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This year, I had the privilege to attend the first Forward 2020 edition in Birmingham, to speak to a room full of hundreds of BA (Hons) Digital Media and MA/MSc Future Media students about the challenges of creating successful marketing campaigns, and the creative process that goes behind them, as well as my predictions and ways in which younger people can get into the digital media space.
I like these talks because they're more conversational-style, as opposed to the typical corporate ones, that are basically revolving around trend forecasting, which sound more like a pitch than anything. Just having a conversation with a bunch of people sharing the same aspirations you had not long ago is quite refreshing. I even had moments I said things on the fly, thinking, "Oh, shitt. I didn't even realize I was saying that."
EMOTIONAL ENGAGEMENT -> COOLEST BRANDS
I talked to them about the importance of the content, and I'll give you a taste of that in this article as well. The reason I thought it was necessary to tackle this subject in particular was because I feel like we're in an industry where there's a low barrier to entry. Every man and his dog can say they're able to help you market on social. The key to success, however, is not having the best and the coolest products, but rather emotionally engaging the end consumer in a way which just makes stuff relevant to brands. That's the reason why there's such an emphasis right now on the content being pushed out because otherwise, you just start to compete—and it's like price and quality. It turns into a race to the bottom, and those people aren't too interested. If you're continually in a race to the bottom, you're not particularly valuable.
SOCIAL MEDIA AS A WEB OF PERSONALISED BROADCASTS
But if you can create that emotional engagement, then you always win. This is called allowable self-identification, which is quite interesting, because when you're thinking about advertising—marketing or advertising—it moves you when you can directly relate to it. Or it moves you when you can basically think you could have done that yourself. The really powerful thing, especially on social media—the way I think about social media, and the way we think about social media at Fanbytes—is actually very different, in that a lot of people go, "Hey, let's put our stuff on social media. Let's broadcast it to the whole world." However, what you find—and this is my thesis on social media—is that it's simply a web of personalized broadcasts. What does that mean? It means that your favourite channel, your Instagram profile, your Twitter feed is essentially you almost trying to curate it as if it was a TV show for the world to know. We often say that social media lets you be the real you, and stuff like that. Well...Nah! Right? As long as you have other people there, you want to put your best foot forward. So, as a consequence of that, when you think about social media, it's a place where almost everyone is creating their own TV show, and everyone is creating their own TV channel, which they want to project out into the world. Then, what does that mean? That means then, that your role as a brand, and the role of brands is actually not to interrupt that TV channel. It's actually to help people be the best possible broadcasters they can be. It's about inserting yourself in there again, but actually saying, "Take our brand and then decide the cool way you can use us to make you look cool."
I remember a student asking me if there is somebody stirring a cauldron of magic turning into wonderful pieces of broadcast? And to that I'd say that I don't think there really is any magic to it. I think a lot of it comes, in the first place, from being uber young, so you get the audience you are trying to appeal to. But I think a lot of it also comes from just really trying to understand the moments in culture. People spend an absurd amount of time on Reddit in our company, and that counts as work. When I hear that, I'm like, "Okay, I guess so." But when you have this idea and have this obsession with this moment in culture, people are able to leverage. I think that just comes naturally, without any magic tricks. If you're young and also spend time on social media, naturally, you are choosing to go with the flow.
THE PURPOSE OF FORWARD 2020
When talking about this event, Kirstie Smith, Senior Lecturer at the BCU, described it as one meant to bring together the best people in the industry and curate a conference for the students at the Birmingham City University. The idea was that rather than taking them to a conference—and most conferences have a mix of speakers—bringing together speakers that would be relevant for them, to give them a proper experience of what the marketing industry conferences are like, rather than just having lectures. She told me the reason I was invited was because she had seen me on stage at the MarketEd.Live event, and she felt inspired by my talk, thinking that her students would relate to my journey. Such words and experiences humble me. If I managed to inspire at least one person in that room to follow their dreams and hustle hard for the ideas they believe in, that to me is a bigger success than getting 4 million views on a Snapchat lens.