The annual BOLO (Be On the Look Out) Digital Marketing Conference recently held in Tempe, Ariz., helped reinforce what truly drives digital marketing heading into 2016: Content, Concept and Messaging.

Digital’s spot in the world of marketing continues to grow and evolve at a break-neck pace and the BOLO conference was a great way for us to keep up to speed in an energizing, fast-paced atmosphere. Here are four key takeaways of what was discussed, debated and beat-up during this three-day industry summit.


  1. We’re all digital. But we have to be more.
    If you didn’t think marketing and advertising agencies need to be digital throughout then all you had to do was look around. Creatives, account staff, writers, agency owners and web developers were all in attendance. Drew McLellan, head of the Agency Management Institute, points out that while digital is all the rage, clients still look for a full suite of services. Successful marketing needs to be a mix of digital, old-school marketing strategy, creative, content, and a mature reporting and analytics discipline. This puts the shops that are always pushing the envelope ahead of the always evolving curve.Now what? Do you need to elevate your digital DNA? According to Forrester Research, digital marketing will account for 35 percent of a company’s marketing budget by 2019.
  2. Agile AuthenticityThe fabric of our pre-packaged, processed culture has started to unravel. Companies like McDonald’s are suffering while organic, healthier restaurants are picking up steam. People want food made by a person, not a machine.When it comes to marketing, the same principle applies. Under the traditional agency model, the creatives fuel the idea machine and the account staff facilitates the process. Under today’s multi-channel model, the stories we tell as marketers need to be as diverse as the platforms they are told on. People are rejecting the pre-packaged messaging and want something more real. The creative process needs to include many points of view with many narratives. As John Windsor of Victors and Spoils puts it, “If you talked to people the way marketing talks to people, they’d punch you in the face.”Now what? Be wary of firms with fees baked into CPM’s and Clicks. While digital can be very scientific, the art of digital marketing is still very human.
  3. Influence Matters.My favorite quote of the event was from Rohit Bhargava, “It’s getting harder to sell our bulls!*t.” The digital consumer is bombarded with over 5,000 messages per day. This has made it harder to reach our target audience amongst all the noise and created consumer distrust of outbound messages coming from brands. How to do we cut through the noise? Marketers can leverage the voice and expertise of influencers to be the vessel in which we carry our messages to market. Target audiences are much more likely to trust a subject matter expert over a sales pitch.Now what? Evaluate your audience segment and look to the social community to find potential champions. That person could be a blogger, a social maven or even a local celebrity.
  4. Data Influences.According to Nathan Safran at Blue Nile Research, 75 percent of buyers consult three or more channels before making a purchase. As marketers, we have to enable consumers to buy rather than convince them. “Data ranks as the number one element consumers want to have when making a purchasing decision, but word of mouth referrals and recommendations are a huge driver in closing the deal,” Safran says. Digital marketing allows us to test more frequently than we did with traditional measurement practices so we can find what is truly working. Concepts are compartmentalized, tested and optimized over and over. Opportunities are uncovered through research, data and marketing insights that grow campaigns because “good enough” is not good enough.

Now what? Be direct when possible and leverage messaging that speaks to A) The right people; B) What value the product or service provides; and C) What is in it for the customer?