In what has been something of an annual pilgrimage over the last few years, Contagion's social influence director Tom Bates headed to the SXSW festival again this year. And during the early part of his visit, he caught up Contagion alumnus Fritha Hookway for a brief chat on what she's been up to and what she thinks marketing and advertising types should be focusing on in 2016.
Tom Bates: What do you do in the UK?
Fritha Hookway: I work for Topshop in the Global Headquarters in London. My role looks after all social media for the brand as well as being involved in all our digital marketing campaigns and projects.
TB:What are some of the trends that will define marketing and advertising in 2016?
FH: We've been saying mobile for a while but as with most trends, it takes a bit of time to realign the way brands operate to truly take advantage of new opportunities. While there are a lot of interesting things going on innovation wise such are virtual reality and wearable tech they are still very niche and unlikely to be adopted at mass for a while.
Designing for a better mobile experience is more important to the user journey. Particularly within retail, brands that will do well are those who really commit to designing intuitive mobile experiences. Targeting is also becoming more a lot more sophisticated. Micro-targeting at scale, as Facebook calls it, will see a shift in the way brands use the platform to better reach specific audiences. There's a huge conversation about online wastage when it comes to ads and Facebook is really ahead of the game when it comes to combating this.
TB: Do Kiwis have to get better at taking risks and innovating?
FH: I actually think kiwis are some of the most innovative thinkers in the world. There's an advantage to being a small country in that a lot of our businesses are new. When you get to a big country like the US or the UK there are a lot of dinosaur businesses that operate on old models and can fall into the trap of "that's the way we've always done things". Taking risks in business is important, but I think there is a natural attitude from a lot of kiwis to think this way anyway. It's more important for the owners of the brands to foster 'fail fast' environments and help normalise a culture of test and learn.
TB: What are some of the key takeaways from this year's event?
FH: I'm not usually big on generation based talks, but a lot of the conversations about Gen Z have been really insightful. As one speaker described, they practically come out of the womb with an iPad in hand. While millennials were very tech savvy, Gen Z represents the first generation that are truly growing up with tech and social being part of their natural world experience. Attention spans, trust in ads, loyalty to brands; it's all shrinking. Right now, their expectations of digital experiences represent the gold standard for what brands need to try and create. So it's a really interesting age bracket to keep in mind when considering how to effectively market.
TB: Any other thoughts on the state of marketing?
FH: We can learn a lot from China. Unlike the west, China didn't go desktop to mobile, they were a truly mobile first nation. If we look at the way Facebook (particularly Messenger) is developing, there are a lot of similarities to that of WeChat. Things like Uber partnerships, Instant Articles and Facebook customer service all ladder up to a less fragmented experiences where the user needs to hop between apps to complete a variety of tasks. They're less about broadcast marketing and more about ease of use and better mobile experiences. And if we consider the challenges the ad blocking has created for marketers, a shift to the latter approach is definitely important to consider.