The madness of MAD//Fest

Leading-edge brands shared their digital strategies at MAD//Fest last week.

We’ve picked out our top five themes, gleaned from Monzo, Uber, Missguided, Tenzing, Deliveroo, Moonpig, Not on the High Street, Diageo, Samsung, Pernod Ricard and Disney.

1) Be Human & Personal – dial up the empathy and emotion to make people feel something.

Penny Parnell (Not on the High Street) defined the difference between being personalised and personal; with the former easily coming across as creepy, based on assumptions and neither inspiring nor human. Effective personalisation can drive satisfaction, loyalty and conversion, but requires subtlety - adding a first name to a generic email just doesn’t cut it. It’s important to find more creative ways to get access to and segment more interesting data – for example tapping into the essence of a person through their memories, music choices, feelings and past experiences (rather than just their name and age).

Andre Rickerby (Moonpig) said emotion had been separated from occasion in their category, and that it was Moonpig’s ambition to put it back in: there’s a place for digital in our lives and for tactile in our hearts. People keep cards long after the occasion passes because of their emotional value – something handwritten or handmade with a special message feels good to remember again and again. Moonpig’s brand purpose is therefore to “unleash the caring instinct and cultivate the caring habit” to make people feel joy.

Anna Hill (Disney) talked about storytelling and emotional engagement being implicit to the Disney brand. Drawing on the nostalgia, affinity and history of the brand, Disney creates experiences, products and technologies across multiple touchpoints that are at once connected, immersive and engaging.

2) Have integrity, honesty and relevance – be transparent and stay true to your brand purpose

Tristan Thomas (Monzo) introduced the concept of ‘Radical Transparency’, a value and a mindset adopted by the challenger bank. Internally that means every email the CEO sends can be read by anyone in the company, mistakes are on display for everyone to see and learn from, new ideas are embraced. Externally this means that they openly share annual reports, product roadmaps so customers can see the next innovations, the live volume of Monzo customers is available online, and mistakes are explained and admitted to before they escalate. Although there are obviously exceptions to this (confidential HR emails, for example), the approach engenders greater internal and external trust, autonomy and integrity.

Huib van Bockel (Tenzing) shared the journey of launching a new energy drink that remains true to the idea, the origins and brand name. Inspired by Sherpas in Asia, who drank similar energy-inducing ingredients whilst mountain trekking, it’s named after Sherpa Tenzing, one of the first explorers to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Huib asked the family’s permission to use the name and involving them in the journey and launch. This brand story is one of authenticity and truth – helping it gain press attention as it breaks into market.

Kelly McConville (Uber) echoed this approach, sharing Uber’s start up journey as they disrupted the taxi market, hit the headlines for the wrong reasons and ‘grew up’ as a result. Driven by the desire to “do the right thing” the brand has shifted their focus from price to purpose. She referenced a recent campaign around the ruling that women could drive in Saudi – which proved popular because it was linked to a social purpose.

Lisa McDowell (Deliveroo) spoke honestly about Deliveroo’s recent delay in rebranding; driven by the lack of availability of the rider’s kit - the reflective uniform was deemed paramount to their riders’ road safety in the dark but was plagued by supply chain challenges – literally reflecting the brand’s commitment to rider welfare.

3) Embrace new technology – spot gaps in the market, continuously experiment, test, learn and adapt

Rebecca Hirst (Samsung) explained their desire to help improve customers lives with small everyday things. People aren’t yet entirely comfortable with AI technologies or smart devices because consumers still need control, they still like a choice rather than having everything automated for them. Samsung is focused on three core areas – Security, Comfort and Order. The best opportunities for AI, she said, are in small, relatable solutions where there is clear benefit for something being smart e.g. the ability to turn off a plug remotely if you’ve left your hair straighteners on, starting the laundry via a mobile so it’s finished by the time you get home, detecting water damage and turning off water at the mains if you’re not in the country to do it yourself. All are of financial benefit (save money on home insurance), personal convenience (removing the need to return home to sort a problem out) and making things easier (work around us and help us out).

Colin Kavanagh (Pernod Ricard) shared the brand’s transformation strategy for Malibu and Kahlua, explaining how they give equal focus to the fundamentals (the facts and realities that don’t change) and new elements (new technologies, innovations, ways of working – that they can change). Coco-nect exemplifies the new; a connected glass which allows you to get a refill without queuing at the bar. A bar person could see your location and locate you in a crowd to deliver a top up. Whilst the idea and initial market activation have been successful, the product has proved too tricky to scale and so hasn’t been adopted in the wider business. Regardless, such test and learn processes are valuable, quick and inexpensive, allowing brands to see if an innovation is viable before committing investment to scale.

Benni Lickfett (Diageo) discussed the accelerated growth of voice tech. Currently its applications are mainly limited to functional and transactional activity to improve speed and efficiency (it’s significantly quicker to speak than it is to type) but new use cases within the drinks space include “The Bar” – a multimodal ipad function with an Alexa skill built in, providing recommendations for recipes for cocktails. This combination of screen and voice is powerful and has huge potential for the future, and it’s only through experimenting that these ideas become fully realised.

4) Be relentlessly customer-focused – involve them, listen to them and act in response to them. Be relevant and add value.

Tristan Thomas (Monzo) extolled the customer’s role in driving the bank forward. They collaborated with them directly on the rebrand from Mondo to Monzo and develop new products and services as a direct result of their suggestions and feedback. When customers give negative reviews Mondo often reconsiders or changes course. The crowd funding model also enables customers to buy into the company, making them more invested and giving them a sense of ownership over its success and failures - meaning they care and are less likely to change to another bank.

Nick Bamber (Missguided) talked about the tendency for native ads to be viewed as dishonest - camouflaged within content or disguised as something else. Most people don’t want ads, but also don’t want to pay for the content that they finance. With the right message, at the right place and time with the right audience they should add value – but only if they are relevant and don’t interrupt the user experience.

5) Collaborate and communicate – stay connected to each other, to your competitors, partners and community. Don’t be blind to the opportunities or challenges you face.

Kelly McConville (Uber) expressed the essential need for brands to collaborate and connect internally; especially in a fast growth, multi-territory business like theirs. Bringing everyone together as one company is critical, regardless of the different languages, local customs, competitors and channels which may apparently set them apart.

Huib van Bockel (Tenzing) said businesses are often blind to the challenger brands or start ups that will disrupt their industry. No brand is safe and all need to be aware of the gaps in the market that could be filled by a competitor. He cited three barriers/mistakes often made by established brands: Awareness (they don’t see it coming), Arrogance (they see it coming but don’t think it will affect them) or Anger (when it finally happens and they get mad about it). Brands need to adapt and evolve in the current culture and context, and advised, “if left doesn’t work, go right”.

Anna Hill (Disney) championed partnerships, explaining that coming together often creates opportunity and delivers user experiences which you cannot achieve alone. Partners can complement one another and drive better results through collaboration.

To find out more about the event head here.