By Deirdre Kozicki, Senior Media Planner 

It’s no secret that influencers are slowly taking over the marketing world. In 2022, the influencer market was valued at $16.4B, with 72% of all Gen Z and Millennials reporting they follow influencers on social media. A third of Gen Zer’s have admitted to buying something based on an influencer recommendation – a number that keeps climbing with the rising popularity of TikTok (HubSpot). Though influencer marketing is ubiquitous, not every partnership is a success story.  

For example, the cosmetics brand Tarte recently sent 50 lifestyle and beauty influencers (and their plus ones) to Dubai to film travel vlogs featuring their array of makeup products. What was meant to be an enviable luxury trip turned into a social media calamity, with viewers speculating just how much Tarte had spent on the activation. Many called the trip “tone-deaf” in the face of a looming economic recession, causing Tarte hashtags to trend worldwide.

While brand sponsored trips are not a new concept (they have been around since the dawn of YouTube), they are facing criticism from more politically and socially aware audiences, specifically on TikTok. Maureen Kelly, Founder and CEO of Tarte, said her brand has long “prioritized their marketing budget into building relationships with influencers.” While that may be true, brands should still find a way to achieve relevancy without sacrificing good PR.  

Coachella was also recently the center of social media controversy. As the 3-day music festival played out, festival-goers went viral on TikTok for calling out the fact that many influencers were faking their attendance by just going to after parties, dubbing it a “money pit for mostly influencers.” Coachella was originally created for music lovers, but the festival has recently been nicknamed the “Influencer Olympics” given the lack focus on musical performances. TikTok star Alix Earle uploaded 25 Coachella-related videos garnering over 100M views, only one which featured a musical stage.  

However not all brands are missing the mark when it comes to influencer marketing. The fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant, CAVA, partners with creators who have previously expressed their love for the chain by having them design custom menu items. This has allowed CAVA to connect with their audiences in an authentic, exciting way. They have worked with the likes of Emma Chamberlain, NYC based private chef Meredith Hayden, and TikTok recipe creator Nasim Lahbichi. The campaign saw strong organic amplification, with pickup from news publications and thousands of fan reaction videos uploaded to TikTok and YouTube.

For brands to reap the rewards of influencer partnerships and avoid negative backlash, authenticity is key. By taking the time to find the right fit, brands can connect with their audience in an organic-feeling way that cuts through the clutter of online advertising. Brands must also adapt traditional partnership frameworks to account for the ever-changing conversations online. What worked last year may not work next. When the collaboration makes sense, consumers will react positively and when you see your brand trending, it will only be upwards.  

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been the subject of much fascination and speculation, sparking debates about its potential impact on society. Is AI destined to be a force for good or evil? For me, the answer lies not in the technology itself, but in the hands of its creators: humans. Just like humans, AI systems will inherently embody both positive and negative aspects. It is essential to recognise this duality and navigate the grey area as we embrace the transformative power of AI.

This is because AI is, in its essence, a product of human ingenuity. It is crafted through the lens of human perspectives, principles, and experiences. The rules, programmes, and algorithms that drive AI are designed by humans, reflecting their understanding of the world. As a result, AI inherits the qualities, biases, and limitations of its creators. And just as humanity is a tapestry of virtues and flaws, AI too will exhibit a mix of positive and negative traits. The potential for AI to bring about tremendous benefits is undeniable. It can revolutionise industries, improve efficiency, enhance decision-making, and tackle complex problems. AI’s ability to process vast amounts of data with incredible speed offers opportunities for scientific discoveries, medical breakthroughs, and environmental sustainability.

However, the shadow side of AI must also be acknowledged. The same technology that empowers AI can also be misused or weaponised. Ethical concerns arise when AI is employed for malicious purposes, invading privacy, perpetuating discrimination, or manipulating public opinion. Bias, both implicit and explicit, can find its way into AI algorithms, leading to unfair outcomes and exacerbating social inequalities.

The dual nature of AI mirrors the natural balance present in the universe. The interplay between positive and negative forces fosters equilibrium. Similarly, acknowledging the potential for both good and bad AI allows us to approach its development and deployment with caution and responsibility.

As to how we can ensure an overall positive AI trajectory, the obvious answer is establishing a sound ethical framework and regulatory measures. Collaboration between technologists, ethicists, policymakers, and the wider society is vital in shaping AI systems that align with our shared values. Transparency, accountability, and fairness should be at the core of AI development, ensuring that AI benefits all of humanity rather than serving only a select few.

However, we must consider that perhaps the ultimate path that AI takes is intricately linked to how we, as human beings, proceed forward. If we choose to embrace more goodness, love, fairness, and if we strive to become more ethical, empathetic, and environmentally conscious as a species, then maybe AI will adopt a similar complementary role alongside us. The trajectory of AI is deeply intertwined with our collective values and actions.

By fostering a culture of compassion, empathy, and respect, we can guide the development and deployment of AI towards serving the greater good. Nurturing an environment that prioritises fairness, inclusivity, and social justice will shape the future of AI in a positive direction. As we evolve as a society, we have the opportunity to instill these values within AI systems, ensuring they align with our aspirations for a better world.

Therefore, the responsibility lies not only with AI developers and policymakers but with all of humanity. We must actively engage in conversations, debates, and collaborations that steer AI towards enhancing our shared well-being. As we make ethical choices in our everyday lives, advocate for social progress, and promote sustainable practices, we lay the foundation for AI to complement and amplify our positive efforts.

In this symbiotic relationship between humans and AI, our collective actions become the guiding force. By embracing the principles of fairness, love, and compassion, we can influence the trajectory of AI, shaping it as a force that uplifts humanity rather than diminish it.

I’ve said before that, in order to compete with AI, we must become more human. I now think that maybe we should not look at AI as something to compete with, but rather something to live alongside with and instill human values in it. Maybe we can remove the artificial altogether and make it more human.   

The world seems to be getting more complex by the day. We are being forced to respond faster and faster to avoid missing the boat and to secure our market position. How does a public broadcasting company cope with this ever-changing environment? And how is speed becoming a success factor here? Barbara Evans in conversation with Dr Florian Kumb, Head of Programme Planning at ZDF.

BARBARA EVANS: Are you a fan of speed, Dr Kumb?

FLORIAN KUMB: Absolutely! Whenever something is done under extreme time pressure, the motivation is even greater. Even though speed is not an end in itself, it is essential for success in the dynamic media world. For example, speed is now a central success factor when using new technology and in the development times of programme innovations. A good example of this is the fictional TV show ‘Himmel und Erde’ (Heaven and Earth), which examines the war in Ukraine in five stories, focusing on the political situation in the months that preceded it.

