Five Things that Worked at Content Marketing World 2015

And Three Things That Didn't

I’ve been more excited about previous Content Marketing World events than I was this one. After attending the previous three years, I wasn’t sure the event had anything new to offer and, squeezed into an already shortened holiday week, it wasn’t coming at a particularly good time.

But, even more so than in previous years, I had my mind blown by some great sessions and came back from the event smarter, more energized and more convinced in the effectiveness of content marketing.

Here are five things that worked for me, and a few that didn’t, at this year’s event:

The focus on Creativity worked.
Most events have a dominant theme and for Content Marketing World 2015, whether by design or serendipity, that theme was creativity. From creative solutions to traditional challenges, to the choice of John Cleese and Nick Offerman as keynote speakers, creativity was on display throughout the event. This was exactly the right note to hit at this stage of the content marketing (r)evolution.

Real-world case studies worked.
I love when leaders from companies like Avery Dennison, OnBase by Hyland and Rust-Oleum share their experience tackling the toughest challenges in content marketing. For example, Avery’s Rick Neiman provided great insight into how his company is using CRM and marketing automation to identify very specific opportunities by region and stage of the sales cycle to support a rifle-like approach to content marketing. For my money, marketers willing to share their experience bring more value to the event than anything else.

The conference wifi didn’t.
It seems like every event these days has connection challenges and this one was no exception. The wifi was completely non-functional for most of the first day of the main event, making the conference app useless to those of us who didn’t have the foresight to download it in advance. It’s hard not to see this failure as symbolic of our goal as marketers to tap the potential of technology to transform our marketing programs but somehow not getting it to work exactly the way we had hoped.

Sessions on analytics worked.
The Content Marketing Institute’s 2015 B2B Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report highlighted content marketers’ hunger for more information on measurement. The Institute, which puts on Content Marketing World, responded by making analytics an important part of this year’s event. Analytics-focused events attracted consistently large crowds, and, at least the ones I attended, delivered the goods.

John Cleese’s insults didn’t.
Cleese gave a nice talk on creativity but for some reason felt compelled to preface his remarks by bashing the host city and his hotel. Maybe it was consistent with his comedic persona, but I’ve never been a Monty Python fan and I just found it unnecessary and boorish.

The energy at the event worked.
As with previous years, CMW15 had a great energy. The event is nicely paced and well balanced, providing plenty of substance with just the right amount of time to network and blow off steam.

Hollywood Squares didn’t.
A facsimile of the Hollywood Squares tic-tac-toe grid was set up in the corner of the exhibit hall with a game played each day during the afternoon break. At the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, this added nothing to the event and promulgates a culture of personality that makes the discipline more about showmanship than adapting marketing to the digital age. Next year, consider Wheel of Fortune . . .

Caused-based marketing worked.
The Content Marketing Institute’s launch of the Orange Effect, a foundation with the mission of “empowering children and young adults with speech disorders to effectively communicate through therapy, education, research and technology services,” brought a welcome extra dimension to this year’s event. Rajiv Chandrasekaran, co-author with Starbuck’s CEO Howard Schultz of the book For Love of Country, delivered an excellent keynote presentation on Starbuck’s efforts to create more opportunities for war veterans, highlighting the role authentic, content-driven, cause-based marketing can have on a brand—and the community in which it operates.

Big thinking worked.
You expect a conference to get you thinking about things in a new way, but what was unexpected for me was that this big thinking wasn’t limited to the keynotes. From a vision for the post-advertising age creative agency to using insane honesty to build trust there were just enough big ideas presented to make me rethink everything I’ve been doing.

The positives—creative presentations showcasing real world case studies and presenting mind-opening ideas, more than outweighed the few hiccups in what was overall an outstanding event. While I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to this year’s event before I made the drive to Cleveland, I’m already looking forward to next year’s.

 

 

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