dynamic and daring digital

Dynamic, Daring, Digital: Three Takeaways From Digital Summit Detroit 2021

By: Mel McNee

Industry events are a must in our field, and Digital Summit Detroit is a not-to-be-missed annual event we always attend. Digital Summit is a chance to hear from industry experts and fellow professionals about best practices and tactics so we can be better prepared for what’s ahead. The latest ideas, innovations, and information about how to navigate the rapidly evolving digital ecosystem are all part of the program.

For us, Digital Summit expands our knowledge and broadens our skill sets. It’s a jam-packed two-day event filled with emerging digital communications trends and cutting-edge marketing strategies and tactics.

This year’s event offered 40 in-depth digital marketing sessions and presentations from iconic brands and industry leaders like Royal Caribbean, AARP, City of Detroit, Ally Financial, IBM and more. We also heard keynote addresses from influential names, like former Instagram and YouTube marketer Jon Youshaei, and Australian futurist, consultant, and digital prophet, David “Shingy” Shing.

The event inspired, intrigued, and invigorated our team. We gained new perspectives and a newly expanded toolkit to set us up for 2022 and beyond. These three takeaways stand out as the best ways to inform our content, strategy, and digital marketing programs for our clients:

You’ve Got Mail

The Email Marketing Masterclass from brand consultant and marketing strategist Michael J. Barber was a fascinating glimpse into email marketing. In the age of the recently released iOS 15, with its opt-in mail privacy and protection service, Barber went in-depth about the digital marketing implications and what to expect going forward. One eye-opening projection? Nearly half of users (48 percent) are likely to opt into mail protection.

Moving forward, we may not be able to see who opened an email or have access to things like open rates, open time, device data, and geolocation. Autoflow journeys that rely on someone opening the email will need to be reworked. And, other send-time optimization, countdown timers, and content powered by geolocation won’t be accurate.

Barber recommended specific software tools and tactics and new strategies we are already considering to successfully adapt to this new environment. One of the most interesting: names will now be more important than subject lines! The unavoidable big-picture takeaway was that there has been a tectonic shift in the email marketing space, and business-as-usual simply won’t cut it.

Youth Movement

A session with Royal Caribbean Group’s Talent Marketing Manager Thea Neal highlighted one of the other big themes of this year’s Summit: the importance of connecting and engaging with younger audiences. That begins with understanding the preferences and priorities of younger demographics.

Neal’s presentation focused on one of the ways many members’ opinions and purchasing decisions are cultivated: through the work of influencers. Her discussion on the power of influencers presented some fascinating ideas about how influencer marketing will look different in a post-pandemic world. She noted that influencer content tends to perform better in “less sexy” industries like healthcare, legal, and industrial/manufacturing. 

She also pointed out that influencers are more than just “pretty photos.” They can be seen as teachers, consultants, or coaches, instead.  

The youth theme continued in another session from Liz Aviles about the ways that Gen Z is shaping our digital behavior. Aviles, the VP of Market Intelligence with creative agency Upshot, made the bold claim that it isn’t Millennials, but members of the younger Gen Z who are serving as today’s cultural change-makers and brand influencers. Gen Z might only make up 18 percent of the U.S. population, but their behavior in the digital space gives them an outsized influence on the future of digital marketing!

All the Feels

The third and final thematic pillar of this year’s Digital Summit was the unmistakable focus on the power of emotion and connection in reaching and influencing key digital audiences. 

Blended Collective’s Lydia Michael presentation covered the research showing that successful brands focus on emotion. Michael defined “Brand Love” and its appeal to consumers. She also shared four essential elements to building emotionally engaged brands: being authentic and purposeful, building trust, personalizing experiences, and telling stories to connect with customers.

Then, influential strategist and digital marketing thought-leader Juntae DeLane revealed that customers don’t want to be helped. Instead, they want to be engaged! That means brands should focus on ways to make engagement happen through modulating brand voice and adapting to changing consumer behaviors in the wake of the pandemic. 

A compelling keynote address from David “Shingy” Shing on The Connected Human and the Future of Marketing echoed those themes. He presented data to support the notion that people crave closeness, comfort, convenience, and community, revealing ways that brands can leverage that to their benefit. 

Customers care about a brand’s feel more so than its story or performance, Shing says. Creators have a role in helping to build that feel, and are pushing brands to focus on providing inspiration, not just information.

Looking Ahead

So much of what we heard at Digital Summit Detroit confirmed trends we’re already watching and planning for in 2022. The depth of content and the range of compelling and informative presentations from some of the industry’s most dynamic voices reaffirmed our commitment to invest in these conferences. It’s why we make it a priority to attend every year. 

We’re excited to roll up our sleeves and put these trends and emerging strategies into practice. Want to learn how we can help your brand maximize your digital presence in the year ahead? Let us know. 


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