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Digital Marketing Takeaways from SEGD’s XLab Conference 2017

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Recently, I attended the Society of Experiential Graphic Designer’s 2017 XLab conference at The School of Visual Arts. A yearly conference, this year’s theme was the future of design. In one jam-packed day with 5 sessions and 14 speakers, there were in- depth conversations about where experiential graphic design is heading, the innovations we’re already seeing, and the disruptive technologies that are increasingly becoming part of our everyday lives.

The conference helped reinforce the importance of some of the digital marketing innovations we’re already implementing here at the barn, but hearing from other studios and design leaders is always an excellent source of inspiration and an opportunity to continue learning. 

Takeaways were plenty. Below are the top three.

Storytelling in branding—and including customers in creating the story—is key to creating memorable experiences.

When thinking of brand identities and brand building, most people think of the obvious visual touchpoints—logos, websites, brochures, signage, stationery, etc. Yes, those are critical in creating a brand image and can by no means be replaced; however, storytelling is one important aspect of brand identity that Inessah Selditz from LAB at Rockwell Group says might not come to mind for as many.

Brands are responsible for crafting compelling stories about their products that help their customers get to know them. This transcends beyond instilling brand messaging. It’s about creating an experience that they will remember.

The brands that do this most successfully, as Inessah Selditz spoke about, are the brands that not only tell this story but also include their customers in the story. People want to feel included, and when brands make an effort in creating a back-and-forth conversation around their products—whether this be on social media, through websites and installations designed for interaction, or simply great customer service—it has the potential to humanize, instill trust, and ultimately create a loyal customer.

When designing, it’s critical to keep in mind all types of information consumers. 

When working on any new project at Ridge Marketing, we thoroughly research the client’s target audience. Often times there’s no better way to do this than speaking directly to them to learn exactly who they are and what makes them tick.

Matthew McNerney from Potion gave an extremely relevant presentation that included the importance of keeping in mind the different ways that people take in information when developing a user journey. He was speaking about his innovative museum work, but I quickly saw the connection to creating a website. 

The categories he spoke about are:

  1. The Scanners—those who will read quickly looking for key words and then moving on;
  2. The Strollers—those who will stroll by and casually read and browse at their own pace; and
  3. The Studiers—those who will read everything and carefully analyze meaning.

Good design is about being able to design for all of these potential users. It needs to capture those who are in a rush and only seeing information in passing, as well as those who genuinely want to take it all in.

Our use of digital is still in beta mode.

A key takeaway that was a common thread throughout the majority of the speaker presentations was that as much as we’re currently using digital technology and how deeply embedded we think it is in our lives, we’re still in beta mode. For the most part we still have our digital worlds and our real-life worlds divided (hence the acronym IRL – in real life). We’re still trying to figure out the right balance and the right use for each device as we continuously test them in our society.

As time progresses, I believe—and as many of the speakers reinforced—we’re going to see a better merging of the two. And I don’t mean this in a way that will make our lives more digitized with robots, but actually the opposite. When well designed and used the right way, technology is able to make our lives simpler and will, as a result, end up giving us more face-to-face time (you know, with real humans). 

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