collision | kəˈliZHən/ | noun
- an instance of one moving object or person striking violently against another.
Synonyms: crash, accident, impact, smash, bump, hit, fender bender, wreck, pileup
An event of two or more records being assigned the same identifier or location in memory.
From the definition above, Collision sounds like something that should be avoided all costs. But the conference, which moved this year to the Big Easy from Sin City, once again showed that great things can come from throwing a mish-mash of ideas and strategies into a cauldron of 11,000 attendees. The three-day knowledge-sharing fest offered roadmaps and tantalizing hints about the future of everything from software and services to sports and music.
Collision’s big theme of inclusion and intellectual cross-pollination was everywhere one looked, from the C-Level or Founder speakers in its lineup (plus a few celebrities here and there), to the 630 startups exhibiting through their ALPHA and PITCH programs. Speaking tracks ran the gamut from sports and music to marketing and big data. Attendees came from a total of 106 countries worldwide. Collision even established a special program for women in tech through the Collision Commitment to Change Initiative, a part of a larger initiative that has pledged to invite over 10,000 women to attend their events over the course of 2016, many free of charge. The call for variety was undeniably clear, and here was little true overlap in the subjects covered. Yet we found a few recurring themes that really stuck:
Content: Not Just a Search Trend
It’s all about the content, stupid! Sure, you’d expect to hear that in marketing and enterprise tracks, but the importance of delivering engaging, topical content permeated everywhere, from sessions to bar talk.
“Your content needs to be great in order for people to engage.”
– Brandon Berger, Chief Digital Officer at Ogilvy
No matter your focus, killer content is a cornerstone of all forms of digital marketing, whether you’re creating VR experiences for the PGA or simply trying as a new company to introduce your product to potential customers. Consumers are bombarded with fresh, engaging content every second, from the likes of Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more. Standing out amid this sea of content requires creating something fun, user-minded and painstakingly relevant.
Take, for example, General Electric’s Emoji Table of Experiments, which GE Chief Marketing Officer Linda Boff introduced in her day 1 session, “100 Years of Storytelling.” Capitalizing on consumer familiarity with emojis, GE tied it back to its business with a campaign meant to help users better understand and engage with some of GE’ complicated initiatives. Clicking on an emoji leads to a fun piece of content like a video of Bill Nye explaining “Your Brain on the Internet” using emojis as an intro to cognitive science research initiatives.
The underlying message? No matter your product, you can make it fun, and you can make it relevant. As Katherine Barna mentioned in a separate session, “the goal is to educate, not alienate” consumers through shareable content. In other words, business these days sometimes must go beyond simply trying to sell a product; you have to sell a brand as well.
GE’s focus on promoting products and initiatives was admittedly distant from the everyday consumer, yet this sentiment was also echoed in sessions for conversion-oriented marketers working farther down the funnel.
If you can generate stories that are fun, user-oriented, and relevant, you immediately set yourself up to be a source of more authoritative, more shareable, and frankly, more pervasive content.
In a world where users expect content to be king, and brand alternatives are literally at users’ fingertips, it’s a leg up that you can’t afford to ignore. If you can’t convey relevance and value, you’ll be overlooked.
Big Data Has a Big Future
Big data was another constant in New Orleans. Not only was it rampant in the marketing and enterprise tracks, but it was equally popular amongst the engineering-themed tracks and the center stage track.
The marketing track remained laser-focused on harnessing big data to quantify ROI of special campaigns. While Dan Wagner of Civis Analytics stressed that “the value of data is not immediate” for many early stage companies, its importance became clear as C-Level execs noted that data gathering and monitoring plays a huge role in how the big tech players architect their day-to-day strategies.
Brandon Berger from Ogilvy stressed the idea of using big data to identify new opportunities to reach customers. Using readily accessible technology and data gleaned from users’ online tendencies, you can harness insights from search, human behavior and more to create content that’s more likely to resonate with a target audience.
His chief example? Diaper cakes: a cake-shaped, non-edible decoration made from (clean) diapers, often made by hand and given to parents-to-be at events like toddler birthdays, baby showers and the like. By utilizing the data available in their search tools, they were able to glean that “diaper cakes” was a frequent search amongst diaper buyers.
By then placing content and ads that targeted the right keyword, they were able to draw an incredibly relevant connection to the diaper brand Ogilvy was representing at the time. The result was a strategically targeted, well-received campaign made possible through the power and availability of user behavior data.
Cross-Pollination Isn’t Just for Bees
It can be especially easy in tech to create sub-sector silos. Most folks specializing in one area tend to stick to what they know, from online media and ecommerce to SaaS and digital marketing. While there’s always a good deal to be learned from peers and competitors in your professional niche, having the opportunity to hear from problem-solvers outside the space was refreshing.
With sessions co-hosted between traditional media brands and tech investors, and others jointly led by ex-athletes and startup execs, Collision meshed the values, expertise, and problem-solving approaches of professionals from all corners of tech to present a holistic view of the tech industry today.
By bringing this diverse set of people together, and celebrating the successes each have had through wildly different personal and professional pathways, Collision made it clear that there’s much to be learned from not only peers in our respective industries, but from across professions and verticals.
Did you attend Collision Conference in New Orleans? Let us know which sessions stood out the most for you in the comments below.