Last week, Braze, a top engagement platform, hosted their annual Braze LTR conference in NYC — an opportunity to discuss human relationships in a digital world with over 700 marketing and product experts from IBM, Disney and more.
The theme was ‘Humanity in Action,’ where Braze set out to explore how to make connections that matter across data, technology, and teams. Tech innovation policy advisor and Shift7 CEO Meghan Smith opened the conference by discussing the importance of inclusivity in the tech world and recommended we all confront its ingrained biases. She shared the stories of innovators who don’t fall into the tech stereotypes. Ida B. Wells tracked lynchings and became the first data scientist; the female human computers of Langley were essential contributors to WWII flight research and early space programs; Jane Addams contributed to the founding of the sociology field as she used data to solve social problems and serve the underserved. More recently, William Kamkwamba from Malawi built an electricity-producing windmill from spare parts and scrap, and recognition for his ingenuity launched him into a career working on global problems of sanitation and violence prevention. Smith also discussed some of the organizations teaching girls and minority students skills and confidence in tech including CSforALL, Girls Who Code, and Black Girls Code. Her message was “What would we come up with if we invited everyone into the team?” Too often, stories of women and minorities making waves in tech are stories of overcoming adversity, which means many great ideas and brilliant people are never able to break through. As people in business realize the importance of the human element, they also realize that it is vital that a wider range of the human experience be represented.
Global Internet penetration. Internet Society map data source: ITU 2014 using 2013 data. William Kamkwamba built his windmill without the internet.
Smith reminded us just how significant the intersection between humanity and technology can be, but most speakers shared from their experience in the lighter commercial arena. As “Marketoonest” Tom Fishburne said in his hilarious and thoughtful talk, technology and digital relationships are in their “awkward teenage years.” Technology has given brands incredible methods to reach consumers, but technology alone can’t create engagement. Customers, he shared, don’t care where they are in a marketing funnel. At their core, they care about having their needs met. By understanding that human problem, brands can get ahead. Fishburne shared the example of Red Roof Inn, a hotel brand that — knowing they couldn’t compete with Starwood to win the SEO game — looked for a human need and focused their marketing dollars on a niche audience: travelers dealing with a cancelled flight. Red Roof used geotargeting technology — like Radar — and API weather data to adjust keyword bidding to target people at airports most likely to be impacted by weather delays. By speaking to customer needs directly, they drove sales. Fishburne left his audience with a challenge and a reminder: The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.
Throughout the conference, attendees were able to talk and learn from companies of many different industries, sizes, and maturities, all using Braze to execute some of the best engagement marketing out there. During the “Smarter Data Makes Smarter Personalization” panel, we learned that Gap’s strategy meets the customer where they are, both according to life’s milestones and the day to day happenings. A few months after maternity purchases, new moms are likely to see Gap marketing matching pace with their child’s growth, Baby Gap to Gap Kids. Gap also bases messages on the recipient’s up-to-date contextual information at the time of opening (weather or promotions, for example), allowing messages to be customized even after sending.
As brands are getting better at tracking revenue, implementing tech, and optimizing messaging with A/B tests, marketers lean on their human empathy to choose between long term sending reputation and short term revenue. Calendly considers simplicity and professionalism essential to their brand, so they won’t be sending emails with mysterious subject lines that appeal to a reader’s curiosity to bolster open rates. Grindr doesn’t send emails to protect user’s privacy, understanding that some users of the app may not be “out” in their inbox. They work with a more limited tool chest due to that decision, but still engage customers with in-app messaging.
In the ‘Pushing the Limits of Personalization” panel, DraftKings discussed how they use personalized push notifications to promote their contests to customers who have a strong likelihood of wanting to participate. This serves two ends: DraftKings can increase their chances of having enough entries to a contest to make it profitable, and customers stay engaged because they are only served pushes related to contests that interest them. The pushes themselves are quick and easy for the marketing team to send through Braze and use dynamic content, including cute and contextually relevent sports emojis.
When asked who is just killing it in push, DraftKing Sr. Director of Marketing Veronica Mynders Hamel responded that many brands “have moments of brilliance, but nobody is hitting it out of the park.” Everyone agrees that the universe of possibilities is expanding every day and the most brilliant campaigns are ahead of us.
Braze’s air-tight Alloy integration partners, each enabling an important part of a marketing engagement strategy, are sure to be an integral part of those brilliant campaigns to come. Amplitude can drive speed to insight, helping decision makers identify opportunities to improve acquisition and retention. Branch builds enterprise-grade links to connect with people in uniform ways across devices and channels. Radar brings actionable location information into the mix. Snowflake, mParticle, and Segment, are solving for data access, data trustworthiness, data latency, and customer-level personalization. When you have tools that work, your mind rushes with ideas about new ways to drive growth efficiently. For a marketer, that’s the dream. It also works for customers, reducing the amount of irrelevant marketing clutter and allowing brands to serve their solutions to the customer’s problems in real time.
On the second day, Forrester VP Dipanjan Chatterjee shared research and insights from the whitepaper “Build Brand Humanity By Mastering Empathy At Scale,” which can help marketers understand the attributes and economic value of humanity. Chatterjee defines brands with humanity as executing marketing that is natural, personal and considerate, and emotional. The brilliant moments we are trying to create, they happen when a brand behaves and communicates with users like a person with our best interests in mind. The key takeaways from this presentation are that:
- Consumer demands for human communication are rising over time
- Brands must start their human communication journey with customer empathy and insights
- Brands are investing in powerful technology to capture the key business and customer benefits of human communication
Ultimately, purchase profitability and customer lifetime value is highly correlated with a brand’s communication strategy. Brands with confidence in the humanity of their campaigns enjoy twice the likelihood a customer would recommend a brand to a friend. The theme of the conference resonated a clear message: humanity will pay off for brands that invest in it.
For an example of how Braze changes the game for engagement, check out this case study from our friends at IBM — winner of Braze’s Partner Use Case of the Year award. And, if you need growth services, help aligning your growth stack, email marketing or push notification, learn more about our Growth services here.