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The New Marketing Ecosystem: Takeaways from DMEXCO ’16

Earlier this month, Olapic was at DMEXCO, Europe’s largest Digital Marketing Expo and Conference in Cologne, Germany. This record-breaking edition saw over 1,000 exhibitors, 50,700 trade visitors, and 570 speakers, paving the way for future developments in the industry. Of the incredible amount of content available, there were a few key takeaways that stood out to us:

But Really… Put People at the Centre of Your Digital Transformation

In today’s marketing ecosystem, the common message is that “people need to be at the center of a brand’s strategy.” However, how many brands actually set their programs up to live by this principle?

Paul Bulcke, CEO of Nestlé took the stage to showcase how the 150-year-old company has been able to keep up with marketing trends and succeed in an increasingly digital and mobile landscape. Throughout his session, the one point he continued to emphasise was the importance of people being the centre of a brand’s digital transformation, whether these people are consumers or employees.


As a result of this vision, Nestlé launched their Digital Acceleration Team (DAT). The DAT initiative was created to bring together digital professionals from Nestle’s global offices in order to exchange ideas, learn from one another, and work together to monitor digital trends and behaviours in order to encourage cross-team creativity as well as the cross-pollination of knowledge. The program also helped employees exchange expertise and reinforce a culture of excellence and innovation across geographies and markets.


Bulcke also revealed that through this plan, as part of an effort to be a digital-first business, Nestlé launched a reverse-mentoring programme, which allowed senior management to pair up with and learn from a younger, more digitally savvy group of employees. This type of mentorship resulted in a better understanding of today’s digital landscape and technological opportunities. With knowledge being shared across teams and generations, Nestlé was able to inspire a true understanding of today’s digital challenges from every part of the business.

Certainly, listening to consumers and designing efforts to address their needs is paramount, but brands need to also prioritize their employee growth and development if they want to succeed in the future of customer marketing.

Technology is the Foundation of Storytelling

Another topic of discussion at the event was the importance of storytelling in online advertising and marketing. With the impact of ad-blocking, the rise of programmatic ads, and the decreasing attention span of online users, it has become clear that consumers need more from brands to truly capture their attention.

David Roter, the Director of Agency Development at Twitter, explained that in order to captivate your target audiences, brands must ensure that they are striving for authenticity and relevance in all of their marketing tactics. While the need for brands to tell great stories has always been there, technology has enabled more robust and integrated storytelling to take place, and it’s imperative that businesses are involving consumers in the story creation itself.

Mike Driscoll, CEO of Metamarkets, furthered this point by explaining that brands need to understand the context of the behavioral journey of a customer. This reinforced the idea that in order to truly reach your audience you need to not only understand the content they consume, but also understand the content they create. Why does your audience care or like a particular product or experience? What is captivating them enough to create their own content, share an image, or retweet a social post? In a data-driven world, where consumers have hijacked brand messaging and conversations, it’s imperative that brands are listening to what their audiences really want and need.

People connect with other people and aren’t interested in ads anymore, unless those ads are absolutely relevant or entertaining for the user. Because of this, modern brands are being forced to discover smarter ways to reach out to an audience via data-informed, personalized, and authentic messaging. And in the end, it’s the only way businesses will be able to find and execute successful marketing programs in today’s ecosystem.

Insights from the Instagram Community

Of all the sessions, the one we couldn’t miss was from the VP & GM of Monetization for Instagram, James Quarles. In his talk, From Inspiration to Action; From Passion to Purchase, he showcased how brands and businesses were using Instagram to inspire and convert their customers. Quarles had a few takeaways for businesses looking to form better relationships with their customers, drive brand loyalty, and inspire action in the Era of Expression.


According to Quarles, humans crave connection, but technology has changed the way people are expressing themselves and connecting to each other. Given this, brands need to shift their strategy to meet consumers where they are forming these relationships and discovering new ideas and products. Instagram represents an enormous potential for businesses to captivate an audience with images, experiences, and ideas that inspire users to take action. In fact, shoppers are Instagram’s most active community, and are actually twice as active on the platform than the average Instagram user.

As Quarles put it, brands must embrace the world of story-selling telling visual stories that drive brand awareness, engage customers, and inspire audiences to make a purchase, while simultaneously spurring their imagination and creating the connection humans crave.  

The last piece of the puzzle mentioned in this session was the mandate that brands develop mobile-first strategies, and then extend these insights to all digital channels. More and more, consumers are discovering products, seeking inspiration, and having conversations relevant to brands via their phones. In order for brands to learn from, and join in, their customers’ conversations, they must have a well-established presence on mobile devices to succeed in the online marketplace.

As we expected, DMEXCO once again succeeded in bringing together the best thought leaders and influencers in the digital community. Through the exchange of ideas, we learned that to realise success in the future of marketing & advertising, brands must listen intently to their customers, and embrace the potential offered by emerging technologies today. In an ever-changing world, outstanding market leaders will emerge when they use technology with  intelligence and purpose to authentically tap into and connect with their digital communities.