Six weeks ago, I moved up to London from Bournemouth and I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen next. Life can be pretty lonely on your own. But then, in my darkest hour of despair, I received an invitation – a divine intervention – with two words: MAD//FEST 2019.

Suddenly, I found myself in a gathering of equal parts “madness” and “festival”. I made my way through stalls and free pens to proudly mingle amongst the best and brightest marketers, advertisers and tech disruptors in the world.

But look. You’re not reading this because you wanted to know my life story; you’re terrified to see if tech has poached your job and whether you’ll be replaced by a robot in 2020.

Here’s my top marketing takeaways from MAD//FEST (that may or may not put your job as a marketer at risk).

1. Influencer marketing is finally accountable

I’ve always been sceptical about the efficacy of influencer marketing. Aside from my personal gripes with a name that was forged in the fires of late-stage capitalism – we’re not even dressing up that we’re paying people to influence other people’s actions anymore? – the thing I’ve always disliked about influencer marketing is the inaccuracy of reporting that comes along with it.

Mostly the name, though.

Likes and shares aren’t indicative of success

Some business owners can be blinded by the fact that they’ve purchased the services of somebody with a reach of 250k followers, but how is a ‘like’ translated into ROI? Who clicked onto your website as a result? Who even bought anything?

We are living through a period of growth in tech that Starling Bank CMO, Rachael Pollard, called “the API economy”. Companies are being built on the ability to tap into vast amounts of data in the backend of other companies’ apps, data and servers.

That means marketers are able to tap into the back-end of previously locked-down apps such as Instagram and access more in-depth insight about how users interact with a post beyond likes and shares. Now, we can build dashboards with real KPIs that make sense from a business perspective. 

Accessing how many real users have “saved” a post on Instagram to their personal collections for a lifestyle brand could be game-changing. It helps to quantify how many users are on their way down that AIDA funnel that we all know and love.

2. 77% of your paid advertising is awful

Mobile is the present and future of where your customers live. That’s our landscape right now and where marketers are throwing a majority of their budget. We can micro-target humans with precision reserved for brain surgery with unparalleled access to (and quite frankly worrying amounts of) data. But a study conducted by Ogury of 287,000 participants asked a question:

Targeted marketing messages that are designed to show me products and services that appeal to me are…?

  • Useful (10%)
  • Useful, but annoying (13%)
  • Just annoying. (77%)

Woah. So all of that effort you’re going through – and your customer hates it already. That means 77% of your budget is wasted already when only 23% has a chance of even acknowledging it.

3. Weave story into the heart of everything you do

The first spot post-lunch is notoriously difficult to take. But by the time Dishoom’s founder Shamil Thakrar finished, a room full of sated stomachs were hungry for more.

For something to truly succeed, it must have a little poetry at the heart of it.

It’s such a passionate way to focus on the one professional question we should be asking every day: why are we doing what we’re doing?

It’s the same thing whenever writer’s block has you painted into a corner and you don’t know how to get out. If you don’t know where to go next, it’s because you don’t know your characters well enough. And if you don’t know where your business needs to go, it’s because you don’t know it well enough.

4. SMEs are going to be relying on Google My Business more than ever before

Across Europe, there are 34 million SMEs. 75% of them have no investment in digital whatsoever. An afternoon talk with Google’s Adrian Blockus showed us some of the genuinely game-changing features coming to Google My Business (GMB) that makes taking a business online easier than ever before.

When you type a business name into Google, you get a little profile in a separate pane that gives you all the juicy contact details:

Google will soon be rolling out features that allow potential customers to book appointments through the My Business panel. Your enquiries can come directly through a single Google search and ask questions directly to your brand without ever visiting your website. It’s another channel that will be rewarding when you regularly update your photos, get reviews, respond quickly and generally be helpful for.

5. “Purpose over profit” marketing

Now, this one got my attention – and I think it should have yours too. Skyscanner’s Jo McClintock proudly stood on the Main Stage and proclaimed that:

“Revenue is a lagging metric of success”.

What really provides success is the satisfaction of giving your customers what they want.

The Skyscanner Global Brand Director explained that these days, they only do things that directly improve the customer experience of Skyscanner travellers. The hierarchy goes:

  1. Your customer
  2. Your partners
  3. Your brand


It’s a courageous move that marketers are beginning to lean into as we hurtle rapidly into 2020. Keep your customer at the heart of every business decision you make, make sure that you don’t annoy your partners in the process, and that will lead to a longer-tail stream of profits that benefits everybody. Even if there’s a quick way to make money through advertising popups on your website – if your customers hate it, there’s no point keeping that there.

This goes beyond marketing – it’s a societal shift that’s already started. I got this email from EasyJet just today (below). They’ve begun to offset the carbon for every single domestic and international flight. It’s either a courageous step to give customers what they want or a cheap marketing ploy? Only time – and revenue eventually – will tell.

Marketing in 2020: do you still have a job?

Yes – you’re safe for now! 🎉

We’re beginning to see a shift towards the customer in a way that I’ve never seen before. Tech can only take us so far as modern marketers; we must be prepared to be storytelling bards of the people, motivated analysts, and customer fanatics. We can’t be afraid to sacrifice short-term profits for long-term customer satisfaction and retention.

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