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FutureX Summit: Lessons for Marketers Navigating Through 2020 & Beyond

Posted by Lauren Cohen on August 12, 2020

MITX & Boston Chamber Marketing Manager, Lauren Cohen, shares some of the key takeaways from the Summer 2020 FutureX Summit.

Last week we hosted our second all-virtual FutureX Summit, where leaders in brand marketing and digital media convened to share how they’re helping their organizations navigate the changing world we live in and address shifting consumer needs and expectations. 

The event focused on some of today's most relevant issues in the advertising and marketing industry, including how the community can create a more diverse workforce; how brands should respond and react to the tidal waves of social justice; and how teams working remotely can keep the creative spark alive. 

Read on for some noteworthy takeaways from the sessions...

Hiring diverse talent is just the beginning.  

Our first session, Time for Action: How the Digital Marketing Community Can Come Together to Create a Diverse Workforce, featured a powerhouse panel of women who are all dedicated advocates for their organizations' diversity and inclusion efforts. 

The panel shared insights on where to start when prioritizing the development of a diverse and inclusive workforce and moving beyond simply hiring diverse people. 

A crucial part of improving your DE&I efforts is checking the pulse of where you currently stand and getting educated, said Noor Naseer, Senior Director, Media & Technology Innovations at Centro

“Don’t just stand for something you don’t fully understand,” she underlined. 

Noor recommends not just relying on internal resources, but also seeking out appropriate external resources when necessary.  

You don’t want to just think about bringing in new employees that look diverse, you need to think about how you’ll include them and cultivate a culture that makes them want to stay. - Noor Naseer

What’s also important is dedicating resources to help set up the pipeline and show people of color that this is an industry that welcomes them, Noor added. When people don’t feel embraced by the industry, they aren’t as likely to go down those pathways. 

“Especially in advertising and marketing, it’s getting awareness out there early that this is a career path and [there are] organizations out there where you can feel like you belong,” said Corean Canty, COO of Goodway Group

Creating targeted goals and setting intentions for how your company can expand its efforts is a must. Then go beyond that and expand those intentions into actual programs you can target against. 

Melanie Liu, Video Producer at Digitas, pointed out that there are many organizations who have already laid the groundwork, so it’s no longer an excuse to say that you can’t find the talent. Just a few examples she mentioned were AdColor, Creative Women of Color, Latinxs Who Design, amongst many others.

If you say there’s not enough diverse talent out there, you’re already setting up a barrier. - Melanie Liu

All of our speakers echoed the fact that while you can recruit lots of people with diverse backgrounds, it’s going to be very hard to retain them if you’re not creating an inclusive environment. 

Melanie said that Digitas has a lot of goals around recruitment, retention, and making sure they’re creating an inclusive space — and if they become a leader in the space, they can help guide others to do the same.  

Brands today are expected to take a stand, but they shouldn’t stray too far from their mission. 

In his keynote on brands and social justice, Dipanjan Chatterjee, VP, Principal Analyst at Forrester, discussed the delicate tightrope that today’s brands need to balance on. 

Historically, brands weren’t typically expected to take a stand on social issues – they were there for mostly functional purposes. Things have certainly changed in the last decade or two, whereas today most customers do expect brands to take a position on political or social issues.

“We’ve seen protests before, but from a business standpoint, from a brand standpoint, it’s been largely ignored,” noted Dipanjan. “It’s gone on unnoticed. But we do know that something is different this time. Without exception, there is not a brand, there is not a business that has not been touched, has not been impacted by this.”  

What’s different about 2020, Dipanjan proposed, comes down to a few different change agents. First, the fact that the nature of brands has changed, and the nature of our engagement with them has changed. Second, today’s consumer has different expectations: 78% of people ages 18-34 who were surveyed said they expected brands to take a stand on racial justice. Additionally, a company’s employees also have greater expectations than they did back in the day.  

Keeping these in mind, it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, “brands have a significant capacity to influence what we, as a society, think and believe,” said Dipanjan. And thus, brands should be using their influence and power to drive positive change. 

When doing so, however, Dipanjan emphasized the importance for brands to have a set of overarching umbrella values and to determine what matters most at their core.  