Looking at the other extreme: in which areas do you see speed as being of least importance?

FK: In many areas of journalism in particular, both speed and precision are important. If we change our programming because of breaking news, the information needs to be absolutely accurate. Helping people make sense of events is a real challenge if a situation is not clear. And with investigative journalism, thoroughness is much more important than speed. Leaving aside programming, precision is also the top priority when dealing with compliance issues, budget controlling, etc.

Do you see the speed question as being a short-lived phenomenon or one that is here to stay?

FK: User expectations are changing faster than they used to. And we need to respond to this more quickly with our programming content. Constant change is the new normal. I very much doubt that everything is going to return to easily manageable and stable time frames.

In which areas do you feel the greatest need for speed at ZDF?

FK: There was always a great need for speed when reporting the latest news, so that’s nothing new for us – and our colleagues are experts in dealing with breaking news situations. But there is growing pressure on development times in other programming genres as well. The world is changing so quickly that ideas need to be implemented in less time. However, the need for speed has increased mainly in strategic work and non-linear distribution. To achieve our aim of providing ‘a ZDF for everyone’, we need to be very adaptable and highly dynamic in our actions and reactions.

What exactly is ZDF doing to equip itself for this future?

FK: This might sound strange, but the first thing we need to do is increase the complexity because there are no simple answers to complex challenges. For example, we have brought together three areas – communication, digital media and programme planning – that were all under different management at various points within the hierarchy logic. We defined joint processes and task fields such as 360° planning, brand/design or AI in distribution, for which we are now jointly responsible. This increases the need for coordination and lays bare any conflicts regarding roles and resources. However, we all acknowledge that no one area can solve the problems on its own – for me, this paves the way for a successful working relationship in the future.

Will there be any changes in the way you share data internally?

FK: I’m in favour of a complete democratisation of data and, at the same time, a clear framework that provides guidance in this data jungle. We are currently in the process of making all data available for everyone internally. After all, it’s possible for all of our colleagues to learn from findings about formats outside their scope of responsibility. It’s a real mindset change. Another recent addition is the ZDF KOMPASS – an integral ‘compass’ that allows us to manage all relevant performance indicators relating to usage, quality, impact and acceptance of our public broadcasting programming. This tool sets priorities and helps provide clarity in the complex media world.

Do you use AI? And if so, is it easy to reconcile this with your company’s public broadcasting remit?

FK: AI is of central importance for us, for example in our planning work. We use AI both for the recommendation system in our ZDFmediathek and for linear planning, e.g. ZDFinfo. Here, the machine suggests shows for users to watch next or which shows should be scheduled back-to-back. It’s important for the underlying algorithm to have a public broadcasting character. Our aim is not to make money by tying viewers to us with the same kind of content again and again – we have other aims, such as presenting people with new or unexpected content. The data helps us to find out how we can do that.

What has been your experience so far?

FK: Our first experiences have been very good. The diversity of recommendations in the ZDFmediathek increased substantially – more different programmes are now being recommended than was the case when we curated them manually. Obviously, planners can’t be equally aware of all titles. Using AI in linear programming has been so effective that we are now working on expanding it to other broadcasters and broadcasting streams. Also thanks to AI, ZDFinfo has established itself as the most successful linear information broadcaster by far – including among younger target groups.

What impact does this have on the broadcaster’s programming and brand communication?

FK:It doesn’t have any impact at all on the strategic work regarding content profile, brand communication and the development potential of the broadcasting method. Real people are still responsible for journalistic and creative output. AI ensures that they have enough time, because it relieves a lot of the burden in their operational planning work and distribution.

Do you see any particular opportunities or challenges here for ZDF as a public broadcaster?

FK: There are many areas where we need to find new public broadcasting approaches for digital. Take, for example, the expectations regarding user experience. For this, we need to know people’s exact needs. But this is a challenge if we also want to comply with the highest data protection standards. However, our greatest privilege is to be able to implement ideas and projects irrespective of their short-term commercial viability. At the same time, commercial pressure is especially high at the moment: investment decisions are particularly difficult when costs are rising but our income is staying the same. Especially when the investments only pay off in the long term.

When you are developing new ideas, do you look first and foremost within the German-speaking markets, or do you seek inspiration in concepts and ideas from other countries.

FK: Both, but I can’t understand why there is so much of a focus on the USA in our sector. Smaller markets are much more dynamic, particularly when they have a progressive approach to technology. Personally, I find the Scandinavian, Swiss and Israeli markets really interesting. We are in the process of working together with a Danish start-up that is well on the way to solving one of our data problems relating to diversity.

Do you think that German-speaking countries are getting faster in their decision-making and actions?

FK:Germans are often said to be passionate naysayers. At the same time, we like the image of an inventor type who plays around with lots of different ideas and then comes up with compelling solutions. I think the generational shift in companies is a great opportunity to speed things up. The older generation needs to pass on their traditional ‘engineering virtues’ to the younger generation while allowing them to dictate the pace. ‘Fail fast’ is not a new strategy – that was around during the years of rapid industrial expansion in Germany in the mid-19th century. We need to give this more space again.

Findings published by market research company GfK have shown that companies that act faster are more successful. We conducted our own research project about how companies use real-time data, network between various company areas, individualise communication and content, etc. Here, we found that not enough is happening in around two thirds of companies. What advice would you give to decision-makers about ‘speeding things up’?

FK: It’s necessary and it’s hard going, particularly at the beginning. But it’s less about making radical underlying decisions than having a clear vision and lots of elaborate fine-tuning in processes. There’s no way around it. But once top management has set the ball in motion, employees and managers alike will realise that and things will speed up. My recommendation would be to look first at a small number of the company’s core and supporting processes and subject them to an end-to-end examination – even if this is a complex undertaking. For this, companies need to set up and authorise a small internal project team with good people. But I wouldn’t advise using external consultants for this.

Thank you for talking to us!

This artice first appeared in TWELVE, Serviceplan Group’s magazine for brands, media and communication. In the ninth issue, you will find further inspiring articles, essays and interviews by and with prominent guest authors and renowned experts centred around the magazine’s theme „Speed! The Winning Factor in the Digital Age“. The e-paper is available here:

“Before cookies, the web was essentially private. After cookies, the web becomes a space capable of extraordinary monitoring,” said Lawrence Lessig 20 years ago.

