IMPACT14: 3 Takeaways From The Conference You Shouldn’t Have Missed

Chairman Sinan Kanatsiz , my 3rd year at the Internet Marketing Association’s IMPACT conference

Written by David May, Director of Web and Interactive Marketing at Chapman University:

Congratulations to Chairman Sinan Kanatsiz and team on a tremendous event. I’m proud to say that this was my 3rd year at the Internet Marketing Association’s IMPACT conference, and no matter how fantastic previous years areit gets better every time. So what were my takeaways this year? It’s easier if I narrow it down to my top 3:

1. Marketing is (still) Storytelling

If you have been following my work with the “Project Greenlight Rejects,” you may have seen my bio video, and in part of that I say “Marketing is Storytelling.” What you may not have seen is the Easter egg that credits some of my staff at Chapman University for reminding me that “David May, Storyteller” and “David May, Marketer” don’t have to be different people.

The notion of leveraging story for Marketing gain was a focus for IMPACT14. Stories tend to be more memorable, and more relatable to people than data. If you are working in real estate, and you can provide data on your transactions, that’s interesting at best. Story has the ability to connect with your audience at a human level, and some of the best stories (even in marketing) tug on our heartstrings.

Jorge Gonzalez at Regal Realty once told me the story of clients that he was trying to place into their dream home. They looked at property after property and nothing seemed quite right. It was their last stop of the day, and Jorge opened the door and the three of them walked in. They all felt it, and Jorge simply turned to his clients and said “welcome home.” Needless to say, that’s the home they put an offer on, purchased, and began their family in.  This story illustrates Jorge’s ability to understand his clients, his patience to find the right property, and the joy he also feels when he connects a buyer to the right home.

My presentation was about a system that the Web Team at Chapman as created that allows any Chapman Family member to submit their story to our blog network. These stories are then scored by the algorithm and can even be promoted to the University’s homepage.

IMPACT14 breakout session: Empowering  Your Community: An Audience Generated Approach to Content Marketing


This approach democratizes the way that Chapman’s internet marketing happens. Students, Alumni, Facutly, and Staff are all permitted to share the stories that are most meaningful to them, and then our department can step in and boost those stories to our marketing audiences.

2. Create Delightful Experiences Across Every Aspect Of Your Customer’s Experience

“Companies were in control up until 2000, but now the customer is in the driver’s seat. If you embrace that, you will thrive.  If not, then by 2020 you will not survive.”
– Jamie Nordstrom

Before, marketers could strategically place print ads, radio spots, and other advertising in spots where the right messages would reach the right audience.  There’s still some room for that, but the digital landscape has elevated the voice of the consumer to the same level as an expensive ad. Today, the customers are in charge.  Jeff Jarvis foretold this in 2009 in his book “What Would Google Do?

This takeaway is hiding in plain sight, and when you boil this down, it’s a “palm to forehead” moment. If customers are in charge, then they’d better have good things to say. What does that mean for your spending allocations? Are you going to spend $10,000 on that print ad, or are you going to spend $7,000 on customer service and $3,000 on sharing the delightful experience that you created digitally? In fact, some might argue that if you spend all $10,000 on the customer’s experience, you don’t have to spend any money to reap the good benefits of your work, because you’ve created a loyal brand ambassador.


Frank Holland of Microsoft gave a fantastic example of this. Microsoft became aware of this image of scissors breaking before opening a package to an XBOX accessory, and described how this experience (from a marketing perspective) should never happen.

For those who build digital experiences for people, what implications does this have? For example, you’ve GOT to have a website that is enjoyable to use, and your other digital experiences have to be delightful as well.

3. Digital Is Forcing Organizational Structures to Change

…and those who don’t change will slowly decay.

John Bollen, SVP & SDO, MGM Resorts International and a number of the attendees of the CMO lunch commented on changing organizational structures, and growing complications in the relationships between marketers and information systems officers. As digital grows in the lives of our clients and customers, it also has to grow in our organizations. This means more financial allocation, and more human resources.

In August of 2014, Lilian Tomovich joined MGM as the company’s first “Chief Experience Officer (CXO).  Tomovich will lead the development of strategies that will exceed customer expectations across all moments of contact, and create enduring memories for our guests and for which MGM Resorts and M life are known and regarded.

In addition to the rise of the CXO, we are continuing to see growth for the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) whose job is to help a company drive growth by converting traditional “analog” businesses to digital ones, and oversees operations in the rapidly changing digital sectors like mobile applications, social media and related applications, virtual goods, as well as “wild” web-based information management and marketing.  Gartner predicts that 25% of businesses will have created and filled the CDO position by 2015.

As you can imagine, as more is migrated from an analog to a digital space, the more critical (and complicated) the relationship becomes between marketing officers and information systems officers.

In addition to the ‘head honcho’ type jobs, we are also likely to see an increase in digital marketing spending, and more jobs created in SEO/SEM and social media marketing. I believe that CEO’s who have knowledge and understanding of digital platforms (like Mike Brown of will continue to have an advantage over the competition, therefore success for years to come.

To Recap:

The Internet Marketing Association continues to raise the bar, and “Internet Marketing Re-imagined” was the perfect slogan for this year’s event. Congratulations to Chairman Sinan Kanatsiz and everyone who worked so hard to put on such a delightful experience.

If you didn’t attend the conference, don’t miss it next year.  Keep an eye on IMA’s website for more information.

For more information on the IMPACT14 conference, please see PR Newswire’s press release.

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