As part of the run-up to PSFK CONFERENCE 2013 in New York this April, PSFK will be publishing a series of short interviews with speakers to give a taste of what will be discussed in this meeting of creative minds. Kat Egan is a long-time digital strategist who has been on the forefront of the digital space and has experienced first hand the changes that have taken place. She will be speaking on a panel at this year’s event and shared some of her thoughts regarding the future of marketing strategy in a changing, more technologically-orientated, landscape.
You have been an entrepreneur and strategist in the digital and creative industry for more than 15 years. How has it changed to be a woman in the industry?
It’s an important question and the fact that I’m being asked it shows that there are still changes to be made, even though there have been some powerful shifts, such as the recent PBS documentary “Makers: Women Who Make America.” The show was a stark reminder that until the late 60′s, women were groomed to be housewives and secretaries, not senior company executives. Men in this country have been advancing in the workforce for hundreds of years while women are only just starting to catch up.
The explosion of technology and social networking, which has occurred of the past 15 years, has allowed women to connect with one another and make real change. When I started my first business in 2000, it was very lonely, being one of the only women in the digital design business. That’s not the case for today’s young women entrepreneurs who can seek and find inspiration from each other much more readily with all the tools available today. This new generation of women have been raised in an era of innovation and infinite possibilities and are already changing the world.
Can you pinpoint some major trends you see taking place in the field of strategic marketing?
First off, I’m excited that many companies now recognize the need for strategic marketing. It’s not possible any longer to simply pretend that you are staying abreast of the constant changes in consumer needs and technology and it’s crucial to understand that a strategy across all media is needed before embarking on any campaign. Over the past few years, major trends that I’ve seen have included expansion of visual content, evident through the success of Instagram, geo-location for actual consumer utility, like Foursquare’s app update that put search front-and-center, and use of connective interface design, as seen in Tesla.
I have also noticed a recent trend in which brands open their APIs to allow for true innovation. By that, I mean that companies are allowing consumers, technology partners and fans to explore and innovate their products through continued use. When the iPhone was first released, it was just a phone and a pretty awful camera, but now it has become a highly personalized utility with apps and other services because Apple made their API available from the get-go. Other technology companies such as Netflix, Twitter, Google and Instagram have followed suit.
I’d like to see brands partnering with technology companies to create more personal services. We still have some way to go but the current trajectory is definitely encouraging.
How can companies use technology to develop stronger relationships with their consumers?
I fantasize about companies focusing less on broad-reaching traditional ad campaigns–including those of the digital variety–for particular product launches and more on specific technology to support smaller micro-communities. A simple example of this is ‘Insight Timer,’ an app I use to meditate. The users of the app have created several breakout groups where members post thoughtful conversation threads offering encouragement and insights to fellow meditators. This allows members across the world to connect to each other which forges a deeper connection to the service.
What if brands followed this example? There are tremendous amounts of data available on what, when and where people are eating, drinking, exercising, dating, traveling and buying, but few companies have taken advantage of it to create personal connections and real life brand utility. Do we need a new type of strategist to analyze these patterns and find links to how the brand can service the needs of their users? Perhaps companies should collaborate more with anthropologists, inventors, data analysts and scientists and less with traditional agencies to break through to potential consumers in a more meaningful manner.