content as our typical design world.
We are looking for research partners interested in participating in client engagements with our team around this new articulation of brand-thought in the book. Please reach out if you'd like to discuss this in more detail.