Approximately 83% of brands rely on third-party cookies. For the past couple of decades, cookies have been the leading source of tracking and monitoring internet users, allowing for sophisticated targeting, retargeting and personalization. With the impending demise of third-party cookies and recent restrictions on using mobile-device identifiers for ad targeting, marketers will need to overhaul their advertising strategies to prepare for a dramatically different landscape.

What’s coming:

  • Starting in mid-2023, Google’s Chrome browser is expected to block 3rd Party cookies, which are already blocked in Safari and Firefox. Because Chrome is the leading browser —this cookie policy will effectively put an end to cookie-based advertising.
  • Apple requires app providers to get permission from consumers before tracking them – and initial data suggests only 46 percent of consumers will agree, meaning app providers will be unable to track most users across the Apple ecosystem.
  • Notably, both Google and Apple have said they will neither create nor support workarounds, such as probabilistic fingerprinting, to build user-level profiles in their ecosystems.

Make sure you have a plan.

In the short-term, the phasing out of cookies and device identifiers will have a negative effect on efficiency and ultimately ROI – but the good news is that there are new ways of targeting that advertisers can and should be testing before cookies disappear. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but by creating a plan and assessing the various options, advertisers can set themselves up for the future.

  • Assess your current use of cookies: Determine which cookies you are currently using on your website and which ones are critical for your advertising efforts. 
  • Evaluate alternative tracking methods: Explore other methods of tracking user behavior such as first-party data, contextual advertising, and server-side tracking. 
  • Build a first-party data strategy: Collecting first-party data directly from your audience can help you better understand their preferences and behavior and personalize their experiences. 
  • Develop a consent management plan: Be transparent with your audience about how you collect and use their data and provide them with options to manage their privacy settings.
  • Test and optimize: Experiment with new approaches to tracking and targeting users, and optimize your strategies based on performance and user feedback. 

Alternative tracking methods to evaluate and test.

Browser Based Tracking solutions use JavaScript code to track user behavior on a website and send that data to a server for analysis.

Device Based Tracking uses data from a user’s device, such as the IP address, to track their behavior across different websites.

Contextual Targeting is based on the content the user is viewing. While some may consider this a step back, new tools that use natural language processing and image recognition allow algorithms to grasp the sentiment of specific content with unprecedented speed and reliability, enabling marketers to display ads in an environment that is both highly relevant for their potential customers and safe for their brand.

Interest-based Targeting relies on data about a user’s website visits, but only to identify what broad content topics they’re interested in. Google’s Topics is one solution that learns about users’ interests as they surf the web and shares top interests with participating websites for advertising purposes, staying within a limited set of 350 broad topics and excluding sensitive topics like race or sexual orientation.

First-Party Data should continue to be priority (collecting data directly from owned channels, i.e., websites, apps) and should be supplemented with zero-party to understand preferences, intention, and lifestyle.

Second-Party Data Partnerships can help maximize the value of first-party data. Advertisers should seek partnerships to exchange data through a neutral third-party cloud solution. Targeting can then be done anonymously, allowing advertisers and media owners to expand relationships without violating regulations.

Universal IDs use hashed and encrypted email addresses from opted-in users as the basis for identity across devices – a significant advantage over cookies. These IDs are shared between publishers and advertisers to be used anonymously – and because the data is hashed and converted to a hexadecimal string, it does not violate regulations. Current partners offering Universal IDs are The Trade Desk, LiveRamp, Tapad, Neustar, Epsilon, Zeotap, Flashtalking, ID5 and LiveIntent.

It’s yet to be determined whether consent to use email addresses can be achieved at a large enough scale to meet the demand for advertising inventory. Collecting email will have a role in the post-cookie world, a significant one. However, it will coexist with other solutions, such as first-party data, opted-in GPS location tracking, and contextual (keyword) targeting.

The Net Net

While the phase-out of cookies may seem daunting, there are several alternative solutions available, and advertisers must be proactive about setting themselves us for the future. There isn’t one solution to replace cookies, it must be a combination of tactics to ensure you are using all available resources.  It is also key to get ahead of the game rather than waiting until cookies are obsolete.

Last recap daily for SXSW 2023 with a couple of great sessions on marketing and pretty pictures from space! Usually, Tuesdays at SXSW see the attendance for the interactive tracks going down, with the music tracks and showcases ramping up – not so this year, every session we attended was completely packed.

I think SXSW will be very, very happy with the attendance this year, after the dramatic decrease of visitors in 2022. At times it felt like the crazy days of 2018 and 2019, it casts a positive outlook on the coming years. More attendees mean more attention from high profile speakers, visitors and brands what keeps the conference as relevant as it is. I think that’s worth the queue times. 

The future of marketing is all about convergence

The day started with a session full of high-profile marketeers on the biggest stage. Conny Braams from Unilever, Jeremi Gorman from Netflix and Tim Mapes from Delta Airlines discussed current trends and developments in marketing strategies for the FCMG, entertainment and service industry. 

I already mentioned in previous recaps this year that convergence was a big meta trend in many fields, with the most interesting things happening at the intersections of different areas. It’s the same in marketing. Conny Braams stated that the way forward for not only FMCG brands was the increased integration between branding, performance and sales. Tackling the challenge of combining brand building while also driving conversion at the same time was the #1 task for marketers and agencies. Unilever’s internal structure already reflects this with a combination of previously separated teams now all working together for the common goal, going as far as adjusting product design for this new reality. 

Tim Mapes from Delta even went one step further – for him, every Delta employee is a brand ambassador and potential brand touchpoint. For Delta, generating first party data through their frequent flyer program with its corresponding app is one central pillar of this strategy – the other one: making the data available to customer facing roles, so consumer facing staff can use it to deliver more authentic and informed interactions with each individual traveller. 

Another big topic of discussion was the rise of retail media: for Unilever retail media is a perfect tool to control the elusive last mile at the store where crucial purchase decisions actually happen – that was previously controlled exclusively by retailers. Digital retail and retail media let’s the brands take much more control here – assuming the interactions with consumers are not purely transactional, but creative and entertaining and brands get access to the data generated. Again, convergence is key for future marketing. 

The five laws of brand science 

My second session of the day was a highly interactive and entertaining talk by Ethan Decker from Applied Brand Science. In his presentation, Decker went over five laws of brand science, that marketers should be aware of – backed by years of research and data. 

