A FutureM Recap

Jack Blog

October 11th, 2010 By Jack Morton

Last week was FutureM in Boston, a series of events, presentations and panel discussions on the future of marketing put on by MITX. A number of us at Jack Morton attended and posted our thoughts about what we heard at FutureM both here and on our own blogs.  Steven Duque and I attended a lot of the events together and discussed FutureM and the themes that we heard last week.

Thomas TrumbleThomas Trumble: I was really impressed with the quality of the events and at FutureM in Boston this week.  I went to events that talked about high level concepts of marketing and some real insider thoughts about what our industry is dealing with, but there were no bad events that I was tempted to walk out on.  A good job by MITX.  The thing that jumped out at me looking at all of the events is how rapidly marketing is changing , between the impact of digitization of media, new channels, the impact of analytics and the impact that it is having on the agency/ client relationship and the brand/ consumer relationship. Steven, what are the themes that stood out you and what are the biggest takeaways from the week of workshops, panels and events on the future of marketing?

Steven DuqueSteven Duque: Strong ditto to the quality of events at FutureM! The events really covered an interesting range of topics, and touched on some dramatic shifts in the media and marketing landscapes.

I was really struck, in particular, by how central mobile marketing was to many of the presentations. While it’s undoubtedly a critical part of the future of marketing, I wonder whether the presentations were too myopic in the channels they chose to discuss. More specifically, few presenters discussed mobile as a part of a broader, integrated engagement strategy. As a techie, I’m all for beating the drum for social media and mobile marketing, but I’m also aware that there’s a growing cultural backlash against being too ‘jacked in,’ prevalent among many of the hipster ilk. And marketers aren’t going to reach them through mobile phones or social media.

Thomas TrumbleTT: I think that was just a result of the presentation format reducing discussion to channels rather than integrated strategies. At the Realities of Mobile Advertising panel that we attended presenters reviewed case studies from detergent shopping moms to Wall Street Journal reading executives. They also took the bold step of positioning mobile as the hub of a campaign with print, online, social, OOH, etc. all being spokes off of mobile. I felt that this was a general marketing event where digital marketers were confident about their position in the marketing mix. The small businesses and non-profits at the Getting Serious About Social Media event didn’t need to be convinced about social media marketing they were figuring out how to make the most out of the channel. The a priori assumption of the attendees and presenters was that digital media was a necessary part of your marketing mix.

Steven DuqueSD:Yea, you’re probably right. I think the tendency of most who’re excited about a subject is to dig deep into it – especially if it’s one of the hot topics in a field. I suppose I was hoping to hear more about ‘big picture,’ holistic brand experience strategies. Aside from that, I agree that it was pretty bold that the members of the Mobile Advertising Panel posited mobile as the hub of future marketing campaigns. My question is: what will that look like, and will mobile devices be as pivotal device as many predict? I lean toward ‘yes,’ but at the Rockshop Social Media experiment at the Middle East, I was actually struck by how few people were actually using their mobile devices to document the event through social media, including me. While I’m definitely passionate about the space, I felt as though I wouldn’t be truly participating in the event had I spent my time live-tweeting (as I did at a number of other events).

Thomas TrumbleTT: I didn’t make it to the Rockshop event, but thought that the use of social media to join artist and fan and spread the word about bands you are passionate about was the point of that event. That so few people were doing so is, well, disappointing if the goal was to give people a live case study.

While I stand by my earlier statement about the presenters being confident about the position of digital in the marketing mix, at the same time you and I are outliers in our activity in social networking even in an agency setting and there is still a lot of fear about the impact of digital on the agency as we heard at the Digital Media Brain Summit, and yet the clients at The Future of Digital Strategy showed that they are hungry for expertise and thought leadership. Those two panels were an excellent pairing and I feel lucky to have attended them within a few hours of each other.

Steven DuqueSD:Yea, I was also somewhat disappointed about the results of the Rockshop social media experiment. It was illustrative, though, of potential pitfalls of assuming too much about how social media and mobile tech will be actually be used by normal folks. Futurists, early adopters and outliers aside, the general population will ultimately decide how they use these technologies and whether mobile will ultimately become the hub of future marketing campaigns.

That said, given the hunger for expertise and thought leadership that you mentioned, it’ll be interesting to see who emerges as leaders in this still relatively untamed space. It seems as though creativity/content is still king, but many within the industry have yet to adopt the thought patterns that compliment the nascent formats new media are allowing. Is it just a matter of teaching old dogs new tricks? Or do you think there’s something to be said about modern marketers being ‘digital natives’? I asked a similar question during Digital Publishing and Customer Experience Winners, which focused on the shift from print publishing toward tablet (particularly, iPad) publishing. For instance, designing cross-cutting navigation through dynamic content on a tablet requires very different thinking from how to design content for a static, linear print publication.

Thomas TrumbleTT: As Dave Wieneke of Sokolove Law said a pretty portfolio doesn’t matter, if an agency doesn’t have a blog with relevant insightful content he won’t even look at it. Clients are looking to their agencies to bring them a point of view around these channels and be a partner. The environment is moving too fast for to expect everyone to be an expert, but digital natives that love tech, accept change and want to learn will have an edge up on the competition. Agencies need to lead with strategy and POV because that is what clients are interested in and so much of the rest of what agencies have historically done is being digitized, commoditized and outsourced. An exciting time for an ideas lead agency.

Steven DuqueSD:Definitely. It makes sense, too! If I were to purchase any professional services, I’d want to buy them from a leader in the space. In a similar vein, it really struck me was how critical creative thinking (e.g., in strategy, artistry and tactics) will be for navigating the future of marketing. More and more, it seems, marketers’ tasks are bordering on management consulting (as Hill Holliday’s Adam Cahill noted) and product development. I think as long as agencies continue to infuse their work with creative ‘humanness’ (as was emphasized by Chris Brogan), then certain tasks will always be beyond the reach of the automated future of marketing predicted by Bernhard Glock (formerly of P&G) during the Digital Media Brain Summit.

Thomas TrumbleTT: That’s about full circle from where we started. Interesting takeaways from a series of meetings on niche markets and individual channels. I hope that MITX can do as well with FutureM 2011.