Social Creatures, Social Brains: One of Many Powerful Messages Heard at the 2013 WOMMA Summit

Social Creatures, Social Brains: One of Many Powerful Messages Heard at the 2013 WOMMA Summit

I'm back in my corner of the world after three days spent in Nashville, Tennessee, at the WOMMA Summit, feeling a mix of post-experience exhaustion and inspiration that one gets after a time spent exercising the brain to the max. It was one of the most inspiring marketing summits I've attended in 10+ years -- not only because I believe WOM is the most powerful form of marketing (when it's done right), but because most everyone who presented or spoke (at least at the sessions I attended) was incredibly passionate about their subject matter. Several times throughout the three-day conference I had light bulb moments that led me to scramble for somewhere to record it so they wouldn't be lost. By the time I had something jotted down or posted, I was furiously working on framing up the next thought, inspired by information overload from the mouths of some of the industry's finest.

It was like watching 10 TED talks simultaneously.

In attempt to consolidate my takeaways into a blog post that might actually be read, I will summarize into a top five:

1. Somewhere along the way, many of us [marketers] have fallen prey to the latest shiny object. New channels and platforms pop up with such frequency, keeping a pulse on it is akin to placing your thumb on a high-speed train as it rails at over 125 mph. So let us not forget the basics: we're marketing to people. We need to remain grounded in real insights, then driven by strategy that isn't complacent to actual human behavior. The shiny objects are not to be ignored, of course, and as we've experienced with some of our most loved social platforms, they can be incredibly valuable communications channels. Let's just make sure our decisions are rooted in fact, not assumptions.

2. I was retaught the reality of social decision-making behavior while holding the hands of a complete stranger and fellow summit participant. In an interactive exercise (cue the reluctant, resounding groan about the auditorium) conducted by industry thought leader, Mark Earls, we were asked to turn to a neighbor and hold hands (Great. Instantly regretted coming to this summit alone). Then, upon assignment, we were to "get each other off the ground as many times as possible." HUH!? Pretty soon though, a couple people started jumping up and down. In milliseconds the entire place caught on…we were all jumping up and down, up and down. Seemed like a good idea. And proved the social decision-making theory, on the spot.

The lesson? Humans do not think entirely independently -- we are inherently social creatures and have social brains to boot. Backed up by a massive behavior economics study and in a paraphrased anecdote: "Human ability for independent thinking is like cats swimming in water. They'll really only do it if they have to."

So how do we apply this to actual strategy? Figure out how to get people to do something together. There it is! My Top-Five Number Two.

3. "Real-time Marketing," thanks to Oreo for their now legendary 'you can still dunk in the dark' response during the Superbowl's blackout, is this season's new black. It's all the buzz and if you're anybody who's anybody and being all thought leader-y out there, you know what real-time marketing is…or do you? A great takeaway from one of my fave sessions at the summit: it's not real-time; it's what-matters-time. It takes a lot of work, listening and researching and analyzing, but if as marketers, we really study the moments and then react to humans as humans would -- and oh, yah! Be RELEVANT! -- it can go a long way…ahem, WOM!

4. WOM can absolutely be applied to B2B. I sat through a fantastically practical session where three very smart women from Cisco and their partner agency, walked us through a content journey model which uncovered the crossroads between decision-maker personas and their "care-abouts" and the tried-and-true customer decision path many of us are so familiar with (and if we're not, we SHOULD BE!). With a lot of research going into the insights discovery, this didn't take them a day to create, of course. However, I believe this same concept can be scaled to a level which is more palatable to our NK clients, who often have limited budgets. More simply stated: so long as we're creating a strategic roadmap that is grounded in decision-maker insights, we can devise an effective content marketing plan that will really work.

5. The keynote on day one was Jay Baer, whose book, Youtility, served as the premise of his talk. After re-reading my notes, I thought there was no better way to convey my number five then to just stream the notes I took.

So here goes: Help, not hype. Strategically eavesdrop to get in the conversation. Help consumers when they need help and you might actually create marketing that they'll pay for. IKEA shows perfect example. Evidently, there is one Saturday each year in Quebec, Canada, where anyone who's moving to another home does so. It's called Moving Day. IKEA decided (with the help of their agency partners! heyo!) to place boxes all over the city in pyramid piles for people to take…for free. They helped when people needed it most. And turns out, Moving Day is now one of IKEA's top selling days of the year [in Quebec], with a 25% increase in sales. WOW. WOM.

Like IKEA, we need to go beyond just the benefits of our services and products to provide utility -- force consumers into a differentiated awareness. To do this, must get past the big data and get to the human insights. Find the influential moments that inspire people -- moments that they really care about -- and recreate them. Dixie Chicks. (note: at this point in the talk I recalled why I love the Dixie Chicks so much -- it's because they were there at a crucial, influential moment in my past. So now…they can do no wrong. Isn't that what we want our consumers to think about us (meaning, our brands?)). Unleash the human passion. PASS ON, Jay says. The kind of passion we want unleashed will result in WOM.

Rinse. Wash. Repeat. (note: I really did write this down and I'm not quite sure what I meant by it…perhaps it was to serve as a reminder that this really is a pretty simple concept, this whole Youtility thing…Rinse. Wash. Repeat.)

To our NK clients, I say lucky you that we were at this summit, cause now we have some explosive ideas for you! To our fellow marketers, if you haven't been to a WOMMA Summit, GO!

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