For the first time in Asia, the great and the good of the Malaysian and APAC digital marketing community gathered in Kuala Lumpur recently for the inaugral Future Of Digital Marketing (FODM) Malaysia conference.
The talks echoed a key theme articulated by MDeC chief executive officer Datuk Badlisham Ghazali, that "the next wave of economic growth will come from the knowledge-based economy, with digital technology as a key driver of progress”.
Here are just some of the highlights from an excellent conference.
Renowned futurist Gerd Leonhard keynoted the conference with a wide ranging talk on the 'reset' of marketing, branding and media that set up a number of themes for the event, some of which were echoed by later speakers.
Our blindspot, said Gerd, comes from the fact that we have lived in a linear world, but today's challenges are exponential.
Mobile devices, for example are rapidly becoming our 'external brain', with the transition to new interfaces (flexible screens, Google Glass, iWatches) having huge potential social, economic and commercial implications as the present becomes increasingly characterised by the interplay of human elements (incorporating key factors around permission, trust, control, recourse), data, information and interfaces (standards, open platforms, APIs), and software, AI, and machines (regulations, policies, ethics).
Key to this shifting dynamic are 'Humartihms' ("not just algorithms - smart, emotional, fluid, organic").
Gerd referred to the global transformation, which is also being seen in Malaysia, as: "the transition of consumers moving from product to service to experience", and the need for brands and their agencies to increasingly become 'sense-makers' in an ever more complex world.
Louise Au, Managing Director of Mercury Digital Marketing Communications and an ex-regional leader in APAC for Digitas, echoed the theme of increasing complexity but stressed the importance of digital leadership.
She also talked about the seamless integration of digital strategy and technology with business and growth strategy (understanding that digital is not IT), and the competitive advantage that comes from empowerment of talented staff, and the powerful combination of marketing and technology related skills at a senior level.
Jake Hird, Director of Research and Education at Econsultancy in Australia, talked about the The New Customer Journey and made the point that consumers don't care about the complexity, they just want things to work seamlessly, to feel special and unique, to be seen as individuals instead of “just another customer”.
Technology should therefore be focused on delivering seamless customer experiences across all channels and touchpoints, and new forms of personalisation have a valuable role to play.
Jake emphasised the value of emotion created by experience, of storytelling through technology, and the increasing role that digital is playing in enhancing real world interactions. Digital, he said, is finally becoming an emotional medium.
Mike Zeederburg, MD of Zuni in Australia, made a compelling case for why creativity will be so critical to the future of digital marketing, beginning by questioning whether the science in digital marketing can ever work without the magic.
The spectrum of creative options open to marketers, from more traditional interuption marketing formats through to creativity focused around engagement begets increasing complexity in roles, and skill-sets but the rewards are there for marketers who are able to successfully marry data (quantified self, visualisation, personalisation, internet of things) with engagement (content, utility and involvement).
There was a great Australian case study he used where Oak chocolate milk responded to consumers who were complaining about not being able to get the product at their local shops with a series of 'Reverse Robberies' that saw Oak 'robbers' restocking fridges 'by force, thereby helping to solve a real commercial issue for the brand through smart marketing.
Steffan Aquarone, CEO of Droplet & Econsultancy Trainer in the UK, focused on the growing power and importance of video content and just why video is becoming such a critical part of content strategy and digital marketing not just in Malaysia but in just about every global market.
The context for my own talk at FODM Malaysia was set with data from Econsultancy's own Content Marketing Survey that showed that despite the rapid growth in importance of content marketing, many organisations still admitted to not having a fully defined content marketing strategy, or dedicated budgets or headcount.
The challenge for many is in balancing the slow-build but always-ready requirements of always-on with the sharp spikes of attention and opportunity that characterise dynamic, real-time content environments.
There are some useful lessons here from the big technology power players - Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon - in building user-centric ecosystems that take value and data from one consumer touchpoint and can reapply it to enhance the experience at another (like Google+ is doing with search).
A useful framework for brands is considering the three pillars of content curation: algorythmic, social and professional, and how smart combinations of these different elements can bring value and engagement (much as AMEX has done with their Open Forum).
Approaches such as this require complementary organisational culture, characterised by free-flowing information, small, nimble teams unhampered by functional silos, and some of the practices that are more native to silicon valley can be instructive in helping to drive this change.
Gaurav Mishra, Asia VP of Insights, Innovation & Social, MSL Group followed this up with a talk based on MSL Group's "Now & Next: Future of Engagement" report (a year long crowdsourcing initiative with 100+ MSL Group planners) featuring ten frontiers that are shaping the future of engagement.
The event was ably concluded with some great client side insights from Ranji David, Regional Head of Digital Marketing for Samsung Asia. Ranji summarised a number of key facets that will be critical to clients going forwards including the importance of talent, of experimenting with new formats, and of truly integrated approaches that put digital at the heart of marketing strategy.
It was clear from delegate feedback that just as in other regions of the world, APAC and Malaysia are seeing significant impact from the transformative affect of digital technologies. As elsewhere, the opportunity for digital marketers in Malaysia is to not only to ride this wave of change, but to be a fundamental part of it.
The Future of Digital Marketing (FODM) Malaysia Presentations