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DMEXCO: Shining The Spotlight On Digital Transformation

A key part of going digital is also to tread beyond the technology and focus on the fundamentals that have defined good marketing

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For the media, the marketing and advertising industry, dmexco has steadily been gaining a place of prominence in the last few years. The forum that was conceptualised as a digital marketing exposition and conference or in short, dmexco, was among the first that had spoken of the significance of advertising and marketing technology. It was also at dmexco that the first conversations around the end of ‘digital marketing’ had taken place. The argument was that digital had become mainstream, and that the mindset must change to ‘marketing in a digital world’.

What had begun as a Europe-focused event, taking place over two days in Cologne, Germany, now plays host to leaders, decision makers and digital professionals from across the world. Companies from India are also steadily growing their presence at the forum with the dual objective to do business and learning about new global trends.

Across 13-14 September, more than 1,100 exhibitors, including companies from India, were present at the forum. It also hosted over 570 international speakers and 40,700 visitors. To differentiate itself from other marketing forums, dmexco sharply focused on the changes in the global digital economy and positions itself as an enabler of ‘pure business’.

This is the first year, when dmexco has become a ticketed event for delegates. This has impacted the number of delegates at the forum, which, in 2016, was in the vicinity of 55,000 people. “dmexco’s relevance as an international business platform can be clearly seen in the record number of exhibitors this year. More exhibitors than ever before came to Cologne in 2017 to use dmexco to boost their national and international business,” says Christian Muche, co-founder, dmexco, who handles all aspects of the content or the conference leg of the forum. “One of the primary prerequisites for business success is the quality of the business contacts. In light of this, and at the request of many exhibitors, we took the corrective measure of introducing paid ticketing this year,” adds Muche.

Frank Schneider, also co-Founder, dmexco, whose primary mandate revolves around the exhibitors and the show floors, echoes Muche’s views. “Our aim consists of attracting a high-quality professional audience to strengthen dmexco’s primary business claim,” says Schneider. “We don’t just want to gather as many people as possible in the exhibition halls. From our perspective, growth at any price makes no sense. For us and for dmexco, the decisive factors are pure business and the highest level of quality with regard to the contacts made and the trade fair experience as a whole. That is what makes dmexco so unique,” he adds.

In the course of the two days, a few, broad themes, including the importance of purpose, having the ability to be ambidextrous and being rooted in insights, stood out at the forum.

The Importance of Purpose
The need for brands and companies to be driven by a purpose was highlighted in most conversations at the forum. The primary reason for this is to not only assist brands in forming their differentiators but also to serve as a guideline in the various decisions a company makes. Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook, reiterated the point, stating that with 2 billion people connected on the platform, there is an unprecedented responsibility on Facebook. “We take very seriously our responsibility to earn and maintain the trust of people in businesses. We have a simple mission – making the world more connected and giving people the power to share. It is not enough to just connect people; we need to make sure we are bringing people together to do good,” Sandberg said.

Facebook is not only taking responsibility towards the kind of content it allows but also towards the responsibility to advertisers. At the forum, it launched more clarity and controls for advertisers and new policies that would address the advent of fake news.

Sandberg also pointed out the role that ‘communities’, simply described as groups of like-minded and similar interests people on Facebook, will play in assisting companies in achieving their mission. Facebook’s own mission to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together gives it a sense of purpose in everything it does, according to her.

Sandberg informed that Facebook will continue to invest so that people can build communities. Facebook will also build on the several ways in which it enables brands to engage communities, where it is through mobile or social routes. “People can use the power of technology to connect and work together. We want to help businesses fulfill their mission and help them grow, create jobs, and build and foster community,” she said.

The New Playbook
Another important takeaway at the forum was the need for marketers to evolve and adapt to the pace of change. In this backdrop, industry leaders stressed on the need to be ambidextrous or to have the ability to work with both hands with equal efficiency. Alison Lewis, Chief Marketing Officer, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) said, “We all know that the speed of change today is the slowest we will ever experience. Companies are eyeing exponential growth, and, in many industries, barriers to entry have diminished. Today we can get marketing on demand. Even employees can be on demand. We have a new world order at play. We are at an inflection point of established businesses and brands.” For her, the winners of the future will take the old playbook of the brand management discipline and infuse it with the new playbook. And there are five key tenets that comprise this new playbook.

The first tenet is to centre the brand and business around an inspiring purpose. This brings empathy and meaning to the brand and is really why people purchase today. The second is to ensure that marketers are activating personalised experiences giving people what they want, when they want it like never before. This is made possible with the advent of data and technology.

The third tenet is to build connected ecosystems for total brand experiences, where the physical marries digital to create the “phygital” world. Innovating with new business models and not just products but infusing services by tapping technology is the fourth tenet. The final one is turning customers into members, which required brands to think a lot more like retailers to build consumer closeness.

To Be Rooted In Insights
Many leaders at the forum reminded that the era of digital marketing has made way for brand building. P&G has, in fact, infused this mindset in the company, across the world. According to Marc Pritchard, the chief brand officer of the packaged goods company, the move has freed up its brand building professionals to focus on creative ideas that come to life across all media that consumers engage with every day. Pritchard has a three-point checklist of what comprises great ideas. He lists these as rooted in deep human insights; it should not need explaining and finally and finally, great idea executes itself.

“A great idea has to be based on an emotional truth that is so intuitive that you recognise it as something you have always known. Insight unlocks creativity and is a core part of the creative process,” Pritchard said. He added that great ideas are not only always easy to recognise but that they also have the core logic and ability that makes executing it effortless. “I always know when we have a great idea because it literally flies through the organisation – everyone wants to do it. It gains momentum until the idea takes a life of its own. A lousy idea drags itself,” he added.

Brands need to find insights that will sustain themselves. A case in point is Old Spice. “A core insight should not change every time you come up with a new campaign. You should find an insight, and really invest in it. There is great merit in combining insight with the equity of the brand. Old Spice did this with the insight that deep down all men feel just a little insecure about their manliness. We distinguished the brand by using humour and it has seen double digits growth in the each of the last three years,” Pritchard said.

As great insights have to the power to travel, they can be customised to any culture and lead to an explosion of ideas that execute themselves and can sustain a brand for years. For Pritchard, that is what great brand building is about.

Digitally Driven
If the bigger picture, drawn by several leading speakers at the forum was around the mindset changes, the show floor focused on aspects that mattered in every day decision making process of marketing professionals. One of the most prominent areas in that were data and the significance of the likes of blockchain in unlocking the potential from data. Content was another area that many exhibitors highlighted in the solutions they were presenting. In summary, the forum outlined the ways to achieve personalisation and customised solutions at scale.

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