After a stimulating start to the conference, BRITE 2019 continued with a series of fascinating presentations that demonstrated the power of simplicity, reimagined the future of banking, and debunked some major myths around artificial intelligence and machine learning. These are the three biggest takeaways from the second session:
1. Simplicity pays off.
Session two was kicked off by Margaret Molloy, Global Chief Marketing Officer and Head of Business Development at Siegel+Gale, a branding entity that helps companies discover the importance of simplicity. For years, the company has been working on a study on the world’s simplest brands, in which they rank 800 brands based on the simplicity of the brand experience. From their research, they discovered that simplicity really pays off in terms of superior stock performance. In fact, 55 percent of users who found that a brand was simple were willing to pay more for it, and 64 percent were more likely to recommend it to others. Essentially, by not making their products simple enough, companies are conceivably leaving $98 billion dollars on the table. If you’re interested in learning more about the study, you can visit simplicityindex.com.
Simplicity, Molloy argued, is not about dumbing things down, it’s about the idea of clarity meeting the sense of surprise. Specifically, she defined the dimensions of simplicity as being ease of understanding, transparency, communication, an understanding of the customer’s needs, innovation, and freshness, as well as usefulness, utility, and reducing frictions.
So what are the world’s simplest brands? Siegel+Gale’s study ranked the top ten: 1) Lyft, 2) Spotify, 3) Amazon, 4), Costco—even though it’s just a big warehouse store, it’s mastered the element of surprise, 5) Subway, 6) Google, 7) McDonald’s, 8), KFC, 9) Southwest, 10) Zappos. Netflix was ranked #14. Apple was ranked #69—users apparently like it a lot, but non-users don’t have a very favorable view of the brand. FedEx was ranked #72—when people’s Amazon’s packages don’t show up, they blame FedEx, not the favorably ranked Amazon. And many of the brands that ranked particularly poorly were media brands like Fox and Facebook.
The takeaway from this session: There’s a really significant opportunity for brands to develop a simpler customer experience. Molloy recommended to first go through your portfolio to see how you can make it simpler. As a second step, look at how to optimize the customer journey and reduce frictions. And step three is to consider having simplicity-oriented workshops across your organization—because often the customer experience isn’t delivered by just one function.
2. Banking is going through an existential crisis.
Alexander Sion is the Director and Co-Head of D10X and the Co-Founder of the fintech startup Moven. He’s now running Citi’s venture group. In his talk, “Changes Driven By A Fintech Future,” Sion argued that the banking industry is in dire need of transformation right now. And this is mainly because a lot of people view it as old fashioned. For hundreds of years, it’s been largely unchanged—he showed people lining up at tellers in the 1900s, in the 1950s, and today. Over the past decade, we’ve seen some significant changes, namely the introduction of the iPhone, the advent of social networks, and the Great Recession. These technological disruptions, said Sion, are changing the way customers are behaving, which have ultimately created an existential crisis in banking.
This inflection point in the industry presents opportunities for those that can get ahead of it. But, as Sion discovered, it takes a lot more than just creating a mobile banking app. Instead, he had to rethink the job that a bank does today. And what Sion found was that the biggest concern people have is a lack of forward momentum. This feeling permeates across three levels: people (incomes are flat, costs of living are rising), business (the rate of new business formation has slowed, and we’re not seeing the rate of entrepreneurship we saw even a few years ago), and cities (in 2014, two-thirds of American metro areas saw more businesses closing than opening).
So the solution to the existential crisis in banking today is to determine how to drive economic vitality in our digital age. In an effort to help solve this challenge, Moven partnered with TD Bank to create an app connected to a debit card that was centered around a simple idea: At the moment of truth—like paying for a cup of coffee—it would give you a little behavioral nudge to ask whether this transaction was consistent with your goals. After getting this into the hands of two million Canadians, the power users ended up spending 8 percent less per month than the control group that wasn’t using the app. This was a prime example of how to rethink banking as helping customers save and invest—with the end goal of becoming more financially fit.
3. Machine learning is not vibranium.
Wrapping up session two, Catherine Williams, the Chief Data Scientist at Xandr, presented a talk titled, “Myths and Realities of Data and Machine Learning in Marketing,” which was centered around this idea that there’s a lot of misunderstanding around big data right now.
Williams began her myth-debunking by explaining that people think about artificial intelligence and machine learning as if it’s vibranium from the movie Black Panther—as if it’s an all-purpose source of power that will solve all of our problems. Machine learning is not vibranium. Many people mistakenly believe that creating a strategy for using machine learning is a one-and-done issue. It’s not. Williams harkened back to a time when aluminum was first invented and was supposed to be this magical solution to everything. But today, you don’t think: What is my aluminum strategy? You think: What is my business strategy and how might aluminum fit in?
Williams argues that your machine learning strategy has to connect at seven different touchpoints: 1) Determining the bid price for these real-time bidding applications where advertisers bid on keywords, 2) Figuring out your monetization algorithms, 3) Creating marketplace efficiencies (so maybe an advertiser only pays if they get the outcome they want), 4) Making sure that these marketplaces are safe and that data doesn’t get into the wrong hands, 5) Figuring out how to manage identity, 6) Connecting consumers across screens in a way that isn’t creepy, and 7) Thinking about the attributes and awareness that customers need to have.
The next myth that Williams debunked is that machine learning is best left to experts. But really, you need to be connected to the business. Machine learning today is like electricity was to businesses in the 20th century. It’s going to transform every industry. There are two power trifectas she recommends companies use: The first one is data science connected to the product connected to the engineers that need to make that happen. And the second set of connections is machine learning connected to business needs connected to execution.
The final myth is that machines will replace human interactions in marketing. Williams argues that they simply can’t. There will always be room for the human perspective. We will always need empathy and we will always need to bring the human perspective to novel storytelling.
I thought that was a very inspiring way to end the second session.
Check out my final thoughts from BRITE 2019 here.