• After Monday’s preconference, we came into the main day of RampUp 2018 thinking about creativity as “the underappreciated element” of advertising and marketing. Knowing that customers are delighted by experiences that move them, what creative marketing opportunities are today’s marketers missing?

    We couldn’t have asked for a better set of business leaders to answer this question than our opening keynote speakers: Jonathan Mildenhall, former CMO of Airbnb; Ann Lewnes, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Adobe; Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer of TripAdvisor; and Karen Walker, CMO of Cisco.

    During Adobe’s transformation from a provider of physical, store-bought software to cloud-based services, their customers expressed some hesitancy—especially around no longer having a box to hold onto. So the company took this opportunity to educate its customer base on why it was making a change, and what was in it for them. “It’s your obligation to explain why something is better for someone,” said Lewnes, who linked this necessary tactical communication to Adobe’s overarching goal of brand transparency.

    For Mildenhall, an unexpected opportunity came three weeks into his job at Airbnb when he discovered that the platforms and dashboards he was used to at Coke were unavailable at Airbnb. “I realized for the first time that I could build an approach to marketing and team for it as I desired it to be, as opposed to inheriting one.”

    As we headed from the Masonic back to the Fairmont, greeting challenges with creative solutions became the theme of the day.

    Put the fine print in bold

    A company’s privacy policy is generally something most people scroll through quickly, or skim at best. But with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) just a few months away and consumer trust at stake, brands understand that this may no longer be the case. As we learned in the “It’s About More Than Just Privacy: Trust and Ethics” session, some are taking the opportunity to enlarge the font and be creative and bold about the value proposition they are offering in exchange for consensual sharing of personal data. “It’s beautiful and insightful when you get it right,” said Laura Hamady, Chronicle’s deputy general counsel and chief privacy officer.

    Think of this creative repackaging of a privacy policy as “old wine in new bottles,” which is how Adobe’s chief privacy officer, Alisa Bergman, described GDPR. In essence, the law is a new document that codifies what companies have known all along—that customers care about the value that companies can bring them and how that message is transmitted.

    Rising to millennial expectations

    Millenials—with their darned cord cutting and ad blocking—are presenting marketers with new challenges as they make themselves unreachable through traditional means. But instead of thinking of these as curses, smart marketers are looking at them as opportunities to engage in new ways.

    “Don’t overthink it,” said Jeremy Levine, head of digital & publishing at Live Nation. “Do something cool that’s going to add to the experiences, and you’ll get natural brand love.”

    So when Pepsi came to Live Nation looking for a way to reach millennials, they thought about what kind of value Pepsi could provide to a group of festival goers—value that would align with their existing brand and meet expectations without being overbearing.

    The result? Pepsi set up an air-conditioned tent with its own stage and handed out free beverages. Festival-goers sought it out not only to cool down and relish in a brief respite from the heat, but also to enjoy the DJ spinning on stage.

    When Pepsi provided a unique experience, millennials came to them. Not only that, but they willingly gave Pepsi their data in the form of scanning their wristbands to get into the tent. Pepsi improved their brand affinity and gained new data about their customers. Not too shabby.

    Data + humans = magic

    Collecting new data is always exciting for marketers. And new methods and technologies like AI give marketers new ways execute, measure, and optimize campaigns. It also means that marketers are getting more insights than they know what to do with.

    For his part, Christian Bartens, CEO & founder of Datalicious, isn’t impressed. “I’m not excited at all—I don’t think [AI] is going to help that much,” said Bartens. “In the end you need a human creative element to decide what you’re going to try.”

    Bartens thinks marketers might be too obsessed with “bean counting” and miss the bigger trends and creative marketing opportunities that come with creativity and human intuition.

    Nate Silver, editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight.com and the day’s closing keynote, agreed. Data has done a lot to improve weather forecasting, for example. Thirty years ago, forecasters had a 350-mile margin of error for where a hurricane might land. That’s the distance between Dallas and Tallahassee.

    Today, however, computer models have cut that margin of error down to just 100 miles—still about the width of Florida, but enough to save thousands more lives every year. But even in the case of Hurricane Irma in 2017, that margin of error is enough to mean that there are a variety of paths the hurricane can take after it makes landfall. So forecasters layer on their own experience and expertise to further predict how the hurricane will act, and further reduce personal harm.

    Obviously, human intuition isn’t perfect, but neither is data. “If you have a company and the culture is wrong—your company doesn’t question itself—then no amount of data is going to make it good,” said Silver. “Even CEOs use data to confirm their own biases.”

    Instead, data and humans need to work together to get the best of both.

    Storytelling matters

    As with any conference, the sheer amount of data presented, no matter how insightful, can become overwhelming without creative ways to capture attendees’ attention. The afternoon’s speakers were up against a formidable opponent in drawing attendees to their sessions—RampPups.

    Still, they rewarded the many who still came to their sessions with tales of losing 50 pounds since October, as Moat | Oracle Data Cloud’s Jonah Goodhart shared in a panel discussion on measurement. His key takeaway in losing weight and measuring marketing’s impact? Consistency. We learned how Maui from Moana is like a consultant to Moana’s client, as told by Bain & Company’s Laura Beaudin. If you wrap your insights in a memorable package, people will recall it on their way out to pet (and maybe adopt) puppies.

    We miss RampUp and RampPups already. If you do, too, check back in two weeks for recordings of all the sessions, and follow us on Twitter for lots of puppy videos—er, uh, marketing and tech content!

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