Dundas Castle Internet Marketing Seminar

Friday, April 24, 2009
Grant Whiteside

You know, the problem with so many one day internet marketing seminars is a distinct lack of engagement between the audience and the speakers. All the speakers know each other and five percent of the audience do all the speaking on behalf of everyone else, whether they like it or not. It’s a bit like going back to school: those that speak and those that don’t. Isn’t Twitter a bit like that as well?

Well “Thinking On A Different Level” wasn’t like your average Internet Marketing seminar. The grounds and castle were stunning, private and suitable for the occasion. The select crowd was there to listen, talk, engage and consult with each other.  They were there to learn from each other’s experiences and come away enthused and inspired. Isn’t this what seminars are actually meant to achieve?

You see, there’s only a certain amount of death by power point anyone can take in a day. Don’t get me wrong the presentations were good, some were brilliant. But it’s the insight that comes with experience that makes a good day, brilliant. Thinking On A Different Level had years, even decades of experience, with an audience and panel of experts that covered all areas of the digital marketing arena.

Conversations went on into the night over whisky tasting sessions, followed by dinner and drinks, not forgetting the free run of a huge Scottish castle. It made it all, just a little bit special for all those fortunate enough to attend. What a way to do business.

So what did we talk about?

The morning sessions started with myself and “Search, What’s New in 2009”.  It jumped straight into the rather geeky area of canonical tagging, then calmed down into the blurred lines of linking, article submission, online PR and social media. The last few slides talked about the changing algorithms of Google and MSN and their relationships with their respected browsers.  Engagement is key for 2009.

“Lies, Damn Lies and Analytics” presented by Steve Dalgliesh from Lynchpin made sense of analytics and how it should be part of the business process, pointing out that the graphs and numbers are useless without an analytics strategy in place to maximise from it. His closing line was: “If you ask a question.  Get an answer, not a number!”

Ian Duncan, Head of Search at Ambergreen followed with “Universal Search”. The title said it all, there are so many opportunities out there to find organic visibility and grab the shelf space that makes the difference between competing and winning on the web. Yet again, with the examples shown, it was the strategy defining business benefit that was key to any real measure of success.

After lunch and some light hearted “Online Do’s and Don’ts” from Ambergreen’s David Goldie (to stop everyone snoozing) we moved on. Dave showed the audience some classic faux pas of the online world. And yes, Orange should have been shot for their “I Am” campaign.

“The Future of Mobile” was presented by the rather animated Jonathan MacDonald of Jonathan MacDonald Associates. He discussed the mobile marketing industry from a global perspective, pointing out that the Asian market has developed a mature, effective marketing channel that almost bypassed the use of PC’s in many countries. Jonathan is a great believer in the power of communities and firmly believes in his vision of a permission based digital marketing strategy that is centered on transparency, relevance and value. This in turn will lead to “demanded experiences” to replace the “interruptive assumption” that we have in place today. Deep stuff, but highly entertaining.

Next up was the Cruise Thomas Cook case study, presented by Ambegreen’s Bryony Smith and Thomas Cook’s Jennifer Gak. The presentation demonstrated how successful a campaign can be from a standing start and demonstrated the growth and demand of the cruise industry, traditionally sold in an offline capacity only. Yes, it’s official, more and more of us thinking about a fixed cost holiday floating from port to port and Thomas Cook is making the most of these opportunities. Good on them!

I was delighted to hear that Robert Brown from Exalead was presenting “Is Content The Only Key To Success” giving us an insight into what can be done with content aggregation and how it contributes to engagement and conversion. Exalead are masters of understanding structured and unstructured data and how to efficiently generate device specific customer satisfaction. It really is refreshing to see a company address and harness professional and user generated content in a way that provides highly profitable solutions for digital publishers. I think I could talk to these people all night.

On a slightly different topic, the next presentation was from Chris Rourke, MD at User Vision. Ambergreen and User Vision work at different ends of the spectrum, yet share similar client objectives in many areas; conversion and engagement are key to both of us.  Effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction are the three key principles of usability.  How this translates to the customer types of browsers, hunters and buyers was fascinating from a search perspective. In short, Chris asked the audience to be prepared for an evolving customer and its mindset at each stage of the buying process. The key message being that after you’ve got all the visibility you want, there is so much more that can be done to optimise conversion further.

Closing up the afternoons’ proceedings was a presentation from Ambergreen’s Eliza Dashwood called “Everyone’s Talking Social Media”. Yes, this social media stuff is not going away in a hurry. Similar to Jonathan’s talk, this was all about, trust, permission, engagement, security and transparency; all the areas big brands just want to hide from. These are words that you are going to hear all year, or until someone takes notice and throws their money where their mouth is. It’s all there for the taking, if it’s done correctly.

The grave yard shift was left to a Q&A session with a panel supplied by yours truly, Andrew Hood from Lychpin, Chris Rourke from User Vision and John Denholm, founder of the Leith Agency and current chairman of Ambergreen.

Questions came thick and fast from the audience, eager to hear the experiences of both the offline and online worlds of advertising and how they are converging. There was a great deal of chat about engaging video content and how this takes us one step closer to the brilliant TV ads and creative element we used to see exclusively on TV. Yes, it’s all beginning to show signs of maturity and the offline and online worlds combining. All we have to do now is get the boardrooms to listen.

Grant Whiteside

Technical Director

Ambergreen