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How Can Brands Best Innovate, Facilitate and Collaborate?

Posted by: Jennifer Bierce on November 19, 2013
Tech Madison AvenueBrand leaders from the likes of Campbell's, Smirnoff, Facebook and Coca-Cola, startups such as Flipboard, Spotify and Mashable and agency leaders from companies such as Tribal Worldwide, Wunderman and HUGE met to talk leveraging technology and innovation to build successful brands. With additional perspectives from participants such as venture capitalists, government officials, academics, legal counsel and artists, meaningful conversations were fostered at the Talk NY's second annual Tech Madison Avenue conference.

The talks of the day focused on three main themes: 

  • Creating an environment for technology and innovation to thrive 
  • Approaching digital as an overarching principle to facilitate storytelling 
  • Developing partnerships that are beneficial to all parties 

A Thriving Technology and Innovation Environment 

Kicking off the conference, Kyle Kimball, President of NYCEDC, along with representatives from Cornell Tech and FuturePerfect Ventures, discussed the changing landscape in New York City and how they've worked to build a city that encourages technological innovation to rival Silicon Valley. Looking at tech as "a horizontal that makes everything stronger," New York City has created 16 "incubators" housing more than 600 startups.

Additionally, in an effort to increase the amount of engineering graduates in the city, New York has welcomed Cornell Tech, a new university that not only integrates startups, businesses and academics, but also supplies millions of dollars in entrepreneurial funds and generates billions in economic activity. With a concentration of people from a variety of different industries, all the speakers agreed there are unique opportunities available for companies in NYC and the city's position as a tech powerhouse is growing.

New York City is not only betting on the next generation of entrepreneurs, but agencies are as well. HUGE for example, in addition to having an in house "incubator" for entrepreneurial HUGE employees, also hosts startup days to introduce new businesses to relevant brand partners. Wunderman has created its Wunderlab to map startups in all the cities it is located and match with clients. It is clear that investing in entrepreneurship will equate to big wins for everyone in the future.

Tech Madison Avenue

Facilitating Storytelling Through Digital

While all the speakers discussed the need to look at "digital" as an integrated solution touching every area of ones business, Campbell's Global Director of Digital Marketing and Social Media perhaps best described it, using Campbell's "Digital Fitness" initiative as a model. As technology, devices and social media become ubiquitous in our culture, with children understanding how to use an iPad before they've learned to even speak, it is clear that consumers are more digitally savvy, and thus brands must be digitally fit to respond to consumer needs. To be "digitally fit" brands must understand how to engage consumers, identify the correct touch points in their digital ecosystem and tell a consistent story across each. Brands must measure progress across cultural, financial, customer and personal metrics to track performance in the digital space.

Smirnoff, in particular, is leading the way as a social innovator through its Mixibit app, which allows consumers to aggregate their digital social life to create short videos that tell their unique stories. As an inherently social brand, Smirnoff saw the opportunity to create a digital experience that allows consumer to relive memories in a new way, aggregating photos, tweets and posts to create custom videos of their experience. This ability to facilitate storytelling is essential to remaining relevant to consumers.

Benefitting All Through Strategic Partnerships

The last theme of the day revolved around creating partnerships in storytelling. Adam Berger, a Creative Strategist at Facebook outlined five elements of a successful partnership:

  1. Align to business objective and KPIs 
  2. Create equitable & sustainable relationships 
  3. Be authentic to your brand 
  4. Be prepared to ship & iterate 
  5. The right partner at the right time 

When these five things align, agencies, startups and brands can develop fruitful partnerships that will be mutually beneficial. 

What does this mean all mean? 

It is clear that investing in technology and relevant digital strategies is essential to stay ahead in this ever changing business landscape. In order for brands to remain relevant, they must become storytellers that engage with consumers in clear and relevant ways, building digital strategies that not only make sense to the customer and enrich their lives, but also make sense to the partners involved. 

New York City is doing this on a macro scale, encouraging entrepreneurship and providing the environment to grow. On a smaller scale, as Smirnoff's Mixibit app and Flipboard's brand magazines demonstrate, brands must engage customers to add something to their lives and facilitate consumers' own storytelling and digital experiences. 

With access to more data on consumers than advertisers, brands and startups have ever had before, the key to success will lie in the ability to turn big data into intelligent data and facilitate relevant partnerships.

Jennifer Bierce is a Program Manager at Interbrand New York.

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