MAD//Fest is a pretty cool event. It’s disrupting the marketing trade show mould with its bold themes, brash marketing and pared-down industrial setting at the Old Truman Brewery.

It’s a two-day networking, peer-to-peer sharing fest for brand owners, agencies, media folk, tech start-ups and disruptors.

With some big industry names in attendance, it was a great opportunity for trend spotting, reflecting on the martech themes of 2019 and looking forward to 2020 and innovations to come. Here’s our take on some of the top trends.

Good, old fashioned storytelling

Dishoom’s Shamil Thakar was undoubtedly one of the stars of the show. He has a really interesting angle on disruption that focuses on culture and storytelling, with a real emphasis on authenticity and detail.

He wanted to bring the most authentic Indian dining experience to the UK and has succeeded in making his 7 restaurants some of the most popular and visited in the country.

For him, creating a great product is all about attention to detail. Only in being obsessive about those details can you really succeed in bringing the customer experience to life.

For instance, every single picture, hanging in every restaurant, has a story behind it and a place there. His story is not about scale.

Let’s face it, building 7 restaurants is not remarkable in itself but Dishoom’s popularity is stunning. And for every meal served, another one is provided to hungry children in other parts of the world. It’s a story of purpose, honesty and humanity, and it clearly strikes a chord with the nation’s psyche.

Not all the MAD//Fest stories resonate because they are closely related to your own. But applying some of this obsessive attention to detail in bringing the customer experience to life could certainly be applied to any sector and any brand, in bricks and mortar or in the digital realm.

Persistent reinvention

Within its sector, Dishoom has succeeded in building fantastically high levels of brand awareness, trust and love. But how do businesses maintain such high brand recognition?

More mature businesses need to keep up with customer expectation and continually evolve or reinvent themselves to stay relevant. It was great to listen to big names like Amazon, Burger King, and Snapchat talk about their experiences in the ever-changing digital world.

Burger King had to reinvent themselves to appeal to younger audiences by finding more contemporary ways to market products, for example, saying goodbye to the now outmoded Whopper.

Amazon had to find a way to integrate higher quality content and more visually engaging video advertisements, so it could help its customer reach a wider audience and consequently improve their conversion rates.

For Snapchat, the challenge was to enhance the experience for both advertisers and consumers, improving their advertising offering (video, AR, camera filters and more), as well as their features and services to better appeal to users.

In the wake of several big high street closures, brands are recognising the need to reinvent themselves. For digital natives, this is through the constant addition of new products and features, for traditional businesses, transformation is a must to remain relevant and retain that competitive edge.

Obsessively tap into your audience psyche

Millennials and Gen Z are tech-savvy and goal-oriented, with strong opinions about brands that they regularly share. Understanding, targeting and winning over these customers is vital for businesses appealing to this age group.

Younger audiences put great emphasis on brands that understand them, promote their world view and leave a memorable encounter.

Not surprisingly, the importance of truly understanding your customers – and how to achieve that -was a popular topic at MAD//Fest.

David Norris, Head of Creative at Snapchat explained how, through truly understanding their users, Snapchat has evolved its offer. For example, they recognised that the huge Game of Thrones audience were actively avoiding spoilers of the series finale.

However, they still wanted to find a way to engage fans. So they turned to augmented reality and geographical tracking to create a non-spoiler experience. Snapchat and HBO brought Game of Thrones to life in major cities via an AR app that reimagined dragons landing on iconic buildings.

It engaged 23.6m users, more than the audience of the premier itself. They also recently teamed up with Adidas to enable consumers to ‘try on shoes’ via their camera, resulting in higher conversion rates and the first Adidas ‘commercial’ that could potentially invade competitor stores.

Today’s digital possibilities should prompt businesses to try out new ways to engage their audience in the blooming, experience-fueled economy.

Make best use of live data

In the last few years, fake news and hacking scandals have made consumers far more aware of their data rights. At the same time, the introduction of GDPR has made businesses think differently about what kind of data they can act on and how they use that data.

Behavioural data has become the currency of the agile marketer, allowing them to respond quickly to stay relevant to individuals along the customer journey.

Mike Follett from Lumen discussed innovations such as eye tracking. Using eye tracking, organisations can heat map areas of the website that are grabbing the highest share of visitor attention. This helps to inform decisions around ad placement, ultimately gaining greater engagement.  

Prior to May 2018, pundits pre dicted that GDPR would threaten developments in personalisation. However, to combat restrictions, businesses are being far more savvy about using different forms of data and improving the value exchange when customers do hand over personal data.

Add in the speed with which machine learning can help make this data actionable, and GDPR hasn’t really changed the landscape at all. By gathering the right data and understanding how to use it effectively and lawfully, businesses can still provide a personalised and tailored experience.

MAD//Fest is obviously just one event in the 2019 marketing calendar. But it does provide a barometer on what’s happening in the industry as we head towards the close of the year. It’s impossible to really sum up such a dynamic, content-packed event in one article. But, for us, these were the themes that stood out.

Cognifide is an experience technology consultancy + MAD//Fest partner.