He offered an interesting way on how marketers laud customer loyalty as the pinnacle of marketing – despite the fact, that most consumers, for most categories, will buy a repertoire of brands and the more someone buys from a category, the bigger that repertoire gets. For many verticals, it also makes little sense to chase deep consumer connection, because people simply don’t care what their e.g. toilet paper brand of choice does on social media or what their brand purpose might be. 

Decker stated that shoppers are “mental misers”: the average consumer simply is too lazy to deal with hard and complicated questions when making a purchase decision and suggested that marketers should focus on the easy questions shoppers are asking themselves when buying from a category. 

Additionally, when it comes to light / medium / heavy buyers, the curve for almost all brands looks like a banana. High amount of single time / low frequency buyers, very few medium and heavy buyers – negative binomial distribution, or simply: the good old long tail. For growth, market penetration is 5 to 15 times more important than buying frequency according to a study conducted by Bain & Company, so marketing should focus on that lever first. 

Advanced Space Photography 

One thing to love SXSW for: they don’t shy away from giving keynote spots on the biggest stage to topics most of us know very little about. In this case: NASA and an all-female panel of astrophysicists sharing insights on the first few months of operating the James Webb Space Telescope. In addition to showing some of the mind-blowing pictures taken by the JWST in recent months, the panel discussed the massive effort of international collaboration between 14 countries to make this happen, the scientific breakthroughs this already led to and their deep-rooted love for discovery and human curiosity. 

Advertising’s guilty secret

SXSW is a great spot for inspiration and creating new food for thought from various disciplines. But at the end of the day we are still advertisers, so it’s always refreshing to see sessions that speak the truth about our day-to-day work. Today, Welsh advertising expert and CEO of Creature London, Dan Cullen-Shute together with Ivonne Kinder from Avocados from Mexico, gave us exactly that: A critical look at what the advertising business has morphed into, at least at award shows. Looking at the recent Cannes Lion Grand Prix winners, 90% of them were purpose-driven, which of course is a honorable messaging and there’s nothing wrong with that, but often these great award ideas either never reach a broader audience outside or aren’t linked to an equally good media strategy.

Dan spoke many truths today: Advertising is brilliant. We can make things that have genuine cultural touchpoints, boost the economy in needed areas, spark happiness and connect communities. The cherry on top: There are not many other jobs where the level of seriousness and ridiculousness can be the same. It should always be our mission to leave the industry better than we found it, in one way or another, so let’s get back to that: Make people laugh again, create epic things, even be totally ridiculous if appropriate. Get back to the heart of what we do and love – creating awesome stuff that makes brands grow and touches the hearts of our audiences. 

Random observations from Day 5:

  • Props to the SXSW organizers for enabling encore sessions for popular talks – and double props to the speakers of being just as engaging in round 2. 
  • It’s surprisingly hard to find good filming locations at SXSW – unless you want to give your video interview on the latest trends in tech & marketing strong 80s Dallas vibes – as the main color scheme of every conference hotel is beige, even the one built in 2017. 
  • I don’t know if it’s the overall inflation, the fact that Austin has been attracting thousands of highly paid tech workers in recent years or simply SXSW price gauging – but getting food is making your credit card bleed. 

When dealing with innovation – and that word gets thrown around a lot at conferences like SXSW – you need a certain level of resilience towards frustration. Most people, when being confronted with something new, tend to be dismissive about it. Most innovations don’t have immediate world-changing effects. Nor personal relevance for everybody. And often they are hard to grasp and easily dismissed. Our fourth day of SXSW 2023 dealt with this topic in various ways. 

Will data privacy ruin digital advertising?

Yes, probably. If “ruin” means fundamental change, that is. In our first session of the day, Noor Naseer from Basis Technologies delivered an excellent talk on the current state of the effects of increased data privacy on digital advertising. A consumer base growing more conscious about how their data is being used, increased regulation and a changing media landscape will require marketers to rethink their digital advertising strategies. We all know the 3rd party cookie will go away and will cripple a lot of  tracking and attribution systems and targeting options. The big question the digital ad industry is concerned with: will we have viable alternatives by the time this ultimately happens and the answer is: probably, but not as a 1:1 replacement.

In her talk, Naseer laid out the importance of first party data usage, the use of permissible data sources & alternate identifiers, and a coherent tech-stack strategy for data management to keep digital advertising viable – with one downside: we won’t see exact 1:1 replacements for everything we got used to in the last 15 years, so a certain degree of flexibility will be needed. Dismissing any alternatives as non-viable, just because they aren’t exact replicas of the toolset we have today is something we will have to deal with. After all, it might change the future for the better – a digital advertising ecosystem that comes with more trust, user control and ultimately better results, even at the cost of higher friction. 

The slides are available for download here

The best storyteller at SXSW

In the afternoon I attended a particularly enjoyable session by Mike Bechtel, Chief Futurist at Deloitte. In his highly entertaining and insightful presentation titled “A Brief History of the Future”, he laid out the history and evolution of information technology along the three central pillars of computing: interaction, information, and computation. One of the key messages: futurism is all about pattern recognition. To adequately talk about the future, you need to understand the past – as emerging tech progression isn’t random, it follows enduring trajectories over and over again.

The main thesis: AI will turn into an ubiquitous, useful set of tools to make our lives easier – even if it isn’t always perfect. The future of computing lies in decentralized systems and the interfaces of today – screens – will look like anachronistic things of the past very soon, when the main interface will be voice controls and contextual automation. None of the technical aspects were of any surprise to me – in fact we have been talking about these topics for years. But Bechtel is an amazing speaker and turned this session into a masterclass in storytelling with a rare ability of explaining complex concepts with well picked examples and relatable analogies. Being able to learn from a true master in one’s own professional niche is what makes SXSW such a rewarding experience. 

Quick, Look East!

Web3, Metaverse and AI – are these the only hype topics of our decade? In today’s session, Tom Nixon, co-founder of Qumin and expert on Chinese digital marketing, threw in another contender for the mix: Social Commerce. In the West, the term often refers to the option of buying a product directly on the app, which is a feature that has been available on many platforms for years. Shoppable Social Ads do have merit for a couple of use cases, but this short-term opportunity to buy within the app should be treated with caution: The customer journey is not linear and not every purchase happens within that respective ecosystem. Looking at China though, Social Commerce can open up a whole new world of possibilities for brands to win the war for sales by including direct customer engagement. WeChat is a great example of an early-stage superapp that might be able to completely revolutionize this business model by offering a seamless costumer experience. 

