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FutureM Conference 2016

Lynn Spooner October 6, 2016 Branding & Design, Marketing, Technology

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The annual FutureM conference in Boston, powered by MITX, brings together industry leaders to celebrate cutting edge technologies and innovations in marketing.

Now in its seventh year, the event took place September 21-22 at the Innovation and Design Building (IDB), a 1.4 million square foot mixed-use complex located in the Innovation District in Boston’s Seaport neighborhood.

Each year FutureM has an impressive lineup of speakers (some with very fascinating, futuristic job titles), and this year was no exception! We heard from an inspiring mix of speakers including a “Cyborg Anthropologist” and a “Digital Prophet”. To no surprise, those titles were a perfect match for these innovative, one-of-a-kind speakers.

If you missed out on the conference, here are a few notable quotes that resonated with us — Enjoy!

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IN RESPONSE TO TODAY’S OVERABUNDANCE OF OBTRUSIVE TECHNOLOGIES:

“Technology should amplify the best of tech and the best of humanity.”

– Amber Case, Cyborg Anthropologist

Technology can often over-complicate simple activities and hinder our focus and attention. Amber Case spoke about the need for more unobtrusive “calm technology” to be incorporated into our daily lives and the products we purchase. She talked about its importance in combating the overabundance of technology we see growing in our lives. By 2020 we can expect there to be 50 billion devices online. With devices and connectivity on this massive scale, Amber explained the real need for calm technology which does not interrupt daily life but rather augments it, allowing us to focus more on the task and less on the tool. She goes on to say that the right amount of technology is the minimum amount needed to solve the problem, allowing us to spend more time being human and less time computing. As new technology emerges, brands and marketers should keep these ideas in mind and evaluate if the new technology can be woven in to the experience unobtrusively. If a new piece of technology hinders our customer’s attention or over-complicates tasks, it just adds to all of the competing noise out there.

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HOW BRANDS CAN SUCCEED IN AN EVER-CHANGING TECHNOLOGY LANDSCAPE:

“Don’t be defined by what your company sells, but by what your company does to create value for your customer.”

—Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, Facebook, VP, Ads & Business Platform

To illustrate how important this notion is, Boz used Kodak as an example. In a time many decades prior to today’s photo-heavy culture, Kodak made the critical mistake of defining themselves by what they sold: film. They failed to structure their brand around the idea that they were actually in the business of helping customers capture memories. They missed their opportunity for future success due to their rigid conception of themselves and their inability to be flexible and embrace changes in technology. Boz went on to explain that brands must identify what they do that creates value for their customer in order to see how they should innovate. Brands must then structure their business for success around that ethos and fully commit to change. Boz asserted that growth and innovation happen in places of deep discomfort. So brands should be flexible and boldly embrace new technology or risk sitting on the sidelines in the future.

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HOW ENGAGING WITH CONSUMERS ON SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE MESSAGES MATTERS:

“If you don’t have a meaningful message, it doesn’t matter what your brand makes or does.”

— JP Kuehlwein, former Managing Director of Global Strategy & Innovation at Procter & Gamble

One insight that JP Kuehlwein shared was that brands that stand for something tend to appeal strongly to today’s consumers. He shared the example of the company Ben & Jerry’s, with their obvious commitment to and passion for social justice and how that adds meaning to their product. They proudly stand behind the causes they believe in and openly share details of these causes on their website with their consumers, and the response and support from consumers in return has been impressive. In 2015 they launched Save Our Swirled to bring awareness to climate change. Earlier this year, Ben and Jerry were arrested while standing up for democracy at Democracy Awakening. Other notable examples of companies that engage consumers with meaningful messages were Patagonia and Pampers. What I took away from the presentation is that these successful brands each do an exceptional job in communicating their authentic and meaningful messages in an engaging way to consumers, and this has lead to a fiercely loyal consumer base. These examples show us that people are attracted to supporting an ideology rather than just a product and enjoy rallying behind a brand that they believe in.

FutureM was informative, insightful, and forward-thinking. A key takeaway was that companies that adapt in tandem with their customers’ changing needs and desires are much more likely to experience success and continued relevance than those who insist on hewing to tradition and a static definition of who they are as a brand or product. Each speaker brought a fresh perspective to the conference, showing us the many ways in which companies can take advantage of foresight, adaptability, and dynamism to ensure that their brands and products remain marketplace competitors well into the future.

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