Fad or Real? Marketers Discuss Emerging Technologies at BI Summit Chicago

The wide open world of emerging technologies was at the heart of the discussion with Jen Naye Herrmann, Marketing Manager, Incubator, MillerCoors; Anisha Raghavan, Senior Marketing Director, PepsiCo, and Terez Stewart, Digital Marketing Manager, Peapod, as moderated by WHOSAY CMO, Paul Kontonis, in the Brand Innovators Chicago’s “Forging Consumers Connections with Mobile, Social, and Emerging Media” panel.

From left to right: Kontonis, Raghavan, Herrmann and Stewart

From left to right: Kontonis, Raghavan, Herrmann and Stewart

The group started off by addressing the behavioral component of digital marketing. “I start by looking for the behaviors behind the technology.” said Herrmann. “The technology will continue to evolve; however, we can compare to the behaviors behind it.”

“I look at a few things in addition to behavioral changes,” said Raghavan, adding that consumers hire brands to do a job and, like any boss, they want you “to get to the point right away.” She cited “short form ad units” as an effective media innovation “to tell our brand stories in succinct ways” that are not disruptive to the consumers.

Kontonis moved the dialogue toward the potential opportunities afforded by some of these new marketing technologies. For Stewart, it’s all about becoming “a seamless partner” to your customers “in a way that’s super helpful and innovative to them.” She offered as an example the innovative work they’re doing with the Alexa voice app and Amazon. “Most people are using technology in their kitchen while they’re actively making dinner and doing things with their kids,” she explained, adding that making available technology that improves their shopping experience is the kind of seamless partnership she’s thriving for.     

However, there’s no denying these opportunities can also turn into challenges, especially when the overwhelming amount of innovating technologies makes hard to determine which ones of them are here to stay.

“For me, as a brand marketer, I have to add value to consumers’ lives. When you can solve a problem for them in the moment that they’re having that problem, that’s when the magic for your brand happens,” explained Raghavan, adding that voice activation “is something that’s in its infancy but it’s growing and it’s going to stick.”

MillerCoors’ Herrmann chose “frictionless ordering” as one of the platforms she believes “is going to stick.” “It popped with clothing retail at first. [And] I think we’re gonna start to see that transition into a lot of consumer trends,” she explained, adding that the key will be how can brand marketers better collaborate with each other “as a consumer package community” to deliver the goods to consumers. “If we can make that piece easier for them, I think we’re setting everybody up for success.”

Stewart counted herself among skeptics of virtual reality and Herrmann soon joined. “It’s too isolating,” argued Herrmann while Raghavan gave the technology the benefit of the doubt. “There are spaces where virtual reality will stay,” she said citing interior designing among the industries where VR has the potential to grow and stay.

However, Raghavan didn’t have the same opinion about wearable technology. “There is a saturation point, it’s the kind of industry where there’s no room for multiple players within a category. I don’t see that space having the growth potential,” she said.

Kontonis then asked the trio how do they manage what’s new versus what’s “tried and true.” “How do you balance between those two?” he inquired. “At the end of the day, you don’t play with innovation and technology for the sake of it,” responded Raghavan. “There’s gotta be a purpose, [it has to be] purpose driven based on your brand mission.”

She went on to explain that big organizations that are beholden to shareholders, tend to be more risk-averse, which poses a conundrum as marketers try to balance proven tactics versus experimentation.

“My role isn’t about tried and true.” said Herrmann. “My job is to make people uncomfortable,” she joked. “The reason to have an incubator is to try new things [...] I try to think about what’s tried and true and then what’s the new way of doing it and selling that into the organization.”