China is pioneering in various promising fields, one of them being community group buying, where, for example, a village comes together to buy products in bulk from vendors for low prices. The process of buying is happening at the respective apps, while the organization between community members can be done literally anywhere else – from going door to door with pen and  paper to the magic allrounder WeChat. Another important touchpoint for Chinese brands are KOCs – Key Opinion Consumers. These are creators without huge followings that appear as trustful consumers instead of inauthentic influencers and help to validate the products they’re reviewing. From Metaverse experiences to virtual influencer, live shopping and gamification elements: The biggest learning the West can take in from China is the importance of immersive interactions, the aspiration to create something new and innovative, and the diversification of personalized services for the individual user. Taking into account cultural differences between China and the West, many approaches might not work for everyone, but they are no doubt intriguing opportunities worth exploring.

„Us“ Against The World

We’re celebrating a big birthday, because Reddit is turning 18 this year! Jen Wong, Chief Operating Officer of the world’s leading social news aggregation site, sat down with reporter Kerry Flynn to talk about the evolution of online communities. From the producer of the recent hit show „The Last Of Us“ speaking directly to fans about the ups and downs of the show to an award-winning cocktail bar owner that started his passion for fancy drinks on the subreddit r/cocktails 12 years ago: Reddit has always been about connecting communities and shared passions. While content on apps like Instagram is highly polished (some might say even fake) and follow a one-to-many approach, Reddit feels more like a many-to-many conversation that perfectly satisfies the desire for authenticity, which Gen-Z greatly appreciates. You want to get the real deal on product reviews, from real people that literally don’t gain anything (monetarily or influentially) from it other than the satisfaction of helping out others? Reddit is the place to be. Social clout means very little on the platform, it’s all about the idea itself. 

While agreeing with many statements from Jen, Reddit is not always the happy place it is often made out to be. With every social content platform comes the good, the bad and the ugly, and that’s also true for Reddit. There is a unique structure of governance within the community and the ability to flag and remove „bad behavior“, tons of of questionable content remains on the platform. 

Random observations from Day 4:

  • One thing I love about SXSW: people are on their best behavior. Nobody skips the long lines. The volunteers are cheerful and happy to help. Need a phone charger? Power adapter? Piece of gum? Directions? Someone will have your back, always. 
  • I’d love to understand the thought process of people standing in line for 30-45 minutes at Starbuck’s to spend $10 on mediocre coffee. I’d rather stand in line for an amazing session, but what do I know. 
  • A very German problem to have – could y’all not stand on the left side of the escalators? We have places to be. 

One particularly enjoyable aspect of SXSW conference is the immense diversity of topics covered in its program. Technology, business, marketing, design, entertainment, healthcare, politics, psychedelic drugs – there’s a lot of everything. Things get even more enjoyable, when you realize that despite the often fundamentally different backgrounds of speakers and industries, certain challenges are the same. Today was one of those days, and it has a lot to do with Ketchup.

Learning to speak machine 

Technologist and designer John Maeda is Vice President of Design and Artificial Intelligence at Microsoft and a regular on the SXSW stage ever since he released his first Design in Tech Report in 2015. 

Today’s talk was about system design and artificial intelligence and Large Language Models (LLM) in particular. While Maeda is a really engaging and entertaining speaker, his presentations can be difficult to follow, as he rapidly jumps between slides with lots of information, personal anecdotes and colorful analogies to share his thoughts with the audience. And he has a lot of them. 

One comparison really hit home with me – we are at a certain “Ketchup Bottle Moment” when it comes to Artificial Intelligence. Maeda compared the sudden influx of AI tools at our disposal as comparable to the old issue with glass ketchup bottles. You open them, you shake, you prod with knives and spoons and only get very little ketchup and some water out of them. But you really don’t want to eat your fries without ketchup, so you shake some more and then suddenly there’s way too much on the plate, as it all came out at once. AI has been lauded about the next big thing in technology for nearly two decades and 2023 seems to be this ketchup bottle moment. We will have to learn what to do with the abundance of AI models and tools now. 

A second analogy was treating AI models as building materials. Design isn’t really about the design itself, it is about the materials you select to get the job done – some better suited than others, but it requires a good, fundamental understanding to do that. System designers reached this point now with AI: the pre-trained foundation models of today are new materials and will help us design different things than the ones we know. But to actually get good results, we will have to learn a lot more about context and cognition when building these systems. In Maeda’s words: Designers will have to learn to speak machine to interact with AI tools – prompting is about more than getting the job done and really good prompting not only adds context and provides instructions for the model on how to solve a task, it also keeps efficiency in mind to lower computing costs. 

The need to change business culture 

Today’s keynote session featured Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert in an interview with journalist Katie Couric. Gellert shared insights on Patagonia’s recent restructuring around the transfer of ownership from the Chouinard family to the Patagonia Purpose Trust – with the stated goal of using the profits of the business to combat climate change and protect nature while protecting the integrity of the company. When asked about how this affected daily operations and management of the business, Gellert said very little had changed as the company was still operating under the same set of values, a commitment to radical transparency and honesty. 

One central message of the interview was, that businesses, especially in the sectors of fossile fuels, agriculture and clothing, are amongst the worst polluters on the planet and responsible for many of the problems we currently face with climate change. So it is their responsibility to clean up the mess they created. Quoting Gellert: “Business leaders will do the right thing, after they exhausted every other option.” Basically, the solution is to create another ketchup bottle moment. 

A central role to keep up the pressure in this regard falls to consumers, according to Gellert. He encouraged consumers and employees to be very cynical and critical of every company’s messaging around sustainability to keep up the pressure, especially through social media. In addition, he wants Patagonia to be on the forefront of changing the business mindset overall – maximizing shareholder value should and must no longer be the number one priority. 

Some TikTok creators need to take several seats

With hundreds of sessions to chose from, you can’t only pick winners – my last session for Sunday was proof of that. It featured TikTok creator Robyn DelMonte aka “Girlbosstown” alongside UTA Digital Talent agent Scarlett Perlman. The pair shared insights on how brands should work with TikTok creators to address Gen-Z. While none of the insights were wrong (in fact they were all absolutely right), we might have reached a point where certain creators need to reevaluate their own self-assigned importance. Any brand strategist worth their dime knows that humanizing your brand, understanding your audience, being authentic, utilizing trends in a smart way, and co-creation of campaigns are the key to success on TikTok. In fact, even ChatGPT probably will tell you exactly this, so when getting on a SXSW stage you should bring more than that and not act like you invented TikTok marketing in your living room and as if you were “changing the digital landscape” (that’s a direct quote) on your own. 

