2014 Yale Customer Insights Conference takes stock of the Digital Age

YaleCIC2014-StratoServeAs expected the 2014 Yale Customer Insights Conference (#YaleInsights14)  last weekend turned out to be hugely useful as it took stock of the Digital Age. Billed as "where leading thinkers and doers come together to advance the knowledge frontiers of evolving customer behavior" … this time all the practitioner (doer) talks were on Friday along with a sprinkling of academic (thinker) talks.  Saturday was an all academic half day, that was well attended by practitioners who did not want to miss out on the cutting edge work presented. 

All speaker slides will be available on the conference website, but here is a summary of some key themes that resonate with this blog:

1.Emotions matter: With all the information on the web,big data,  instant connectivity via social media emotions still matter- a lot. That the conference was on the mother's day weekend provided wonderful material for some speakers to connect with the audience and drive home this evergreen marketing topic. Carolyn Everson of Facebook  had her 74 year old mother, and the audience, feeling proud that although she was not accepted as an undergraduate at Yale, here she was delivering the keynote address at the 2014 Yale CIC !  OgilvyOne's Dimitri Maex presented a British Airways video in a session on big data based on his book "Sexy Little Numbers."  The marketing challenge was that British Airways was doing poorly with Indian expatriates in the US for travel share to India. The little data collected informally i.e. no big spreadsheets,SPSS, SAS  or Hadoop was – what do you miss back home? "Mum and home food" was the qualitative response. With just a YouTube video British Airways- A ticket to visit Mum, British Airways saw over a million views of the video  with huge gains in market share. Two days before mother's day almost everyone was crying in the audience !

2.Test, Experiment continuously: Today we are deluged with customer behavior data from internal CRM systems and web analytics systems. Presenters were unanimous on the need for constant testing because customer preferences change so fast today. And the testing and experimentation is relatively much easier and less expensive today. Make multiple versions of web pages and layouts and test for the one that works better… the data is easily available via Google Analytics.

3.Mobile Mobile : A major emphasis by speakers was the growth in Mobile phones. A fun fact mentioned was that there are more mobile phones on the planet than toothbrushes or toilets. If you are reading this make sure that your website is mobile friendly. And that goes for bankers  and banking as well as a Bank of America executive in the audience pointed out.

4.Advertising pathways and new media: There was a whole bunch of interesting presentations on the pathways that advertising takes to win or keep customers. Pathways being the need to inform,remind and engage customers with your brand  said Mitchell Lovett of University  of Rochester. Paid Media (advertising like Google AdWords), Earned Media ( eg. social media like Facebook) and Owned Media (your website) play different roles in the customer journey. Some interesting presentations about Twitter:

  • Customers use Twitter for sharing bad experiences about the brand and Facebook for sharing  good brand experiences  was the message from the research of  Marlene Towns of Georgetown University
  • Twitter is great for informative advertising according to field research by Juanjuan Zhang of MIT. The field research conducted in China with Sina Weibo – the Chinese version of Twitter and subsequent  viewing of TV shows.

5. Decline of the Brand in the Digital age:  The shocker of the conference was really on Friday when Itamar Simonson of Stanford University offered that today with almost perfect information online- brands are no longer proxies for quality as discussed in his book  Absolute Value So brand building might be a waste. Customers tend to check reviews online before buying and are frequently willing to give a weaker brand a shot if the value is right. 

So are marketers powerless in the digital age as power shifts to the customer? Not really because the digital age allows for more transparency and if your product or service is great and constantly improving with customer insights…..the digital age is full of exciting opportunity. Contact StratoServe.

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