October was positively stuffed full of marketing knowledge and valuable insights, thanks in large part to two conferences brought to the Kansas City area. The digiSTORY conference was first up on October 22nd, focusing on the power of digital storytelling. The following week, BMAKC hosted a half-day “Create / Curate” content marketing conference on October28th. Though the conferences had different focuses, I found three common themes for marketers to keep in mind as they tackle holiday promotions and beyond to 2015: 

The Importance of Entertaining Content

Speakers at both conferences echoed a higher calling for storytellers and marketers: make more entertaining content.  On the digiSTORY Social Media panel, moderated by emfluence’s own Evangelist, Jessica Best, panelist Justin Gardner from AMC prompted a conversation topic around “Artisanal Media”.  The theory is simple: our audiences enjoy high-quality, craft cheese, beer and other products; why wouldn’t we create craft media that will delight them just as much?

Truly entertaining content surfaces in environments that are open to creativity. This was stressed – and proven – at digiSTORY by Moonbot Studios, who showed their incredibly imaginative 3-D animated short, “The Numberlys.” One of the Moonbot studio owners commented that they have beanbag chairs around the office because they, “try to look at everything through the seven-year-old versions of ourselves, and the beanbag chairs help.”

At the BMA conference, Robert Rose, Chief Strategist with the Content Marketing Institute, said, “We must delight customers at every chance we have.” Rose stressed the importance of delighting customers with a content-driven experience. Creating magical experiences with content is possible, even with not-so-magical brands. Another presenter at BMAKC, Kevin Espinosa of Caterpillar, showed that even brands like Caterpillar can create entertaining content that delights.

Technologies and Tools

Though some of the video and storytelling technologies I encountered at digiSTORY, were far more complex than what I touch in my day-to-day, it was eye-opening to learn what is being developed and what’s possible. Paul Debecev showed off his techniques for creating synthetic human experiences so compelling that the audience will react as if they’re real. He showed his “Light Stage” for animating of real-life actors for blockbuster movies like Avatar and Gravity. It was a very futuristic glimpse at some of the technologies marketers may be using to tell stories in the future.

At the BMAKC conference, marketers shared different tools, like Spreadfast, which they use to aggregate, post and measure the success of content.  “If you’re not pursuing tools and integrations in your company, then you’re going to be behind,” said Tim Thorpe from Black and Veatch. The marketers who spoke about storytelling and content all emphasized the importance of creating content with a strategic goal, and then measuring the success of content based on that goal.

The takeaway: marketers with every size of budget should be aggressively researching and pursuing technologies and tools that can help them track and improve upon their efforts.

Thought Leadership and Knowledge Sharing

At both conferences, speakers placed great value on knowledge sharing. Jay Baer discussed his concept of “Youtility” at digiSTORY, stressing that marketing content needs to be useful: “Help and hype have a difference of two letters.” We are wired to appreciate useful things, so Baer says marketers should craft content that offers value and education to help consumers make a decision. Baer highlighted Lowe’s “Fix in Six” Vine videos as an example:

Jeffrey Rohrs of ExactTarget stressed this same point at the BMAKC conference emphasizing that marketing must create value with content where the brand can be a thought leader. Closing keynote speaker, Shelly Kramer shared a client story about creating strategic content for a company that sells bleachers and other athletic equipment, Their content focuses on expert insight that readers – and potential buyers – need   Kramer said, “No one can know you’re a thought leader unless you talk about it.”

Take away: Think about what kind of content you can create for your brand that educate and entertain. Consider how these pieces of content will drive action from different target audiences you are trying to reach. Content should have a give-and-take relationship that offers value to build deeper relationships with customers. Check out my post from last month for some more ideas on how you can bring utility marketing to your brand.

The bottom line: Marketers are being held to a higher standard of content marketing and it was inspiring to see examples of pros paving the way at these two conferences. Speakers repeatedly stressed that as we move into this exciting age of utility marketing, processes and technologies for creating, posting and measuring content will need to be at the forefront of 2015 planning.

There was, however, an underlying cautionary tone to not lose sight of passion for creativity and entertainment. Marketers should draw up on their inner child to tell stories around their brand that delight. All-in-all, the digiSTORY and BMAKC conferences highlighted just how exciting it is to be in marketing.


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