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4 October 2018

SuperNova: the 5 most important take-aways for marketers

Last week, THoMers got immersed in the latest technology at the SuperNova festival in Antwerp. Let’s call it the Tomorrowland for professionals, entrepreneurs, creatives, researchers, innovators and investors looking to connect, get inspired and empowered by technology and innovation. For whom tomorrow is unstoppable! SuperNova really was a one-of-a-kind immersive experience where visionary solutions, technologies and cross-industry insights came together. 
5 major take-aways from SuperNova 2018, especially for marketers
At The House of Marketing, we always want to be at the forefront of marketing thinking. So, for the THoMers, SuperNova was the place to be! Were you unable to attend but are eager to hear what we learned? Well, let’s take you through our 5 most important take-aways.  

1. Keep your eye on what's cheap and simple

According to Tim Harford, British economist and journalist at the BBC, the biggest mistake we make when it comes to technology is that we typically focus on the next big thing. Our imaginations tend to leap toward technologies that are sophisticated beyond comprehension. We therefore frequently overlook the simple technologies that actually make the difference.

When we try to imagine the future, the past offers great lessons: The most influential new technologies are often humble and cheap. Think of the invention of letterpress printing, for example. The Gutenberg press is universally considered to be one of humanity’s defining inventions. However, letterpress printing would never have been economically successful without the invention of paper. Paper was essential for printing. Without paper, there would have never been mass-produced printing.

So, this is what Tim Harford calls the toilet paper principle:  Once technology is so cheap you can wipe your butt with it (!) then technology is ready to conquer the world. Solar panels are another great example. So, make it as easy and simple as possible and you will change the world. Sounds easy, right? ;-)

This same thinking was shared by Shazam’s cofounder, Philip Inghelbrecht: Pursue the complex problems with simple solutions. Difficult problems ask for simple solutions. This, we believe, is true for both business in general and for marketing in particular. And according to the legendary Seth Godin, less is more: because if “more” adds up, you get overload and clutter, which results in average products for average people.

2. New technologies never come alone

New inventions do not appear in isolation. Instead, as we struggle to use them to their best advantage, they profoundly reshape the societies around us. Indeed, according to Tim Harford, technology needs to change the system that surrounds it. A simple rule of thumb illustrates this:

“Technology + no reorganization = no profit

Technology + reorganization = profit”

Technology requires change! As also confirmed by Seth Godin, revolutions destroy the possible before they create the impossible. Electricity triumphed only when factories themselves were reconfigured. Whatever the technologies of the future turn out to be, they are likely to demand that we change to accommodate them. Genuinely revolutionary inventions live up to their name: They almost change everything. This is not only true for our society and economic systems, but also for companies. A change mentality and reorganization are key to every company or marketeer embracing innovation or digital transformation.

3. Think bigger

The key question you have to ask yourself constantly is: “Am I thinking big enough?” Shazam’s cofounder, Philip Inghelbrecht, even pushes this concept so far you have to start acting this way! Once you do that, building your idea will come easier. Whoever you are – an artist, a scientist, an engineer or even a marketer  always aspire to the impossible.

According to IMEC’s CEO, Luc Van den Hove, you even have to question everything. An easy way to do so is to look at things from unusual perspectives. Think of companies that dared to take a different view, such as how Uber did with mobility, or Airbnb with travel. Disruption is everywhere today, in each and every sector. The only certainty we have today is uncertainty!

4. Act as an artist, not a painter

Closely linked to the previous insight, Nina Tandon  CEO and co-founder of Epibone  stated that scientists should act more as artists. This is because scientists look FOR things while artists look AT things. The role of the artist is to ask questions and not to answer them. For that reason, scientists should incorporate that questioning reflex in their mindset.

Same applies for marketers, believes Seth Godin: Your job is to make art. Be an artist not a painter! A painter does what his teacher told him to do. He follows the instructions and makes a copy. An artist searches for tension and change. An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity and boldness to challenge the status quo. Marketers should do the same: their work is about standing out, never about standing in.

Seth Godin at SuperNova18
Hence Seth Godin’s purple cow. A purple cow, as opposed to a white cow, is remarkable, literally worth making a remark about it. A purple cow is creative. It’s unfathomable. It’s truly one-of-a-kind. This same principle must be applied to business. Are you taking the lead to make your business or product remarkable? If not, what’s stopping you? The world needs more purple cows!

5. Collaborate or disappear

Listening to one speaker after another during the conference and walking from one booth to another at the fair made us realize how lines between physical, digital and biological spheres are blurring and how all disciplines are interlinked and will become even more so in the future. We believe this African proverb has never been so true as today: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

If you want to stay future-proof and have more impact as a marketer or as an organization, you will have to collaborate in a smart way with other disciplines (scientists, engineers and even artists) or other organizations (in data or technology for example). The future is now, so you are better off working together!

THoMers at SuperNova18
So, marketeers, are you looking to delight your customers in this disruptive eraThink big but look for simple solutions to hard problems, act as an artist and search for tension to deliver the remarkable. Stay future-proof by adopting that change mentality and join forces across industry!