#1NLab14: Not Your Typical Marketing Conference

November 26, 2014 Ellen DePodesta

The One North Experience Lab is a different kind of event, but I suppose that’s to be expected since One North is a different kind of agency. One North is an independent agency with an innovative and inspired nature that is reflected in their brand, their thinking and their work.

Bright and memorable personalities are abundant among the folks at One North, and together they have designed an approach to interactive marketing that’s theirs and theirs alone. The Experience Lab brings this distinctive approach to life in the form of 14 presentations delivered over one and a half days. As each presenter took the floor, you could see how he or she contributes a vital component of an overall campaign.

This year’s Lab kept a great pace. It was a fast-moving series of presentations, each just long enough to draw us in, get us thinking and show us how to bring ideas to life. But it wasn’t just a whirlwind of content; it was a well-thought-out sequence of presentations that came together to show the depth of strategy, creativity and technology that make up a world-class digital agency.

Here are a few of the ideas I heard at the Experience Lab that stood out:

Don’t impetuously chase what’s new.
Yes, we need to constantly evolve and improve, but at the same time, there is great value in rebuilding and reusing what’s worked in the past. As Managing Director of Account Management Dawn Michalak noted in her presentation on repurposing classic elements of marketing, “Trends can be distracting in fashion. Trends can be distracting in marketing.” Stick to the basics, people.

Move away from the static brand.
We have got to change the way we think about our brand: away from the static, traditional, ad-driven definition and, instead, to a digital representation that encompasses a much broader realm.

Don’t underestimate the power of authenticity.
Without authenticity, your business will never earn the trust of the customer, and, without that, your brand will not resonate. Demonstrate authenticity through your firm’s purpose and vision and by bringing your value proposition to life.

John Simpson at ExLab14

Provide an Experience
One North CEO John Simpson broke down some commonly held marketing assumptions and demonstrated how to re-imagine them. For example, in the past, the thinking was if you built a great product (or offered an exceptional service), people would buy it. That’s not the case anymore. Today, it’s not just about offering a great product or service; it’s about providing an entire experience, and you must consider the entirety of interactions as you connect with the customer.

Recalibrate Goals
One North Strategist Sarah Levine Meyer described ways to keep your marketing planning agile and nimble, so you can shift and recalibrate as you go throughout the year. Annual marketing planning that looks too far out can set the stage for stale goals that have grown misaligned (an example being the ALS Foundation Ice Bucket Challenge, a YouTube sensation that spread like wildfire and introduced the foundation to a transformed market in a matter of weeks).

East Coast vs. West
Finally, I valued the thinking from Director of Strategy Kalev Peekna that explored the difference between the traditional East Coast brand-centric design, and West Coast, user-centric design. East Coast thinking stems from the Madison Avenue creative agencies; a brand-centric, design-centric marketing approach that starts with the product and the company. It was born in the pre-digital era and doesn’t translate as powerfully anymore. Then, there’s the West Coast approach. This is the user-centric, human-centric design that focuses on the customer. It values simplicity, ease of use and clear actions. But this model isn’t tied to revenue. The primary focus is on customer acquisition and growth; revenue comes later. Which one is right? Kalev explained how to find that brand-user balance in the overlap of East Coast and West, focusing on the strengths of both.

#1NLab14 Thompson Hotel

The Experience Lab is different from your typical marketing conference. Though it’s a very small gathering, I met folks from London and New York; from Milwaukee and Cleveland. It has a very personal feel; perhaps because many of us have known and worked together so closely. Lots of humor and laughs, many of which were spurred by the quick wit of the One North group, and some of which came from watching a professional improv comedy team come in and make fun of us marketers!

The Experience Lab could not be named more appropriately; One North has excelled in creating meaningful experiences for business to business marketers and their customers. One North does a great job in addressing some of the most pertinent marketing topics of today’s digital era in snack-able bites that are easy to consume and, more importantly, feasible to implement.

Check out video from the event:

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Ellen DePodesta

Ellen DePodesta is a B2B marketing professional in Chicago, working as a Senior Consultant at Tell Your Story Brand Communications.

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