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Festival of Marketing 2018 highlights

Michael Lynch
25 Oct 2018

Last week we went along to the Festival of Marketing 2018 held at Tobacco Dock in London. Billed as the world’s largest brand marketing event we were expecting a day brimming with content, insightful speakers and eager minded marketers. We weren’t disappointed.

Despite Tobacco Dock being a like a rabbit warren we easily got on the right track by following the colour coded system.  Props to the organisers for also making their event family friendly.

The whole event was dominated with the ever-present question, “what about the human?”.  This is best summed up by a thought provoking quote from Sid Mcgrath from Karmarma, “The customer is dead, long live the

The big theme

The whole event was dominated with the ever-present question, “what about the human?”.  This is best summed up by a thought provoking quote from Sid Mcgrath from Karmarma, “The customer is dead, long live the human”

The festival got off to an amazing start marking  “World Mental Health Day” and making it the focus of the opening session. The panel was chaired by Dr Pixie McKenna and included broadcasters Gabby Logan, Kem Cetinay and the Digital Director of Grazia magazine, Rebecca Holman.

Kem Cetinay was extremely humble and brave as he shared his story around his battle with anxiety. He now uses his platform to reach young people to encourage them to have the confidence and self-belief to pursue their ambitions.  Gabby Logan also talked about tackling mental health issues across the sports industry and praised sports personalities who have spoken out in a bid to help others, as highlighted in a recent Michael Carrick article published by the Guardian.  

Louis Theroux gave a great interview filled with humour and honesty, addressing some of the world’s most sensitive subjects particularly around mental health, and being able to create a safe space for his subjects to open up, getting the best results from interviews by allowing people to relax and speak their minds.

How business is dealing with transformation

A wide range of key topics were addressed from, AI & tech to brand & creative, content, customer experience, data & analytics, digital transformation, insights & marketing intelligence, marketing strategy, personalisation, channels, and more!

The lesson from Virgin Holidays
One of the presentations we attended covered a time when Virgin Holidays were struggling, big time! Saul Lopes took us back to 2015 and a £600m revenue business that was driving absolutely no (none, nada, zero) profit. Why? It seems, because it had lost focus on what it is to be human.  Departments were working in silos, lots of data with no one analysing it and customers contacted by 10 different departments who never communicated.

Acknowledging their market challenges, the strategy was changed to “Win on Experience” aimed at re-engineering every customer touch point, aligning revenue objectives with NPS metrics and truly thinking about customer needs, wants and desires as part of their engagement strategy.

Encouraging that culture is cited as being central and fundamental to driving change.  Without the right empowered people and the right culture within the business, large change initiatives are likely to fail.

“The strangest thing about strange people is how normal they are.”

— Louis Theroux

So how do we describe digital transformation?

Richard Robinson and Ruth Mortimer used this as a backdrop to highlight the pace at which technology is evolving against the ability of humans to keep up.


  • 91% of marketers say that putting customers at the centre of their business is the most important focus of the business right now.
  • Only 50% of the same survey said their businesses were not set up to deliver a customer experience strategy

So what’s holding them back? Econsultancy highlighted these six gaps:

  • Experience delivery
  • Capabilities
  • Culture
  • Technology and data
  • Design
  • Perception

Put simply, most businesses are not investing in getting the right people, with the right skills, to drive these initiatives.

“Digital transformation is made up of 90% people and 10% technology.”

— Lucy Adams, Former HR Director, BBC

Thinking human

As technology advances exponentially, what can brands do to turn a, “Think Human” mindset into action, allowing companies to build deeper and meaningful relationships with new and existing customers?

Richard Parkinson of Text 100 kicked off the discussion and introduced, Lucy Reynolds from Vodafone, Stephan Croix from Pizza Hut, highlighting a couple of points from the PWC Customer Experience survey

  • 64% of consumers feel that businesses have lost touch with the human element of customer experience.

  • 71% stated they would rather interact with a human rather than a chatbot or some other automated communication.

The breakthrough brands of tomorrow will not only think human, but will act, speak and look human too.

Performance Marketing or Marketing Performance

Put into context by Roberto Longo from McKinsey and Co, who believes CMO’s and Senior Marketers need to shift mindset to think about,  “Marketing Performance”.

Considering Marketing can be one of the biggest line items on the P&L, it does not have the same level of robustness in terms of measurement as other areas within businesses.

Data was a common topic across most sessions, are we gathering the right data? what are we doing with the outputs?

One of the biggest pitfalls identified when working with data, is that 90% of time is spent gathering the data and getting to the insights and only 10% of time being spent acting on the insights themselves.

A final thought

These are challenging times, but difficult times bring opportunity. Just imagine the rewards for businesses that can bridge the gap between technology and human beings. Reducing the sense of fear of the new or unknown is key.

In a world of social saturation and information overload the successful brands of today and tomorrow will be the brands who think human in their words and in their deeds, engaging their audiences’ core human needs, wants and values.

If you only put technology in, you’ll only get technology out.

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