Key Takeaways of the 2018 Canadian Internet Marketing Conference (CIMC)

The Canadian Internet Marketing Conference brought together the digital marketing heavyweights of the world in Squamish last week to share kernels of gold that your business can leverage today.

Owning the stage were local food and beverage success stories like Four Winds Brewing, JJ Bean, and Better With Foods who were followed up by billion dollar enterprises like Amazon (trillion in their case), Airbnb, Uber, LinkedIn, Twitter, Slack, Disney, and Buzzfeed, to name a few.

These companies lived up to their hype by delivering insights around the themes of taking brand risk, knowing your audience, going back to the basics, and leveraging marketing technology.

1. Business and marketing are getting political

Diversity and politics came up a surprising amount of times as it has become evident that turbulence in the USA and beyond is becoming an expectation from customers for their favourite companies to take a stance on as CEO activism takes the spotlight. The first example was how founders of JJ Bean and Rennie Group, John Neate and Bob Rennie, spoke about how they constantly need to think about diversity when they hire staff and make business decisions in Vancouver. Mr. Neate told the story about how early in JJ Bean’s inception, they needed to adapt to hiring baristas on Commercial Drive who dressed and acted much differently than what many of their customers were used to. They took a stance to welcome this and as long as they were well-intentioned, they decided to embrace how staff expressed themselves (even if it meant losing some customers).

CEO of MEC, David Labistour, spoke to the recent PR pressure his team had to act quickly as their customers pleaded them to drop some of their most popular outdoor product lines made by the same manufacturer that produces guns. His team locked themselves in a room and spoke with customers via social media to understand their views and communicate their stance on the issue - this was a crucial dialogue that needed the use of social media and real-time communication.

2. Take brand risks that fit your brand ethos and are for the greater good

Related to the first point, is the fact that sometimes you need to take a stance and make business decisions that don’t always make financial sense. JJ Bean lost about 5% of customers when they decided to shake up what baristas they hired on Commercial Drive but in the end, the other 95% of customers and grew their loyalty exponentially.

Lori Joyce, CEO of Betterwith Foods, spoke about how had to tell Whole Foods that she could not deliver on her initial shipment of her ice cream because she didn’t have the right “traceable” supplier. This meant, them needing to know exactly the one local farm where the cream came from and knowing that the cows who produce it were happy, healthy, and well taken care of - Whole Foods respected this and backed them even more than before!

If you stand strong to your brand ethos even when it means short-term sacrifice, you inspire the right partners to step up 10x while the bad partners show their cards and fold.

3. Leverage readily available data to deliver on the mantra of “less is more” for your content marketing

The conference was full of information about how more artificial intelligence, audio marketing, and other marketing technologies are riper than ever to be leveraged for richer customers interactions (marketing technology companies have shot up from 250 eight years ago to 5000).

By leveraging new technologies, you can be a lot smarter about who your ideal customers are. This led to a central theme from many of the speakers who implored marketers to get out of the content creation arms race and spend more time learning about what their customers actually want; one great articles will always beat 10 mediocre ones.

I was most impressed with how far along Linkedin has come with their first party data of letting you know what kind of buyers are reading your articles and content online. Make sure to put a LinkedIn pixel on your website to do so.

4. Know your tribe

“In 2025 Millennials and Gen X will control 76% of spending power.” Daniel Dubois, Airbnb Market Manager. How well do you know what this generation of buyers value and how well can you tap into that?

Kristina Arriaga from Hive Consulting spoke to how even the world's most undeniable facts will be dismissed if it clashes with a tribe of people’s core values and beliefs - their emotional sides.

If you were looking to appeal to the yoga community in Vancouver with a healthy snack you think is perfect for them, you don’t blast them with nutritional facts but rather, reinforce their beliefs, communication style, and foundational things they believe in following the three steps below:

  • Find out what the tribe believes (e.g yoga is a way of life in Vancouver)
  • Be disarming and speak tribal language (e.g know yoga lingos and their practices)
  • Make your arguments impenetrable. Appeal to intuition and make it undeniable. (e.g stress and injured bodies inhibit people from being good citizens)

If you like psychology, the Elephant and Rider analogy from the University of Virginia psychologist, Jonathan Haidt’s book “The Happiness Hypothesis” is a perfect example.

Haidt says that our emotional side is the Elephant and our rational side is the Rider. Perched atop the Elephant, the Rider holds the reins and seems to be the leader. But the Rider’s control is precarious because the Rider is so small relative to the Elephant.  Anytime the six-ton Elephant and the Rider disagree about which direction to go, the Rider is going to lose. He’s completely overmatched.

Emotion > Rationale.

5. Invest in “All Time Content” vs. Real Time Content

Diana Luu, Head of Marketing solutions of LinkedIn Canada gave incredible examples of how Netflix and Disney put money into characters they know have stood the test of time because they get ROI which they can dip into over and over again. She mentioned how the whole push into real-time video streaming is a great trend but that if you bank too much on satisfying immediate gratification, you burn and churn far too much and in the long run, you’re working much for the same or fewer results.

She also showed how Tropicana’s push to be more cutting edge cost them a 20% dip in salesand that people valued the reliability and simplicity of their famous orange and straw. Luu also reported how one of LinkedIn’s studies yielded that familiarity and relevance sells 2x than originality.

On the note of not getting too caught up with the latest marketing trends, Richard Reid, Executive Director at Buzzfeed spoke to how even though Buzzfeed seems to be all about chasing the last trend, they are always using data to see what customers gravitate towards and find ways to put a fresh and approachable spin to old concepts. For example, their sub-brand Tasty, re-imagined TV cooking shows by stripping away the big personalities using complicated recipes to showing videos from the point of view of the everyday foodie. Buzzfeed also doesn’t depend on one social media platform and is always leveraging different platforms to achieve their goal of meaningful reach and shareable content, their two biggest metrics of success.

CIMC was a fantastic confluence of world leading brands and marketers. Unlike most conferences, attendees had their notepads out the entire time and you could feel an aura of excitement steadily throughout the time. In summary, you need to know what stance you’re willing to take on world issues, question how well you really know your customer, and be more conscious about how you balance out familiar and original marketing messages.