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The Assembly 2023: A One North Event

by Kate Carlson July 24, 2023

The Assembly, a One North event, served as an intimate collection of experts and leaders across multiple practices and industries to share perspectives on all things digital, technology, and strategy. Together we explored how to leverage transformative technology and digital best practices to energize teams, optimize strategies, and increase bottom lines.

Taking the Long View

This year’s theme, The Long View, highlighted the importance of long-term thinking, brand building, design innovation, user-centric approaches, data utilization, and technology adaptation. The Assembly provided actionable insights and recommendations from industry experts to help our attendees navigate an ever-changing business landscape and drive sustainable growth.


Balance emerged as a sub-theme and key to long-term success. Our speakers discussed how critical it is that organizations find a way to balance taking the Long View while also dealing with the short-term realities and pressures they face. Organizations must learn how to:

  • Balance taking risks and innovating vs staying the course with what’s tried and true.
  • Balance how much they invest in new clients vs retaining current clients.
  • Balance the digital and physical worlds and show up in a way that caters to the needs 
and desires of customers.
  • Balance when and how they’ll adopt new technologies while also continuing to invest 
in their current stack.
Diversity Presented Unexpected Similarities

We had a diverse group of industries and titles represented at The Assembly that were able to provide a multitude of perspectives on the topics discussed. Throughout the event, attendees continued to be surprised by how many of the challenges presented were similar pain points for their peers in differing industries. Clients and One Northerners alike found that many issues organizations face today are not exclusive to just one industry or role—rather, most solutions can be applied to many situations. Attendees valued the opportunity to connect with like-minded peers, share their experiences, and learn from paths that may be different, yet complementary, to theirs.


The Long View Gaining Perspective for a Rapidly Changing World

In this session, Ryan Schulz, Chief Executive of One North, gave an overview of the goals and vision for The 2023 Assembly. Learn why we chose the Long View as our theme for 2023, and explore how much has changed over the last 8 years—both in Ryan’s life and One North’s story. Ryan focused on the importance of perspective and the evolution of personal and world-wide changes.

  • As much as change seems to be fast paced today, the rate of change is only going to increase over the next 10 years.
  • The change will take form through new technology, improved healthcare, emergent industries, geo-political re-mapping, evolution of education and expansion in the areas of research and creativity.
  • The Assembly provides a community to discuss and help navigate these changes today but also in the coming years.
Beyond Transformation: When and Why the Long View Matters

Kicking off The Assembly sessions was our Chief Strategist, Kalev Peekna, who delivered a keynote on embracing The Long View and its application to various disciplines. With Covid in the rear-view mirror, organizations have the opportunity to step back from crisis management and start thinking about what’s next. Over the past decade, organizations have been laser-focused on digital transformation and omnichannel marketing. With significant attention and investments poured into these areas, organizations are beginning to experience a sense of accomplishment in these two major initiatives. Now, the question arises: What comes next?

To pave the way for the future, let’s start with the fundamentals: focus on ROI, cultivate integrated experiences, stay attuned to customers’ needs and desires, and don’t forget to differentiate yourselves. As we explore beyond mere transformation, various disciplines come into play, and taking the Long View requires exploring answers to the following key questions:

  • Brand: What’s the right relationship between the brand of your company and the brand of your product? What are the right long-term measurements for brand strength? When is the right time to make significant brand investments?
  • Design: As Gen AI leapfrogs us from personalized design to individualized design, how do we maintain product identity? Are we taking full advantage of context in our designs—leveraging the dynamism of digital AND the physicality and tactility of analog?
  • User Experience: What is required to move the focus of UX from interactions to long-term relationships?
  • Customer Experience: How much automation is a good thing? Is modernizing everything the same thing as digitizing everything?
  • Data: How do we close the insight gap (the gap between the data we have and the data we need)? How can we be more selective and protective with data, without giving up too much?
  • Technology: How do technologists continue to drive and support innovation when technology decisions are no longer centralized? How do technology leaders successfully chart a path between utopic and dystopic assumptions?
The Long Game of Brand

Kevin Leahy, Senior Director of Content & Brand Strategy, introduced attendees to the interrelated aspects of brand development: brand activation for immediate sales and brand-building for future success. With so many changes in privacy and analytics, relying on performance marketing will no longer drive desired results. Instead, brand-building efforts are required, and key best practices must be kept in mind:

  • Messaging discipline is critical—choose one message and continue to reinforce it.
  • Reach plays a significant role in driving results, and share of voice is a crucial growth lever.
  • Remember that brand is ultimately a memory that resides in consumers’ minds, and strong brands outperform in both favorable and challenging market conditions.
  • Focus on brand building for future demand while maintaining short-term activation methods.
  • Always begin with brand basics:
    • Who is our market (segmentation and targeting)?
    • What’s our brand image?
    • What measurable changes are we working toward?
User Agreements: A Foundation for Long-term UX Strategy

Zach Schloss, Director of UX Strategy, explained how pivotal a role UX research plays in understanding genuine user needs—forming the foundation of a robust UX Strategy. A clear set of principles, paired with strategy, help drive exceptional user experiences. Additionally, democratizing access to technology should serve as one of the main goals of UX strategy. The best design is one that enhances the experience for everyone and considers the diverse needs of users.

  • Enterprise-grade experiences require comprehensive and long-term thinking.
  • Prioritize functional, usable, inclusive, and safe user experiences.
  • Proactive investment upfront leads to optimal user/customer experiences.
Risky Business: The Long-term Payoff of Taking Creative Risks

Jessica DeJong, Managing Director of Design, emphasized the importance of embracing risk in design and accepting failure as part of the journey. Before breaking the rules, it’s important to master them. Identifying areas where risks can be taken helps you find the right balance between tried and true success and innovation. Thinking outside the box and limiting stakeholders, or being thoughtful when feedback is given, can lead to breakthroughs. Embrace creative risk-taking and focus on positive outcomes.

  • Accept failure as part of the process and learn from it.
  • Master the “basics” and understand fundamentals before taking risks.
  • Explore design risks in targeted areas like color, type, campaigns, microsites, social media, video, and motion.
Returning to Human: Experience Strategy in an Emergent Age

Kat Kollett, Director of Customer Experience Strategy, proposed that we are transitioning into the Age of Intuition following the Information Age. Kat explained that this shift brings opportunities to express our true selves and value to the world through creativity, connections, and spirituality. The ultimate experience created within the Age of Intuition is a fully thoughtful, integrated, seamless, valuable, and anticipatory experience. Understanding changes in customer needs and connecting with data sources that anticipate these changes is imperative. Exploring customer responses to these changes can lead to insights and innovation.

  • Determine changes to circumstance that shift customer needs.
  • Understand all the ecosystems that surround and impact a customer.
  • Figure out how to integrate and share data within these ecosystems.
  • Explore customer responses to these changes.
The Matrix Reimagined: Technology Trends that Bring Us Closer to a Hyper-Connected Reality

Vinu Krishnaswamy, Senior Director of Technology, depicted how bridging the gap between the real and virtual worlds presents copious opportunities. Technologies like Gen AI, Extended Reality, and IoT offer versatility but also raise concerns. Gen AI can create, advise, code, automate, personalize, and augment data, but accuracy may be compromised. Issues such as content access, liability, IP infringement, privacy, regulations, and open-source models need to be addressed.

  • The opportunity lies in bridging the gap between the real and virtual worlds through data-driven innovation and in using technology to create new forms of interaction and value.
  • Though Generative AI is very promising, for us to realize the full value, enterprises will need to stand up their own models, hosting, and tools/applications.
  • In a world that is yearning for connection, AR/VR & Metaverse may need to focus on targeted use cases first that are immersive and innovative.
  • We are responsible for creating solutions that keep Privacy, Security & Sustainability in mind.
Privacy Playbook: Planning for an Info-Scarce Era

Ben Magnuson, Director of Data Strategy, addressed the changes to privacy laws and the overall data collection landscape that has already begun to affect all organizations. The growth of mobile smartphones and the dominance of platforms have reshaped the landscape. Email has become the new identifying hub, and cloud storage has gained prominence. Privacy restrictions continue to fluctuate, influenced by actions from the public and private sectors. Allocating resources to long-term activities, prioritizing personalization over optimization, and adjusting measurements are key. Changes in privacy regulations will continue to tighten.

  • Changes in privacy laws will reduce availability and utility of data analytics/insights.
  • To hedge against constantly changing regulations, organizations should focus on tried-and-true measurement frameworks—focusing on measuring and gauging brand strength.


Learn more about the key themes and topics explored during the 2023 Assembly by visiting the official event page below.

Kate Carlson
Marketing Coordinator

As the Marketing Coordinator at One North, Kate is responsible for assisting with the development and execution of digital and in-person events, promotions, sales enablement, and PR & Social campaigns. She ensures the identity of the One North brand is consistent while also constructing new ideas for internal and external promotions.