What I enjoyed though, was treating TikTok as the internet’s inside joke. I’ll gladly steal that analogy for future reference and probably act like I came up with it myself on the couch in our Austin AirBnB while writing this recap. 

It’s the end of the media world as we know it

Media, as many other areas like entertainment and content, needs fundamental rethinking – that’s a fact. Every brand wants to be present on the same media platforms, every brand fights about the same dollar, every brand wants to be the #1 subscription service. You don’t need to be a media pro to realize that this is not a sustainable model for the future. Ideally, there would be a one size fits all blueprint, but in reality no big tech media can figure out their own business model anymore. In today’s session, Evan Shapiro, creator of the “Media Map” which tracks the massive changes in the world of media, talked to Steven Rosenbaum about the big drivers of change for the next decade.

In the last couple years we already experienced quite a hefty generational shift. When before, boomers and Gen-X ruled the world, it’s now Millennials and especially Gen-Z and Gen-A who took over the steering wheel. Young folks grew up in a global polycrisis while having the highest rates of anxiety and depression of all time – therefore when making decisions, they’ll be making them completely different. We’ll see a drastic shift of consuming content online, as they’re not going to be chill about giving their personal data away for free. Bad news for media. At the same time, they’ll gladly pay for media and content they love. Good news for media. 

Going forward, winners will be those companies who can cater to both age groups at the same time and find the right mix of having single unit sales in form of ads as well as recurring revenue models like subscriptions. Between the two, this should not be a battle, but rather a balance.  Many big tech providers are struggling with that: Meta almost completely relies on ads while Netflix does the same thing but for subscriptions (and yes, this already counts in their ad-based model as well). It’s not enough to get consumers in the door. The real challenge is to keep them inside and entertain them every single day. Ending subscriptions after binge-watching blockbuster series is the new normal, the new channel switching on TV. Consumers aren’t loyal to providers but take power into their own hands. Will this lead to a superapp ecosystem? Future will tell.

Recent numbers are showing another big media change: Ad spend has gone down significantly in some sectors like retail or auto – and even though this money will come back, companies will look for other ways to advertise their products and services. Instead of the good old ads they’re doing for years, companies look out for more performance focused media. According to Shapiro, media has always been about ultimately selling your stuff. Even though Netflix doing PreRolls like it’s 1999 is kind of adorable, impression based ad campaigns are out. From machine learning targeting options to influencer marketing based on sold units: Performance media will be the metric of the next decade.

The Future of Play

Sunday was also the kick-off for the game industry track, with more to come in the next few days. One of the first sessions today brought together some of the most influential people in gaming, like game developer Paul Bettner and Nate Mitchell, co-founder of Oculus. While gaming is already one of the most important entertainment industries, there’s still room to grow if games become even more accessible and broadly available for everyone. It’s about redefining the definition of „the gamer“. From „hardcore games“ like Elden Ring (which is just really hard to play and defeat) finding mainstream success, the rise of mobile platform games to game titles emerging as a huge spectator sport that attract more viewers than big traditional sport events. Everyone can be a gamer in their own way and how they want to be. When meeting new people, do you ask them if they are movie-goers? Probably not. So why are we still asking the question „are you a gamer“? The pandemic already showed that video games are the new schoolyard where people hang out with their friends. This is not only true for kids, but also adults who create meaningful friendships over Discord or Twitter. This convergence of gaming and social will change the way we interact not only with games themselves, but also publishers, game developers and content creators in a major way.

Random observations from day 3:

  • Goodbye Rainey Street. The historic street, once home to many old bungalow style houses turned bars & nightlife spots slowly but surely loses its iconic face, with more and more soulless apartment towers replacing the old buildings. Another major downside of Austin’s ever increasing popularity. 
  • If you ever wondered why the lamp posts, telephone poles and columns around the convention center are wrapped in plastic – it’s because there’s a constant sticker & flyer battle going on. Dating apps, NFT projects, concerts, events, brand activations, viral campaigns – the high-traffic spaces are popular for advertising whatever you currently want to promote. 
  • An equally fascinating amalgamation of weird things, that don’t really fit well together: The Creative Entertainment Expo. Showcases of very niche tech prototypes, often from Japanese companies, live next to the business and investment development booths of various countries, airlines, mobility providers, software companies, and the CIA of all things. 

Duality is a major theme at SXSW, down to its programming, speakers and organisation. Tech and business meet entertainment and arts: A-List celebrities and highly specialized niche experts. A massive 10 day conference planned for over a year by a small team at SXSW, but only made possible by the contributions of hundreds of volunteers over the course of the actual event. Duality, and with it the inevitable mixing and mingling of different ideas and processes and cultures, let’s us make the most interesting observations at the convergence points in between.

The Internet as we know is gone – we just don’t see it yet

We focused our 2nd day at SXSW 2023 on the heavy hitters in the speaker line-up, starting with CEO and founder of the Future Today Institute and SXSW legend Amy Webb launching the 2023 edition of the Emerging Tech Trends Report. Queuing up shortly after 8am for the 10am session turned out to be a good decision, as the room was absolutely packed and many attendants didn’t manage to get in at all. 

The talk itself focused on roughly 35 out of the 666 (!) trends from the latest set of reports and – as mentioned in the intro – the most interesting things will happen at the convergence points between different trend clusters, two of which Amy Webb talked about in detail.

Cluster one, the convergence between web3, cloud computing and – you guessed it – artificial intelligence will lead to a major reshaping of business and society. Or as Amy Webb stated: The Internet as we know is gone. The question we have to ask ourselves is: What if you don’t search the internet, but the internet searches you? With the proliferation of AI and Large Language Models (LLM) combined with Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RHLF), everything around us becomes information that is ready to be processed and used to train AI models – with highly capable generalist AIs on the horizon that will shadow anything we see today. 

The infrastructure to power these AIs can realistically only be provided by a couple of big tech companies, further solidifying the existing monopolies in digital infrastructure, late and lacking regulation and very little ethics involved, if these companies are left to regulate themselves. 

Amy Webb drew two possible scenarios for the year 2033 – an optimistic one, with people centric AI and data management centred on the common good in a transparent and decentralized setup with opt-in data sharing where this new infrastructure works for the user and provides real and tangible benefits. And the catastrophic one, where our digital footprints are constantly scraped into models, leading to aggressive curation and recommendation instead of true user choice. We end up surrounded by information, but can’t get the actual things we want. Chances of the latter happening according to Webb: 80 %. 

