Rhode Island. The last of the 13 colonies, the smallest state in the United States, home of the first water-powered cotton mill, start of the Industrial Revolution was hit by a wave the other week. A wave of marketers that is; and, retailers, entrepreneurs, graphic designers, writers, e-commerce professionals, and, of course, vendors too. If you are in the field and have never attended the direct xchange NEMOA conference before, it’s time to consider jumping on board. The environment, empowering by nature, is a place for others in your field or related fields to get together and share ideas and inspire each other to keep on in an ever changing complex era of multichannel media. I’ll skip the part about how we ate Nueske’s delicious apple smoked bacon for breakfast (even though I’m still thinking about it) and dive right in to the real meat of the conference.

Our first speaker was Giovanni Feroce from the fast growing Alex and Ani and who led the company from 4.5 to $80 million dollars in just two years (wow). Feroce advocates for a consumer-retailer relationship as being the key to a marketer’s success. Something he said that is pertinent to all of us in retail marketing is that, one must both know himself and his customer. If he knows only himself, then he will lose. If he knows only the consumer and not himself, he will lose. If he knows neither, he will lose. If he knows both, he’ll win. He spoke about Social Listening and the importance of listening to your customer and then turning what you hear into a science. Each customer has a story. Everyone has a story and everyone likes stories. To ignore those stories is to turn your back on your consumer. To ignore your own story, would be to ignore all that your brand stands for. It takes both to make a business and just one to break it. It sounds nice, but how does one achieve this? Feroce would say to achieve this one must give their product meaning.


Our next speaker was from New Pig. Andy James was definitely one of the most innovative speakers of the conference. He warns us to be careful not to get wiped out by traditional marketing techniques. To think about what is being delivered to consumers, why, and how. He speaks about the gritty and glossy of your brand. The gritty, he explained is the core product, while the glossy is the presentation of that product. The glossy always appears “big and important” to us. But marketers must not lose sight of the gritty details. The product, the measurements of your ROI, the satisfaction surveys, the methods of distribution are all the gritty. Without that, the glossy we spend so much time and money on would serve no purpose; like cutting steak with a dull knife. Unfortunately, many retailers will waste oodles of money on the glossy while ignoring the gritty. James reminds us to pay attention to our execution, to be aware of our brands and deliveries of those brands to our consumers.


Have you double checked to make sure your QR codes are practical? Scott Stratton, Social Media Expert, thinks that retailers and catalogers in particular are not doing their due diligence making sure that QR codes make sense to their consumers. Stratton believes that retailers are using QR codes not to make the life of their customers easier, but rather to show their customers that they are “tech” savvy. In reality, QR codes, which obviously have not been thought through are just making us look ridiculous to consumers. For example, have you used a QR code in an e-mail campaign where a link would suffice? It is much easier to click on a link than it is to pull out your cell phone, find your barcode app, scan it, and wait for your destination. Not to mention it is not very computer friendly if it resolves to a traditional desktop website (always use a mobile optimized site). He tells us that the real power of branding happens in real time, not in a “scan here go there” time. That is why social media, such as Twitter and Facebook are so powerful. That can also be what makes our mail order catalogs so powerful too if you think about it.


Stratton believes our attention should be shifted from QR codes to using social media outlets. Reaching beyond that “first,” “second” and even “third” circle of people. Social media is the fastest way to deliver an idea or a brand message. This we call going viral. Think about it, if I see a plane crash on my drive home from work, what’s the fastest way to educate people? I bet if I uploaded a photo of the plane from my phone on to Facebook and Twitter and said “share this with all your friends,” the message would spread faster than a news crew could get there. As retailers, catalogers, and marketers we cannot forget the power of social media to make or break a business. Now imagine someone making fun of your QR code via social media. You’ll wish you had thought about it first! Stratton’s outlook on social media ties back great to Feroce’s earlier speech about developing a relationship and getting to know your consumer. What better way to do this than to search for things pertaining to your business via social media?


There were many other great speakers at the Fall NEMOA conference. Breakout sessions that encompassed everything from social, customer insight, e-mail strategies, to SEO and revenue attribution followed by more lunches, dinners, and plenty of time to get to know people in the field, share ideas, and talk about everything that we learned. The conference closed with a speech from Chief Marketing and Sales Officer, Executive Vice President of the U.S. Postal Service Nagisa Manabe about their five year action plan. This was followed up by a luncheon session given by sixteen year old entrepreneur and social media coach Lane Sutton. This brings learning from our youth to a whole new level. Sutton spoke about Social Darwinism and the importance of keeping up with social media trends. Social Darwinism is when the evolution of technology moves faster than our ability to keep up with the trends. As much as the Spring conference was all about mobile and tablet trends, this session was more about social media and social trends. I can’t wait to see what next spring will bring.