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This year’s Challenger Brands Summit saw the gathering of brands, agencies and marketers to share the latest and upcoming trends in a world full of innovation and competition. The attendees spanned a wide variety of verticals from fashion to entertainment to cannabinoids. While all of the presentations had strong and inspiring messages, they especially emphasized the importance of being nimble, being open to new ideas, and learning how to reach consumers in the ever-evolving digital world.

Below are three takeaways from this year’s two-day conference that brands and marketers should keep in mind as they create their strategies for consumer engagement and customer acquisition.

Create a Culture that Connects With Consumers

Brands should explore ways to better connect with their consumers instead of focusing on just selling them a product. By having active conversations with consumers, brands can build stronger relationships and loyalty by engaging with consumers on their terms.

Reddit’s user base grew 30% as of October 2019 (430 million active users), and their platform has now become a go-to place for more than 130,000 communities (called “subreddits”). Redditors not only have a place to connect with others of similar interests, but brands have started engaging with consumers too. With AMA’s (Ask me Anything) and posts for feedback, brands have an amazing opportunity to reach both relevant core consumers and potential new ones.

The theme of “culture” was discussed by many brands, especially Puma and Ulta. Puma’s Adam Petrick, Global Director of Brand and Marketing, discussed the importance of collaborating with the consumer base to grow its brand, saying that brands should be doing interesting things and creating a culture (i.e. creating shoe styles with consumer collaboration) that encourages positive behavior and engagement.

On the same note, Ulta Beauty discussed their “Culture Studio” where they emphasized that connection and experience matters, especially for Gen Z. For the brand, it’s not only creating a space where beauty and culture intersect but also one that has an impact on both consumers and society as a whole.

Building a Direct to Consumer Experience Is Worthwhile

Through a live poll onstage, there were a considerable number of attendees that felt there is a Direct to Consumer Bubble. In other words, some believe it’s a fad and a temporary trend. Yet, there were a few brands that embraced a DTC future, especially given the right tools to engage with consumers and measure success. It doesn’t necessarily mean that all brands should go DTC, but given the right tools, it can really be a boon for challenger and incumbent brands alike.

Rakuten Advertising unveiled their DTC Study, a survey of 1,000 US adults who have made a purchase from a D2C brand.

  • Their study was comprehensive, studying demographics, income, gender, etc. Beauty & personal care, food, and pet care were the top categories when it comes to awareness and popularity.
  • Interestingly, Gen Z’s awareness across the same categories were lower due to their lower purchasing power. However, along with Millennials, Gen Z over indexes when it came to learning about D2C brands through in-store, which is a huge opportunity for brands to reach a wider pool of potential consumers.
  • Still, Millenials are embracing a D2C world with 26% more likely to follow a brand because of engaging or entertaining social media content. This presents an amazing opportunity for smaller brands to put their creative chops to work as they battle for Millennial attention and wallet share.

Combat Limited Screen Time With More Engaging Content

As digital content consumption increases, brands can still be creative about how they are engaging consumers with their content. YouTube presented their ideas how “Agile Storytelling,” a best in class approach for creating engaging advertisements and videos. Brands should be attracting consumers with great hooks, making them think or feel something about your brand, and directing them to a call to action with creative, especially in a space where screen time and attention is limited.

On the opposite end, Spotify’s focus on the “audio revolution” was particularly enlightening. 56% of people agree that audio is an escape from an overload of visual stimulation, and those suffering from screen fatigue have been turning to audio in various forms, including podcasts, to escape. The podcast boom has been discussed for many years, but now that ads are present in them, we are seeing more brands engage with consumers through audio. 81% of consumers have taken action as a result of listening to an ad during a podcast, and Spotify has now introduced their ad insertion platform to aid advertisers with actual ad impressions, reach, and audience insights.

Throughout the Challenger Brands Summit, it was clear that being open-minded and agile to adjust to the new expectations of consumers in the modern digital world is critical for brands and marketers to grow their businesses. Although there are many challenges such as earning attention and loyalty, there is much to gain from creating a positive environment and culture for consumers to rally around if executed effectively.

Author: Christian Garcia, Project Manager, Commerce Strategy, Publicis Media Commerce