Three hours flight-time from West to East across the entire European Union landmass, Latvia, with a population of 2 million, located west of Russia, south of Estonia, north of Lithuania and Belarus, and east of Sweden (across the Baltic Sea), is where Brian McGurk, our intrepid Brand Experience Director, voyaged last Quarter 2016, to be opening speaker of the international 2016 Baltic Digital Marketing & Social Media Conference.
Armed with twenty trusty and well-branded slides, BrandCreate’s Founder-Director stepped off the plane in Riga at the Eastern European edge of the EU…next stop St Petersburg…. his mission to engage with world-leading digital branders and marketers to reflect on the core purpose of things digital, and to put new context on the role, relevance and responsibility of international digital practitioners to place ’brand’ (not just digital) at the centre of their creative thinking, planning, idea-generation and execution.
(Left to right: Solvita Kabakova, CEO, BigMedia, Riga, Latvia; Polle de Maagt, Digital Strategist, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Ghent, Belgium; Brian McGurk, Brand Experience Director, Dublin & London; Piers Schmidt, Founder, Luxury Branding, London)
Just like his previous “Brand Futures in a Topsy-Turvy World” presentation to UK-based brand directors on board the good ship Aurora, off Southampton, Brian’s quest was to stimulate out-off-the-box perspectives and to challenge the norms and sacred cows of how we think about digital… this time on his chosen theme of “The Power of Branding in a Digital World”.
Here’s the gen….. the word ‘digital’ is a catch-all word that is firmly rooted in technology and binary communication. Yet ‘branding’ is a philosophy of winning the hearts and minds of the customer through emotion, personality, values and distinctiveness. Is ‘digital branding’ not in fact a contradiction in terms? And how do winners leverage both these forces in order to build relevance, customer connectivity and maximise business wins?
With not an empty seat in the house, and an intensive programme across two-days of conferencing and workshops, Brian presented to hundreds of delegates as part of a sparkling array of world-leading speakers in a packed auditorium in Riga’s major cinema ‘Cinamon’. He loved working with the full (huge!) ceiling-high screen (definitely a first!) and working hand-in-hand with the audience on definitions of ‘digital’ and ‘branding’ as he explored the power of juxtapositioning these two singularly powerful creative forces.
Coming under some searching questioning from the conference moderator about the universal drive to increase ‘clickage’ v-a-v brand and marketing effectiveness, Brian stated that clicks are to digital what noise is to music…. it is a must to have them, to grow them but they gotta be of the right calibre, quality, in the right order and well-orchestrated. They’ve gotta be directed to deliver a relevant tone and feel, and from there the appeal, appreciation and attraction to transact, or at least to trigger the consumer’s desire to persist with the brand experience and be open to making a purchase decision.
Latvia is not the UK or Ireland. Riga is not London, Manchester, Liverpool or Dublin. With some level of surprise, Brian found that the legacy of history still appears to lie heavy with the people of the Baltic countries, and these nations, as modern as they have become in many ways, are clearly still working hard to shake off legacy issues. These have left their mark – Baltic business leaders and executives are notably less extrovert than their western counterparts; big in observation but less so in open questioning, they are deep thinkers and detailed planners; reserved in personality, polite in demeanour, respectful in approach, certainly less ‘out there’ or verbal. In a real sense, this made the trip more interesting and the time-investment more worthwhile, with Brian and the BrandCreate support team delighted to engage with this international audience, to make our case and make our mark putting digital in a brand perspective and positioning brand experience strongly in the driving seat of digital ambition.