• Joe Redden presents at Ignite 2017
  • Ignite 2017 attendees
  • Steve Cramer from the Minneapolis Downtown Council speaks at Ignite 2017
  • An Ignite 2017 attendee listens to a presentation
  • Ignite 2017 attendees talk over lunch
  • Jonah Berger presents at Ignite 2017
  • An Ignite 2017 attendee listens to a presentation
  • Bob Daly, Joe Redden, and Steve Lauring talk at Ignite 2017

The science and practice of digital marketing converged last Thursday at the Carlson School of Management.

The inaugural Ignite marketing conference, presented by the Institute for Research in Marketing and engagement marketing agency YA, brought together renowned researchers, business leaders, and eager professionals for a thorough examination of the digital tools and strategies that are shaping the industry.

By featuring both academic scholars and industry executives as speakers during four themed sessions, Ignite offered attendees a mix of theoretical knowledge and real-world application.

“The intent is to highlight data-driven insights and to identify real-world lessons that will help all of us to provide better informed marketing strategies,” Institute for Research in Marketing Director Steve Goodyear said while kicking off the conference.

Among the advice shared:

There are four new Ps of marketing

Ravi Bapna, associate dean for Executive Education and Curtis L. Carlson Chair in Business Analytics at the Carlson School, told attendees the old “four Ps” of product, price, promotions, and placement need to be revisited. He suggested four “new Ps”: participation/people, platforms, prediction, and (smart) phones.

Prediction, in particular, looms large: According to a McKinsey study, 45 percent of human work activities could be automated, with machine learning representing 80 percent of those tasks.

One session later, Bob Daly, ’88 MBA and senior vice president of retail payment solutions at U.S. Bank, offered up his replacement for the “four Ps”: product, price, data, and digital.

Look to the north

Graham Tutton, vice president of customer insights at Comcast, stressed that data analysis should tie back to a company’s “north star.” At Comcast, he said, customer experience is this guiding principle.

“Focus your energies on the data that can make an impact,” he said.

Think like a professional … and an academic

Joseph Redden, who holds the Board of Overseers Professorship in Marketing at the Carlson School, contrasted two approaches to working with data:

  • “Panning for gold”: sifting through an abundance of data to glean insights
  • “Salvaging treasure”: hypothesizing a particular insight and finding data to prove or refute it

Redden said companies tend to use the first approach too much, while academics skew to the latter. Striking a balance between the two is the ideal.

He also touted the value of the “rapid insight” now available thanks to the advent of digital survey tools.

“It used to be that research cost too much,” he said. “That’s not true (today).”

Utilize social currency to power word of mouth

Another McKinsey study credits word-of-mouth marketing with generating more than twice the sales of advertising.

“There’s only one question: How do we get it to work for us?” said Jonah Berger, an associate professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the author of the New York Times bestseller Contagious.

Berger noted that only between 7-10 percent of word of mouth occurs online. “By focusing so much on the technology, we forget about the psychology,” he said, pointing to the value of making customers feel like insiders.

“People don’t talk about us because they like us. They talk about us because we make them look good.”

‘Mediums change, truths remain’

Audra Carson, head of content marketing and media platforms at General Mills, shared her “three truths” of effective digital marketing:

  • Know your consumer
  • Be in a relationship with them
  • Know what success looks like

Carson oversees the team that creates and distributes content for General Mills web platforms such as BettyCrocker.com, Pillsbury.com, and Tablespoon.com. She said more than a million consumers interact with General Mills platforms each day across all its digital channels.

"You actually have to have digital conversations," she said.

Don’t sell mobile short

Anindya Ghose, Heinz Riehl Chair Professor at the Stern School of Business at New York University, said companies are under-utilizing and under-investing in mobile advertising: While only 4-5 percent of purchases are made via mobile, mobile marketing influences 35-40 percent of purchases.

But he cautioned that, while mobile allows companies to track customer locations, they should use the platform “as a butler and concierge, not as a stalker.”

“There’s a very fine line between what is cool and what is creepy,” he said.

The value of a proving ground

Rob Temple, senior vice president of sports marketing at ESPN, showcased the network’s efforts to test new innovations such as droid cameras and virtual reality, at the X Games.

“We do it there and we prove the model,” which the company can in turn pitch to mainstream sports entities like the NFL and college football, he said.