Identifying your brand’s main purpose can help direct where to allocate the most energy and dollars. This doesn’t mean not speaking up for social causes that don’t perfectly align, but don’t be that company that simply uses social justice as a marketing strategy. 

Employee-employer alignment is critical. 

Some brands may be able to trick their customers, but there’s no skirting by their employees. 

If you don’t do the right thing by your employees and your employees are not bought in to your mission and values, that’s not a recipe for success. The alignment between employee and employer needs to be there, said Dipanjan.  

In survey results he shared during his presentation, 39% of people polled said they have chosen not to pursue a job because of a perceived lack of inclusion.  

If you choose not to be inclusive, you do not only exclude the people that you don’t want, you also exclude the people that you do want. - Dipanjan Chatterjee

Echoing the points of our Time for Action panel, it’s critical that brands and organizations promote the kind of culture that makes people feel that they are welcomed and belong. 

Taking time to refuel your tank is a must for creativity. 

Most of our industry has had to shift to working from home, and it’s looking like that won’t change for quite some time. 

Unfortunately, losing out on the water-cooler moments and time to catch up with colleagues can lead to some serious lack of inspiration.  

That’s why we gathered some creatives to share how they’ve adapted and what strategies they're using to keep up the creativity while working remotely.

Dustin Devlin, Co-Founder and Creative Director at video production firm, V A G R A N T S, told us that, for his team it’s been important that they make time for social hours where they can blow off steam and just talk about their days, without having the pressure of a meeting that everyone just wants to get done.  

“People tend to underestimate the kind of stress that can develop while you’re working from home,” said Dustin.  

Greer Pearce, VP of Strategy at AMP Agency, said that while at first video calls seemed to be a great equalizer in meetings, it didn’t take long for people to start suffering from Zoom fatigue. She therefore encouraged her team to take walks while on calls whenever possible, and do what they could to take their eyes off the screen for a bit. 

The WFH dynamic requires people to be more deliberate about the start and end to the work day, added Liz Paquette, Director of Brand at Drizly. Liz stressed the need to push one another to just ‘check out,’ since sometimes you can get the best ideas when you’re out of your day-to-day.  

That’s why it’s so critical that you take time to de-stress and to have those moments with co-workers where you talk about things outside of work. As Rob DeSalvo, VP, National Sales & Content Solutions at Undertone put it: “take the time to refresh and reboot and then get back in there.”  

Changing your perspective leads to inspiration.  

As we work from home, we’re not only missing out on interfacing with coworkers, we’re also missing the times we get out in the world during daily commutes, lunch breaks, and so on.  

Since those times have largely gone away, it can be hard to break ourselves out of our own little bubbles. 

Greer Pearce said everyone must make a more conscious effort to create the time and space to spark creativity. One thing that’s helped her is trying to get out of her workspace and go outside as much as possible. Additionally, she’s encouraged her team to leverage the internet for inspiration through lots of social listening.  

“Listening to conversations in different communities and expanding the places where [they're] drawing inspiration from” has helped her team keep up creativity.  

Another way to get a different perspective can be to set up meetings with people outside of your typical sphere of communication, added Liz Paquette. At Drizly, they use a tool called Donut that sets an employee up with someone outside of their department to help them connect. 

Dustin Devlin shared that the biggest adjustment his company has had to adapt to is just being in one place and getting in a new routine. So he’s tried to really promote a culture that supports and encourages his team to use the time they would’ve been using commuting to go on a morning hike, run, or some other activity that will provide a good change of scenery. Dustin noted that working from home should have its advantages; it should feel better than working at work. 

“Not having to worry about your commute or all that wasted time – that should be the perk of working from home and if we’re not doing that then we’re doing something wrong.” 

Keeping this in mind as you continue to work from home, remember that it’s up to you to get out and actively seek different perspectives and scenery in order to fuel not only your tank, but also your creativity.  

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FutureX is a curated program, powered by MITX & BIMA, that unites marketing and media professionals with industry titans and quiet giants in content-rich, knowledge-sharing environments. 

FutureX is sponsored by Adtheorent, Effectv, Hybrid Theory, and Inmarket.

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