I recently returned from the IIEX conference in Austin – and, wow – what a great experience for a few days.
Only in Austin – and, yes, Austin can be weird. What I was absolutely shocked at was seeing a Tesla that was an Uber – but had NO driver in it. Yep. I didn’t ride in it, but, my actual Uber driver did point it out. It served as a pre-cursor that whether your comfortable with Artificial Intelligence or not – you better get used to it because its coming!
There were excellent presentations by industry experts throughout the conference, and most did seem centered on the the growth of artificial intelligence and machine learning and specifically how it will affect our industry.
The biggest takeaway for me: “What does this industry ‘look like’ in three years? And what are we doing today to make sure we ahead of the curve three years from now?”
WIRe had an awesome happy hour to kick off the event and catch up with friends throughout the industry. Conferences are really great places for “serendipitous” conversations that just don’t take place over Zoom. Face to face is really “where it’s at” to connect with people.
Our friends at Hotspex sponsored a great barbecue where I must have consumed more red meat in 3 days than I have in 3 months. Not only that, but we went on a boat tour, which is a MUST DO when in Austin.
It was really “thought provoking” when looking at the commercial real estate landscape in terms of buildings. Google has a huge “tech center” where they built and occupy over 700,000 square feet on over 40 floors. In honor of the “tech” landscape, one building looks like a “USB Drive” – and another building is called the “jenga building” since it literally looks like a jenga tower with pieces jetting out (still amazed they could build structures like that).
While I was ready for 2 days filled with great content – just a few comments on the boat tour really resonated. Our host was speaking out the industry and business of “cleaning products”- something I never really had given much thought to. It was explained that cleaning products are formulations of various chemicals, which all the suppliers have access to.
There isn’t really a secret or proprietary “recipe” per say. So, in that industry – the absolute difference maker – everything from packaging to product offers to differentiation, is all based on the market research and market insights function. And, absolutely pivotal in the success of a company.
The IIEX sessions were absolutely excellent, with the “super hot” topic being artificial intelligence (AI), and ChatGPT. I lost count of how many conversations there were on it. One of my favorite presentations was by industry veteran Lorin Drake of Publix Supermarkets. His presentation was amazing – about how he asked ChatGPT to do some of the things we do every day, survey/screener creation, analysis etc. – and filled with slides and examples. The verdict? ChatGPT is getting better every day and is pretty damn good. It saves you a ton of time, but, still needs a human to review at the end.
One slide had a great quote: “Your job will be lost by someone who knows how to use AI before losing it to AI.” Key learning: Implement AI now in every area of your business as quickly as possible.
AI still need human oversight, and the business with be vastly different in three years, so the ability to embrace AI now in our everyday lives is critical.
(Also, a great quote by someone, and I forget exactly how it went, but in 2023, EVERYONE is a self-proclaimed AI expert! 🙂 Zappi had a great presentation and referred to the Google internal leaked memo about AI, easily searchable on the internet. Highly suggest you read it to see what an opportunity this can be! In essence, Google executives admitted – we have no moat – aka, there aren’t many barriers to entry to use AI.
One of the best booths was held by the crew at The Logit Group, Inc.. They made the show fun by walking the “Green carpet”- encouraging a strut on camera. Hats off to the Logit Group for not only having a great booth but really marrying with content creation at the same time with filmed interviews with industry leaders. Very efficient and great ROI on their conference I am sure.
Another great session (and I must have seen 15-20 of them and they were fantastic) was done by Brian Peterson who talked about “Finding your unique voice” about dominating digital marketing. He has a podcast called “Intellicast” – which I have started listening to – and fantastic so far. In a “post covid” world, great to feel like I’m eavesdropping on two guys “talking in the office” about the industry. At any rate, I was able to get a very specific question in- about how Return on Investment is measured- and he absolutely nailed it.
I asked about the ROI of a podcast- and they literally send through their CRM and measure open rates. I don’t have a podcast (yet)- but sure am inspired to start one.
Also, the final presentation I saw was Pam Goldfarb Liss presentation on about the differences in how Generation Z thinks. She showed a great clip of how for older people (did I really say that?) who remember a life where there were no “cellular” phones, that “privacy” is a big deal, right? No one wants to be “tracked”.
However, hearing a 21-year-old – who always grew up with a phone? It was crazy the difference in perspectives between generations, and people who “grew up” with a mobile phone attached to their hands.
I remember when I vowed that I would never get rid of my blackberry. I’m all iPhone now. And yes, I did have a rotary dial phone in my life.
Back to the future, let’s talk about Gen Z and how they look at things. The 21-year-old respondent that Pam Goldfarb Liss had in her presentation was well aware that his “smart” phone listened to him and loved that Amazon tracked all his shopping habits. Privacy wasn’t at all his concern; his true concern was “convenience”.
He loved retailers like Amazon. Why? They simplify his life. Amazon hits the nail on the head with recommended purchases. Well aware of suggestions for products from browsing history and “cookies”, he also downloads apps from rivals such as Target and Walmart to have them “compete” against each other. Gen Z respondents tend to think the more companies know about their personal and shopping habits, the better. Privacy isn’t the important thing. Convenience and anticipation of needs is. Valuable perspective and great job by Pam on that one!
Austin was a phenomenal location to host this event. On the cutting edge of technical innovation as a city and a great place for this conference to pull people in from not only West and East Coast but all over the world.
Artificial Intelligence is not your enemy, but, your ally in making your job easier and driving down costs.
Gen Z relies on tech, and not adverse to privacy issues, but, welcome “Big Brother” knowing more about them. Convenience trumps privacy.
Insights from real consumers will always be key in shaping marketing of products, regardless of the growth of tech and tech platforms. The richness of real actionable insights for your brand will always be the quality of qualitative studies and respondents.
AI is phenomenal for analysis of large data sets, however at the end of the day, nothing beats experience in the industry as the key value creator. Also, human insights are still always necessary to “see the forest through the trees”.
If you don’t utilize AI on a daily basis, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Austin has the best barbecue on the planet AND a great “live music” scene.