The second cluster, the convergence between AI, the Metaverse, bio-engineering and healthcare focused on assistive computing of the future where generative AI and the industrial metaverse act as invisible and ubiquitous tools leading to major improvements not only in medicine but in almost any profession. The danger: creating a new digital divide for those who weren’t trained to use these tools early on. The optimistic scenario for 2038: we invest in education and upskilling and these new tools positively transform the workforce. The catastrophic one: assistive tools are mere ways to increase revenue, we face a massive digital divide and let the AI cause actual harm due to inherent biases and a lack of human reinforcement. Chances: 50:50. 

The complete reports and additional goodies from Amy Webb’s session can be downloaded here.

The only future we can make is one we are able to imagine

The next session had a much less gloomy outlook on the future – even though it focused on similar themes. Rohit Bhargava, SXSW regular and author of the highly successful Non-Obvious Trends newsletter and book series teamed up with trend forecaster Henry Coutinho-Mason to speak about technology, that might have looked like science fiction just a few years ago, but will feel totally normal to us soon. 

Metabolic monitoring for better understanding of personal diets, virtual companions that can have positive impacts on our mental wellbeing, synthetic food, that might require a completely new way of brand storytelling, that for the longest time focused on championing “natural”, immersive entertainment, and augmented creativity supported by generative AI. It was a refreshing interpretation of what technology can do for us, if we think about it positively. The fact that the talk happened right after Amy Webb’s session just further reinforces the theme of duality at a place like SXSW and shows that both these ideas can co-exist – it is up to us, what we take away. 

Fixing the Complexity Crisis 

The afternoon started with a session by Nick Law, Global Lead for Design and Creative Tech at Accenture Song. You might think I’m starting to make things up, but duality was a major topic in this talk as well. Law spoke about the necessary structure in organisations to enable great creative work in an increasingly complex environment. The combination of copywriting and art direction, brand and performance, design and storytelling – and the ideal connections between people from different fields to create truly outstanding work what neither party could have done on their own. It was a convincing call to invest the time and effort to transform the organizations we are part of, illustrated with many examples from the history of advertising down to his own illustrious career at R/GA, Apple and Accenture. 

Artificial Intimacy 

What better way to end the day than with a session by another prolific SXSW speaker – renowned psychotherapist, podcast host and author Esther Perel asked important questions:  to what extent is artificial intelligence a conduit to artificial intimacy? What effects do the growing popularity of AI therapy bots have on mental health? How are our relationships affected by the proliferation of hyper-connectivity and the performance metrics we apply to our digital self expression? For Perel the answer is clear – human relations are way too complex and ambiguous for AI systems to grasp and our hyper-connected digital lives prevent us from being truly present in our real relationships. 

Random observations from day 2:

  • Instead of exporting SXSW to Australia, the organizers should think about opening a branch in Brazil – then again it feels like half the Brazilian tech & marketing crowd is already in Austin anyway. 
  • Did I mention: the lines are back? SXSW has really perfected the art of queue management and every year new I get introduced to new creative ways of lining up. And all of it is surprisingly analog, considering the digital and techy nature of many of the sessions. 
  • I want to hang out with the person in charge of decorating in the hallways of the downtown Hilton. Keep celebrating the tacky 90s vibes! 

Country music is deeply connected to the city of Austin, Texas. And no genre of music does better short form storytelling than country. Love, heartbreak, loss narratives are at the center of every good country song. It’s more than fitting, that one of the major themes of SXSW 2023’s first day was storytelling. 

The conference itself started with a great story that could just have been a country song. Its narrator: Simran Jeet Singh, Executive Director for the Aspen Institute’s Religion & Society Program and author of “The Light We Give: How Sikh Wisdom Can Transform Your Life”. 

In his opening keynote, he retold a couple of deeply personal anecdotes from his childhood and youth as a “turban wearing boy” growing up in Texas. Facing racism and open violence, but also finding solidarity and community in dire times did not only shape his outlook on the world, but enabled him to better understand Sikh faith and philosophy. 

The gist of it: we all have the ability to make choices on how we see the world. How we react to things, how to look past the negativity and focus on the good, overcoming fear, unhappiness and frustration, to ultimately find the light and beauty around us. Or: how to find optimism in a way, that doesn’t brush off the difficulties. It was a powerful statement, very fitting in current times, where it can be easy to give in to the present darkness – this new normal we all just learn to navigate. 

Some Marketing BS

The next session I attended was titled “Priming, Rhyming, Timing + Other Marketing BS”. The BS doesn’t actually stand for what you think it does. In her energetic and well-researched presentation, HBT Marketing’s expert Nancy Harhut spoke about Behavioral Science and how it enables marketers to effectively improve their messaging by implementing findings from various research on the topic: 

  • Priming consumers can be used to drive preference and purchase and advertising should use words and images that activate the consumers’ memories
  • Rhyming phrases are perceived as more truthful, accurate, and credible and therefore easier for the human brain to process – rhymes and other cognitively fluent phrases in copywriting are more believable
  • Times of transition make people more open to new products and ideas; but distant payoffs must overcome present focus biases

Or to summarize: A good marketing story primes, rhymes and times. Please don’t hire me as a copywriter. 

The Evolution of Online Search

One of the completely packed afternoon sessions was dedicated to trends in online search and how especially Gen-Z is driving major change in the field. While Google has dominated the search market for over two decades, it no longer is the one-stop-shop for all things search. Not only is search becoming more fragmented with the establishment of specialized verticals, e.g. in commerce, but the way young audiences prefer to search on social platforms like TikTok or Instagram changes search on a fundamental level – by being visual. 

Community platforms like Reddit are perceived as much more authentic due to social validation of content in a sea of SEO optimized garbage and an abundance of advertising in search results. And in recent months artificial intelligence in the form of Chat GPT and similar technologies change not only the way we search, but also how we consume the results.  

For marketers the mission is pretty clear: to remain relevant in a search landscape shaped by community, visual content and AI, good storytelling is paramount. Quality content will win on social search, while at the same time, overly polished messaging won’t work on platforms like TikTok. Brands will have to step outside their comfort zone. The downside: paid search was highly attributable and provided a lot of insights. Social search doesn’t provide the neat and accurate measurement. Yet. 

