Yet another &THEN conference is in the books. We were all curious what this year’s show would bring with the ANA and DMA joining forces. Their mission: growth in data, analytics, and data-driven marketing by connecting marketing solutions and service providers to help marketers improve their decision making and grow their brands. After 17 years of attending the DMA’s annual event and witnessing the slow decline of attendees, exhibitors, and speakers, I’d say this year’s conference was worthy of a slow clap.
The opening keynote speaker, Bozoma “Boz” Saint John, definitely deserved a standing ovation. Her persona was even more impressive than her resumé, having worked for Spike DDB, Pepsi, Apple, Beats, Uber, and Endeavor. Her storytelling brought energy to the crowd as she shared how she embraced her personal story in the workplace, encouraged diversity of thought from her teams, and challenged the audience to actively insert themselves into the narrative of their work.
&THEN 2018 Audiences Pack In for New Print Innovation Track
Browsing the tracks available, it was clear there was an attempt to revive the conference that the DMA had tried to rebrand, rebuild, and reposition over the past decade. While there was still a focus on data and digital, the addition of the Print Innovation, Digital Integration track enticed those who recall the focus DMA historically placed on direct mail, the acquisition workhorse for most marketers.
Every direct mail-focused session was packed. The “Holy Grail of Marketing” session, moderated by our very own Debora Haskel, was standing room only as attendees hoped to glean some insights from American Express, Comcast, and AARP on how to balance their digital and direct mail marketing efforts. American Express highlighted that the quality of good direct mail design has declined as the majority of agencies have redirected their efforts toward digital creative and development. While direct mail is still the primary acquisition channel for all three panelists, they promoted the value of layering their digital channels with direct mail. As channel preferences evolve, it’s important to meet people where they want to be met and make your message relevant. Increasing retargeting efforts as prospect and client data becomes more available has showed improved performance. (We have several clients utilizing our digitally automated direct mail campaigns to do just that.)
USPS Tries to Grab Hold of an Increasingly Digital Attention Span
The Postal Service definitely played a greater role in the conference this year, moderating and participating in multiple sessions. They highlighted their Informed Delivery service, which rolled out in 2017 and provides consumers with an email glimpse of what’s hitting their mailbox before it arrives. The adoption rate is still low amongst consumers. However, Net Promoter Score (NPS) results show Informed Delivery users love the service and recommend it to their friends. (That’s your cue to sign up!)
Mailers have been slow to adopt Informed Delivery as well, despite the free extra digital impressions received on pieces mailed. Many were looking to better understand the demographics of Informed Delivery subscribers to persuade them to take advantage of the service. American Express and Comcast mentioned they’ll be testing this added service to see if it helps drive response, and we have several other clients giving it a try.
Project Management Gets a Leg Up from Wrike
As well as direct mail, I had an opportunity to hear from Stitch Fix, a clothing subscription service and newcomer to &THEN, about how they keep all their highly targeted and customized campaigns organized and timely through the use of Wrike’s production management solution. They’ve streamlined their workflow and focused in on “One Source of Truth” for their teams, saving countless hours and eliminating the need for multiple platforms and spreadsheets to coordinate routing creative for every channel. All of the creative minds in the room were really intrigued by the power, flexibility, and implementation of Wrike as a project management tool. I imagine we’ll see more clients adopting powerful tools like these to help manage their channels and breakdown silos that easily form within marketing organizations.
Consensus from colleagues, clients, and other attendees: &THEN still has a lot of room to grow to warrant the hefty price of admission and time spent away from the office. While Vegas certainly draws a crowd, I’m anxious to see what a year off, additional planning, and a new location will bring when &THEN resumes in Orlando in March 2020—hopefully relevancy, additional content, and a larger, more diverse audience.
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