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I Am Consumed.

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Last Monday, the Ad Club hosted its annual EDGE Conference, an event examining what’s happening, what’s new and what’s next in the world of marketing. More specifically, the conference explored the innovations that are “changing the way we consume—not only what we consume but also what consumes us.”

AdClub EDGE Conference

When reading the event description, I thought what “innovations” consume me? My iPhone, Facebook, Twitter and g-chat were at the top of the list along with Trader Joe’s chocolate covered blueberries (ok, maybe that thought popped in my head because it is what I have been consuming regularly). Regardless, I was thinking of the things that consume me but the speakers at the conference made me view consumption in a completely new light. Consumed is to be completely engrossed in an interest, passion or topic with or without consciously realizing it. The speakers:

This spectacular line-up of speakers shared a wealth of knowledge. In the interest of blogging guidelines and shorter attention spans, I am going to share what I considered the most striking takeaway from each of the speakers (in order of the presentation).

Helen Molesworth

The chic Chief Curator of the ICA provided a fascinating history of the Institute of Contemporary design—touching on the building’s architectural significance to the fact that the museum welcomed its 1 millionth visitor just 5 years after opening its doors in seaport.

Consumed Defined: Pictures allow your brain to process contradictory art simultaneously. Perhaps, this phenomenon is the reason why people are consumed by art.

@SchneiderMike 

Clad in a purple and white, striped bow tie, @SchneiderMike, the SVP, Digital Incubator for Allen & Gerritsen, opened with a scenario in which a figurative “floating head of awesome” provides individuals with insightful suggestions of music to listen to, clothes to wear, restaurants to visit, and events to attend based on data. To make this scene from Smart House a reality, we need data from various graphs—interests (i.e. Carzar), commerce (i.e. Shopsy), aspirations (i.e. Pinterest), well-being (i.e. Fit-Pit) and location  (i.e. FourSquare).

@SchneiderMike commended start-ups for going niche in the best way possible, but recommended that start-ups must send their data to Facebook as the social web currently functions in a “friend model.” He hopes for a meta API, which works with Facebook, enabling users to get the content/experiences they want when they want them.

Consumed Defined: Curiosity is the ultimate form of consumption.

Rob Walker 

Contributing writer for the New York Times and former author of a column called “Consumed,” Rob Walker discussed the transformative power of stories. Walker believes consumers feel a sense of alienation when they buy products since they don’t know the story of where it came from. Walker argued that we give things meaning as opposed to things having universal intrinsic values (i.e. a Hummer elicits different meanings for different individuals) and stories are a powerful driver of emotional value. When stories are applied to objects, it results in increased monetary value. To objectively prove this theory, Walker created a project called “Significant Object,” which used stuff to sell stories.

In short, Walker and his colleagues purchased 100 random objects at thrift stores and garage sales for no more than an average of $1.25 each—spending $128.74 in total. Each object was then paired with a different writer of varying notoriety who wrote a fictional story about the object. The object was then auctioned on eBay with the story included in the item’s description. The initial bids were set low at the original price of the object, but consumers flocked to the somewhat insignificant objects—selling the “junk” for a total of $3,612.51. Walker also shared examples of other projects which showcase the power of storytelling: Made in China, Wants for Sale and Poetry Bombing.

For brands, consumers give things meaning, so make sure to strike that connection early with the consumer to create a powerful, meaningful relationship.

Consumed Defined:  We not only consume stories but we are consumed by stories. A story isn’t a means to an end but it is an end.

Marshall Lauck & John Della Volpe

With a Marine-esque stature, Marshall Lauck started the presentation by presenting the U.S. Marine Corps two-fold marketing challenge: How do you connect with young millennials in the various channels they use without being viewed as intrusive and how do you “cut through the clutter?” John Della Volpe discussed the research methodologies and key target insight coming out of extensive research: millennials had a strong focus on service but do not necessarily consider the ultimate form of service—the military—as service, but they rather focus on community service.  This insight informed the messaging behind the powerful “Toward the Sounds of Chaos.”

 

Consumed Defined: Reach the target audience in media that consume them.

Chris Soghoian

Soghoian poignantly started the presentation by stating, “Targeted advertising is based on consumer ignorance.” He went on to express the extent of consumer’s lack of knowledge about tracking and the need for education on internet privacy as we live in a “tracking arms race.”

Consumed Defined: A semi-Orwellian message that you are not the only one who knows what you consume.

Christian Meyer & Matt Snyder

Meyer peeled back the covers and revealed what defines a game. Meyer revealed that Game Show Network‘s target audience is surprisingly women ages 25-54, who are after the thrill of the chase (as humorously depicted in the slide below).

AdClub EDGE Conference

He provided the 3 basic keys to gaming success:

  1. Suspense – Games are containers of repeatable suspense. Suspense is the tactic and repeatability is the objective.
  2. Don’t make me think. This rule displayed over a photo of Paris Hilton looking familiarly clueless. Meyer explained that the top three most played games aka “the Trinity” are Bingo, Slots and Solitaire as they are simple and only take 15 seconds to get players to play.
  3. Enable Winning.

Consumed defined: Platforms are an irrelevant demarcation point for consumers. Content is still king but mobile is the platform taking off and distribution is the almighty king with content.

Steve Phelps  

While he wasn’t clad in sear sucker as I envisioned, Steve Phelps certainly sold his  brand to this southern belle. Phelps gave an overview of NASCAR’s business and marketing strategies. Most interestingly, he shared recent restructuring to focus on digital—creating an integrated marketing team. Recently, NASCAR bought back digital and social rights from Turner Broadcasting. Starting in 2013, the integrated marketing team will handle all digital marketing as establishing a dialogue with the audience is an extremely important priority as NASCAR wants to change the perception that it isn’t a tech sport. Additionally, the brand is making on-site improvements including better phone service to allow the audience to share the experience in real-time and amplify the event’s footprint.

Consumed Defined: Strategically determine how to amplify consuming experiences into all consuming experiences.

Jim Lucchese

Lucchese discussed trends in digital music. He shared the ways in which people share music and how to use that data to discover trends and create more engaging apps in the future. He shared an interesting insight into the predicative power of music. Music predicts gender, age, and political affiliation. For example, System of the Down has the most male fans and Republicans listen to George Strait most.

Consumed Defined: What consumes you is indicative of your passions and interests.

Josh Karpf

Although I come from the land of Coca-Cola (Atlanta), I still liked Karpf immediately given his alma-matter and personable demeanor. To stay ahead of consumer trends and help share future trends to maintain a competitive advantage, Karpf is building from the inside out—creating a “digitally competent culture.”  Karpf shared a fascinating project that is a twist on the traditional job exchange program. PepsiCo trades one team member with an employee at another company for a 3-4 week period to truly embed them in a fast-paced culture given the lifetime of a start-up could be as short as 3 weeks. Previously, they have swapped employees with Airbnb, Twitter and Klout.

Consumed Defined: Become consumed with invention to learn adaptability and creative problem solving.  Apply these learnings to your business.

Hopefully this post made you want to learn more. To hear post-presentation interviews, visit the BostInno YouTube page.