One of the most prevalent messages in Nedbank’s Digital Edge Live was that we are privileged to be in Africa now. However, it’s no longer acceptable for companies to separate doing good from being profitable, simply because a strong and sustainable brand requires a robust and thriving society.
Yes, there are lots of problems on the African continent, but each of these problems presents an opportunity for a brand to make a
tangible difference, and the way to do this is through innovation. That was the sentiment of Musa Kalenga, Head: Group Digital Marketing, Nedbank Integrated Marketing, as he welcomed delegates to the 6th iteration of the un-conference in Midrand.
The theme of this year’s event, “Go Do Good”, was explored in various panels led by media personality Jeremy Maggs. At the end of the day, Tom Kelley, partner at IDEO and best-selling author, provided practical advice on how to encourage the innovation that leads to real change within a brand.
Not surprisingly given the rate of digital adoption, there was no escaping the topic of Big Data and the role it plays in assisting organisations to better understand their market and how they can meet their customer’s needs as humans and not as numbers. There was consensus that although data plays a massive role in a brand’s communication moving forward, many brands in South Africa are not yet in a position to fully analyse and interpret this data in a productive and meaningful manner.
Several speakers, including Gloo Founder Pete Case, Joe Public Founder Pepe Marais and New Media Publishing director Heléne Lindsay, cautioned that agencies shouldn’t forget about the heart of the message while focusing on the evolving technology. “The device and tech come second, the idea comes first,” said Fran Luckin, ECD at Quirk Jozi, during the first panel session.
As the afternoon progressed, delegates were inspired by the stories of some of South Africa’s most famous “do-gooders and trouble makers”, activist Jillian Riley, John McInroy (SchoOops) and Gil Lang (Giva). Jillian Riley encouraged the audience to never stop asking difficult questions instead of producing simplistic solutions.
In fact, one of the key take outs of the conference was that brands need to keep asking questions to better understand their role in the lives of South Africans. NATIVE VML’s Head of User Experience Design, Jacqui Maroun, shared the results to some of the questions she asked in preparation for her talk, and she found that South African consumers are feeling marginalised. “People want you to do good for them first, as your customers,” she advised. “And when brands are doing good for their community, customers want to be a part of that, too.”
Essentially, what Maroun was saying is that brands must flex their empathy muscles a little more – and this, too, was the first step in keynote speaker Tom Kelley’s advice for brands that are looking for a fresh approach to innovation and creativity. “Yes, there is Big Data and the insights it provides, but never take the human out of the equation,” he explained. “Go beyond the data and get into the latent human needs to understand how your product or service applies to their lives.”
Kelley’s second step in the pursuit of innovation is to treat life as an experiment, which means embracing the learning opportunities presented by failure. The third and final step is to leverage the power of storytelling. He said this is how you bring an idea to life. Keep it simple, focus on the essence of the message and put the user in the story.
“It is my firm belief that the event brought to light for our attendees and everyone following the conversation on twitter, the important role brands play in the betterment of society,” says Loki Magerman, Marketing Manager at NATIVE VML and event organiser. “We’re thankful to all our speakers for sharing their insights and views, as well as our partners Nedbank, Adobe, Graphic Mail and media partners, without whose support this event would not have been possible.”
Courtesy of Cathy Findley PR.