Everyone’s a Winner—7 Takeaways from SMARTIES Unplugged Virtual | MMA

This year, the MMA turned the SMARTIES X and SMARTIES North America awards celebration into a two-day educational event designed to help attendees find ways to create business impact through innovation and creative excellence.

In an environment heavily influenced by COVID-19, social unrest and other issues, marketers have had to think on their feet faster than ever to reach increasingly isolated audiences with authenticity, empathy and sensitivity.

Here are seven takeaways from the event you should start thinking about with your teams if you want to drive better results through creativity:

  1. Show up for your audience in a real way.

    Now that consumers are embracing digital formats in record numbers, many brands have been shifting effort and energy into new channels. Andrew Long, Head of Marketing at Serta Simmons Bedding, used TikTok to reach a younger audience that found itself stuck at home. The “Snoozapalooza Virtual Music Festival” used influencers to engage fans, who ended up making their own videos as a way to have fun and socialize during the pandemic. “We want to be known as the funnest mattress brand in the world,” Long said.

    Pro Tip: If you work with new platforms and influencers, trust the creators. If you try to choreograph the effort, it will fail.

    You don’t have to be flashy to relate to your audience on different platforms, though. Kendra Clune, Associate Media Director at Kroger, said that the supermarket brand started testing mobile gaming advertising “because we had the data to back up that this was … where our customers were.” She added that the people-first brand was looking for new ways to reach customers in light of Apple’s decision to block app access to IDFA. 

  2. Adapt quickly.

    COVID-19 proved that marketers who think fast have the best chance of success. Jimmy Valdes, Senior Brand Manager at Danone, talked about how Oikos, the Official Yogurt of the NFL, created a campaign promoting strength and protein consumption around the concept that people were going to the store less but stocking up more. Commercials featured NFL stars carrying multiple bags of groceries all at once into their homes. When the brand moved the concept to TikTok as the Oikos One-Trip Challenge, it earned billions of views and generated hundreds of thousands of pieces of user-generated content.

    Pro Tip: Tap into the need for people to inspire each other and express themselves.

    Chris Price, Head of Global Digital Marketing & Media Transformation Lead at The Coca-Cola Company, remarked that consumers reacted and adapted to digital just as fast and as experimentally as brands did. “They tested every digital behavior out there, from doctor’s visits to concerts. I don’t think consumers are going to walk away from the convenience of digital services.”

  3. Use Technology for Speed and Relevance

    Recognizing the need to reinvent ways of talking to consumers, Marlon Romulus, Performance Marketing Manager at GSK and Lance Whitehead, Global Media & Content Capability Leader at Kimberly Clark, made a compelling case for using Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO) to generate personalized content on the fly, based on defined data triggers like page views and app usage.

    “It’s a great way to get the right message to the right customer,” said Romulus, who noted that the AI/machine learning engines that drive such systems keep improving over time. Whitehead said that DCO is being used for all Kimberly Clark brands and, with the right people and processes in place, has been driving better outcomes.

    Pro Tip: Align your teams on the same tech stack and give the right people the access they need.


  4. Get Closer to Consumers with Text and Chat

    With more consumers migrating online, there’s more of a demand for immediate and seamless communication. Chris Rupp, EVP & Chief Customer & Digital Officer at Albertsons Companiesand Nick Eshkenazi, Chief Digital Technology Officer of WooliesX, shared their experiences with automated chat and text messaging, which put the consumer in control over conversation cadence. According to Morgan Steele, Market Impact Consultant at Forrester, half of all consumers put asynchronous (natural) chat as a top three method of communicating.

    Steele went on to say that firms with automated communications increase the lifetime value of customers and make agents three times more efficient. Rupp said that the quick implementation of messaging helped the grocery giant deal with a huge spike in digital demand when the pandemic hit. “We couldn’t handle it in the beginning,” she said. “We needed to scale our ability to respond to customers.”

    Pro Tip: Conversational AI technologies are low risk because the technology is mature, and because most consumers report positive experiences.

    According to Sue Rosen, Sr. Manager of Mobile Messaging at Discover Financial Services, consumers have a need for immediacy and convenience, two things that chat and text can really deliver.

  5. Apply a First-Second Strategy for Video

    The MMA's recent neuroscience and eye-tracking study revealed that consumers can see and process advertising on a mobile screen in as little as four tenths of a second. Amit Shah, President of 1800-Flowers.com, shared the “new rules for high velocity environments”, including starting content with an attention-grabbing scene and using visual and sonic embellishments.

    Pro Tip: Increase the aperture of what your creative teams consider. There’s room for more than just 15-, :30- and :60-second spots.


  6. Meet Consumers Where They Are

    As cities reopen, reaching people in the context of their environments remains important. With digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising, brands can reach consumers in movie theaters, doctor’s offices, gas stations and other opportune places. The audience is younger and smaller now, but they’re out and about and responding to the right messages.

    Muriel Lotto, Head of Global Brand and Marketing at Western Union, has had to adjust her DOOH strategy, moving away from placements on public transportation and to placements closer to home.

    Pro Tip: Survey a random sample of your customers on a regular basis and ask them how they’re doing.

    DIAGEO India decided to reach consumers where they were emotionally with “The World’s Most Traveled Billboard” campaign for Johnnie Walker, this year’s SMARTIES X Best in Show Award winner. The liquor brand was new to India, and its “Keep Walking” tagline was all about pushing boundaries to taste more out of life. While international travel was restricted, the brand worked with professional photographers to bring the billboard to some of the most unexplored parts of India, giving engaged consumers exciting virtual travel experiences. A mini version of the billboard was mailed to 150 travel influencers, and an Instagram filter let anyone try it out.

  7. Give people a reason to smile.

    With serious issues plaguing societies worldwide, marketers can find great power in giving people a break from all the heavy stuff. The SMARTIES North America Best in Show Award winner represented the effectiveness of this approach: GSK and Revolution Digital for the “Preparation H Back There Care”.

    “We wanted to be humorous, but not crass,” said Brett Henige, Senior Brand Manager. “The goal was to be cheeky but charming to put a smile on people’s faces. We certainly didn’t want to offend anyone.”

    Pro Tip: Do extensive social listening to see how people really talk about topic’s related to your marketing.

    The campaign caught people’s attention with popular “fail” video ads on YouTube, which were interrupted by the campaign’s “rear-end front man,” John Rump. The campaign was successful by every measure, and even resulted in a 571% search increase for the brand on YouTube.

    SMARTIES Unplugged Virtual gave attendees a lot to think about. As marketers look ahead to 2021, they would do well to follow the advice of Sue Rosen of Discover Financial Services, who told attendees to “expect anything.”

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