4 Key Takeaways from Advertising Week

I love learning! So, when I had the opportunity to fly out to New York City for Advertising Week – I jumped on the chance!

A little context here: Advertising Week is an annual conference designed for marketing, branding, advertising, and technology professionals. The target audience is agencies, ad executives, and folks of that ilk (like me!).

The content is focused on current trends, future predictions, and ideas on how to implement that information. Like any conference, some of the seminars are stellar, and some fall flat.

However, there were a few core themes that stood out throughout the event. Here’s my take.

#1: If You’re Waiting to Adapt to GenZ, You’re Already Too Late.

It was interesting to find that a good number of the attendees of this conference were under the age of 30. More importantly, a good portion of the content offered was geared toward reaching that GenZ and young millennial demographic.

GenZ is defined as those born after 1996 and into 2012. Right now, that makes them between the ages of 7 and 22 years old in 2019. They are the first generation that has no recollection of life without access to the Internet or digital outlets. 60 million strong, they start moving from college to career this year.  

If you’re still stuck struggling to reach millennials, you’re going to get left behind. 

Ready for some surprising stats about GenZ to get your mind turning? Here you go:

  • 28% of Gen Zs subscribe to cable TV
  • 83% of Gen Zs watch Netflix
  • 79.7% of Gen Zs receive their news through social media
  • 66% of Gen Zs do not listen to podcasts
  • 76% of Gen Zs want brands to respond to their feedback. They view responsiveness as a metric of a brand’s authenticity.
  • 55% of Gen Zs buy from brands they consider eco-friendly
  • 65% of Gen Zs have installed some sort of ad-blocking technology on their devices.
  • 45% of Gen Zs engage readily with native advertising formats and articles.
  • 97.6% of Gen Zs in North America own a smartphone.

#2: A Data Privacy Strategy Will Make or Break Your Marketing.

Data privacy is a big buzzword right now. People are becoming increasingly skeptical of invasive advertising practices on social media platforms. What do I mean by that? Have a conversation about taking a Hawaiian vacation by your phone and see what kind of ads pop up over the next week.

Creeped out yet? Me too – and I do this for a living.

There is a struggle here; consumers call for highly personalized marketing, but they get the heebie-jeebies when you collect the data necessary to create that level of personalized marketing at scale. Combined with the frequency of hacks, data breaches, and the like – the U.S. consumer is getting increasingly skeptical about your business and their information.

80% of Americans and 62% of Chinese consumers reported fearing the loss of privacy in a 2019 American Marketing Association survey.

Social media marketing grew so fast that laws and regulations are still struggling to keep up. In the past year or two, GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and a host of other regulatory compliance requirements have already passed in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, California, Brazil, Hong Kong, Peru, Israel, and more. Facebook’s own Mark Zuckerberg has called for Congress to pass comprehensive privacy regulations like GDPR in the United States. With that kind of firepower backing a uniform privacy watchdog policy – you can bet it will become law in the United States in the near future.

If your business has not clearly defined what data they collect and how they use it, you will lose customers, face fines, or worse. Most importantly, you need to be prepared to explain to that consumer how you get their data, and what you promise to do to protect it.

In one seminar, a lead executive from Microsoft’s Watson AI program stated that they will not work with agencies that are not trained in GDPR. These are the people who are designing the data capture platforms – it’s time to listen. It’s also time to ask your marketing practitioners how they intend to protect your business as these changes come screaming towards you.

Marketers – it’s time to put your cybersecurity and data privacy hats on. If you don’t have those skills, invest in your education. Otherwise, the next decade will find you without a job.

“When it comes to the growing intersection of the Internet of Things (IoT), adtech, and artificial intelligence (AI), marketers must amplify brand trust and become unmatched champions of consumer privacy,” Karen McFarlane, president of the AMA New York.

#3: Customer Experience is Key.

With this concept of “techlash” – where consumers are pulling away from technology in their daily choices and activities – how can you drive success in marketing?

There is still validity in digital marketing, but not digital marketing on its own. Your business needs a holistic approach based on customer experience (CX) first, and using these other tools to amplify that – not the other way around.

Customer experience (CX) transcends price, and allows your business to thrive by understanding and adapting to your client. CX marketing is defined as the combined interactions a customer has with your brand – on and offline. It looks at the lifecycle of the customer, mapping every touchpoint the consumer has with your business. It is designed to highlight where you deliver an exceptional experience and build loyalty and advocacy. It is also designed to identify where you deliver poor experience and drive your customers to competitors.

CX marketing is different than traditional customer service practice. Most notably, customer service is transactional – it occurs once and solves a single problem. CX marketing is relational. It’s learning to show up for the customer when then need you with ease and consistency on their end. 

For a small business, this can manifest itself in user-friendly design, personalized engagements, clear paths to resolution, and giving 100% to that individual consumer from initial touch to becoming (and staying) a repeat customer.

#4: The Age of the ‘Unicorn’ is Here.

This one is for you, job seekers!

I love mentoring young marketers – and helping them dedicate their time and efforts toward the type of education/training designed to prepare them for a sustainable career in the industry, not just a “right now” job.

In 2015, Forbes released an article stating that tech companies were finding substantial value in candidates that had an academic and experiential balance between liberal arts/humanities and technology skills.

Professionals that fall into this category became known colloquially as “unicorns” in the industry for sheer rarity.

93% of U.S. employers reported that they look for soft-skills first in prospective employees. Skills like communications, critical thinking, and leadership are highly sought after in high-demand and high-paying jobs in technology, engineering, and science. 

For marketers, that means the ability to understand technical data/concepts and to effectively communicate it to the layperson. It means the ability to close a lead who has no technical background themselves while understanding what you’re selling. It means training the consumer to see value in something that they may not fully understand without talking down to them. If you can do that, you can have a highly lucrative career marketing in the STEM industry.

In a world where everyone is pushing STEM education and most of your peers have an MBA, my best advice for up and coming marketers today is to pursue your degrees in marketing, public relations, or communications. Then, pick up technical certifications along the way. Do not shy away from being a specialist. Own what you know and build upon that. You do not need to be a jack of all trades to be successful. In fact, it can hinder your opportunities in the field.

Even if you do not go into the tech industry, those skills will be invaluable as we progress through data privacy regulation, the emergence of artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity becomes paramount for the marketing of businesses of all sizes.

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