Of Mice and Lightsabers: Creating Happiness with Disney

When talking about storytelling, you must not forget about one of the biggest storytellers of recent times: the great Walt Disney himself. My colleague Simone visited the second big session of the day by Josh D’Amaro, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences & Products, who talked about the magic of immersive storytelling experiences in their Disney Parks around the globe. For nearly 70 years, kids and grown-ups can disconnect from the outside noise and experience joy and happiness on the „happiest place on earth“. By combining the three core elements of storytelling, creativity and innovation, Disney Parks continues to reinvent the future to create happiness for even just a day. How do they achieve that, you may ask? They put you right into their beloved story worlds like Avatar or Star Wars, enable magical encounters with characters and using food, music and visual effects to create long-lasting, powerful memories.

You don’t have to be a Star Wars nerd to heavily appreciate the special appearance of the day: A „real life“ lightsaber (or at least as close as you can get to one), that had the whole audience in awe. A curtesy of their very own Disney Imagineers, who were also responsible for a live interaction with Tinkerbell and a guest appearance from Mister larger-than-life himself, the Incredible Hulk. Because happiness is not about amassing more stuff, but about sharing precious memories.

Crafting Human Stories

Not quite Walt Disney, but also a masterful storyteller: Mark Molloy, director of Apple’s highly successful short film series “The Underdogs”. In his session he spoke about writing relatable characters at the heart of every good story, how to utilize humor and entertainment to make boring briefings work and un-focusing the brand or product to create captivating ads, while never giving the audience 100% of what they might expect or want by breaking traditional storytelling formulas and easy schemes. 

Random observations from day 1:

  • The lines are back, baby. After 2022 and the chillest SXSW I have ever experienced, it’s time to make friends in long queues again. I’m just focusing on the positive here, thanks Simran. 
  • I might need to upgrade my home theatre audio setup after visiting the Dolby brand house and experiencing some Dolby Atmos demos. Or at least buy another pair of very expensive headphones. Advertising, why does it work?
  • All the NFT bros seem to have pivoted to generative AI projects, at least according to the many colourful stickers and flyers taped to random objects around the conference center. Keep hustlin’, y’all.

“Commerce is everywhere. The purchase journey is non-linear. It can happen from seeing an ad on Instagram, an influencer on TikTok, a drop on Twitter. You might be window shopping in person, or a friend might send you a link.” – Arpan Podduturi, Director of Product Retail and Messaging, Shopify

The pandemic accelerated the shift, but momentum shows no signs of slowing.

Just a few months into 2020, pandemic lockdowns led to a 77 percent increase in online shopping year over year (Forbes), accelerating the adoption of e-commerce by five years practically overnight. Shopping, working, and socializing online became the new normal, and e-commerce quickly began evolving. Now even with the pandemic waning and life returning to normal around the world, there hasn’t been a “shift back” to previous offline behaviors.

By 2025, global social commerce is expected to account for 41 percent of total e-commerce and over $2.2 trillion in sales worldwide (Statista). In 2023, more than half of US users are expected to buy something on a social platform, largely driven by the growth of TikTok. The number of buyers on the platform is expected to rise by 72 percent to 23.7 million, compared to 9 percent growth on Instagram (41 million) and 12 percent on Facebook (63.5 million) (eMarketer).

Nearly every social platform is evolving to capture demand.

Meta is narrowing focus.

Even though Facebook and Instagram account for most social buying this year, many of their e-commerce initiatives did not pan out. They are now sunsetting features like Live Shopping on Facebook and the Shop Tab on Instagram. The company will instead focus on shopping-related advertising in 2023 and its continued expansion into the Metaverse.

Pinterest looks to expand. 

In the last year, Pinterest has invested in a shopping API to allow merchants to sync their product catalogs, personalization enhancements to reach users with more relevant results, a hosted checkout feature, and an augmented reality (AR) try-on tool for furniture and décor. In the next year, they are planning to embed shopping into every aspect of the platform by making every pin shoppable and streamlining the path to purchase. However, they are facing sluggish user growth which will hamper their ability to increase advertising share.

Amazon tries to mimic TikTok’s success.

In December 2022, Amazon launched “Inspire”, a new short-form video and photo platform that allows consumers to explore products and shop from content created by influencers, brands, and other customers. The goal is to lure users away from TikTok directly onto their website to interact with content and drive sales. For now, Inspire is only available to select customers in the US.  

Amazon has made past attempts at a social media offering, rolling out a Pinterest-like feature called Interesting Finds, as well as Amazon Stream, Amazon Spark, and Amazon live. It has not yet found success as the content has existed only to push products, a challenge it will still face with the launch of Inspire.

TikTok’s meteoric rise continues.

TikTok has become the ultimate destination for influencer content, reviews, and product recommendations – the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt phenomenon has over 8 billion views alone. It’s continuing to transform from a discovery vehicle to a shopping platform through new ad formats, a Shop feature for US merchants, and a partnership with TalkShopLive for livestream commerce. They are also planning to open fulfillment centers in a bid to become an end-to-end commerce platform.

The key to their success has been a user-first approach, building on the organic behaviors that exist on the platform rather than trying to force a linear purchase journey. Advertisers on TikTok should follow suit, ensuring that they are authentic, creative, and providing value in order to genuinely connect with their consumers.

What’s next? Metaverse madness.

The Metaverse in its current iteration is a collection of three-dimensional virtual worlds that are focused on social connection. Advertisers have already taken advantage of branded opportunities, even selling digital goods and apparel. In 2021, Coca-Cola auctioned off collectible NFTs in Decentraland, including a collectible bubble jacket, and Gucci opened their “Gucci Garden” in Roblox to celebrate their 100th anniversary. Louis Vuitton created their own Metaverse called Louis the Game, taking users on a journey to collect birthday candles over a while telling the story of Louis Vuitton’s founding. These are just a few examples as brands race to cross the new frontier – market revenue in the Metaverse is projected to explode from 47 billion today to $678 billion by 2030 (Grandview Research).

The Net-Net: How to Succeed on Social

Social media is an ideal environment for commerce, playing the role of “word of mouth” on steroids. It accelerates the customer journey from awareness to purchase almost instantly, streamlining the purchase process in-app for a completely native experience. Furthermore, Paid Social Media acts as the perfect conduit to accelerate this buying behavior, because it’s powered by the customer data that underpins these scalable recommendations to virtually any audience.

To succeed on social, brands must ensure that their strategies reflect their advertising data models with the right amount of authenticity, humanity, and creativity. Without creating a fundamentally “social” experience, brands will struggle to build favorable brand perception, loyal followers, and collaborative partnerships that move the needle. And as more brands experiment with branded opportunities within virtual worlds based on social connection, maintaining a connected brand experience across all channels will be key to success.