Cannes 2016: New tech is not enough

Samsung Canada's CMO Mark Childs on why just placing cool tech at the centre of a campaign doesn't make it innovative.

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This year, Samsung Electronics was named Creative Marketer of the Year at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Here, its CMO for Canada breaks down one of the projects that helped it earn that title, plus why shiny new tech alone isn’t the key to great work.

By Mark Childs

If you work in the technology industry, you’re in the business of change.

At its core, technology is about making it easier to connect to those around you. It’s about recognizing the world as it is, and then developing new products and solutions that can make a difference in our lives. It’s about evolution and revolution all at once.

As marketers, especially in the technology world, it’s easy to fall in love with the next big thing, the bright shiny object. We all too often place the big and the new at the centre of the campaign.

But when it comes to effective marketing in the technology industry, the most creative companies are the ones who have learned the best stories are never about the technology itself, but rather about what the technology enables. For Samsung, we believe this humanizes technology.

Innovative marketers in the technology industry are those who can learn to focus on the people, the life benefits and what the brand is achieving, rather than focusing solely on the feeds and speeds of the product. Take for example our recent campaign surrounding the Look at Me Project.

For the Look at Me Project, Samsung put its technology and software resources to good use to develop a unique interactive camera application for use with our tablets. Understanding that for people with autism, making eye contact with those around them can be difficult, we developed an app that helps children with autism improve their ability to make eye contact and interpret facial expressions through an engaging, interactive and fun experience.

Since the launch of the Samsung Look at Me Project in 2015, we’ve received hundreds of impactful stories about how the Look at Me solution is helping children living with autism.  And our most recent “#WhoEyeAm” campaign showcased a boy named Niam who was able to build transferable skills to better connect with the world around him and reach his full potential through the technology.

All too often, we are too quick to focus on the technology, and we forget about the humanizing aspects of these innovations. The best campaigns are always the ones that are built on the power of a true insight and authenticity in execution. Effective marketing is at its best when brands speak in their own voice to create new experiences that are designed to delight and inspire their consumers.

Similarly, the “Made By You” campaign from Converse used 360-degree video and virtual reality to fully immerse their users in the lives of four uniquely different fans of the brand, essentially enabling users to “Step into the Chucks” of these creative individuals.

The VR experience went far beyond the simple product demonstration, using the technology to tell a far deeper, richer and more immersive story. Optimized for Google Cardboard and utilizing a stereophonic audio engine, everyday surroundings of artists, musicians, and journalists were brought to life with viewers immersed in the of the centre of the action, to experience how these dynamic individuals rip up their own Converse shoes.

If there’s anyone who understands the complexities of transportation, it’s Uber. The ride sharing company is redefining the landscape globally, and knows implicitly the need the brand serves. Uber also knows that drinking and driving continues to be a real issue locally, and as a result, the company created the “Uber Safe” initiative and solution.

For the campaign, Uber custom-built a series of wireless kiosks that contained breathalyzers hooked up to Android tablets that could measure a user’s alcohol level, and if they blew over the legal limit, the kiosk would automatically hail an Uber driver. The idea, and equally importantly the post-event storytelling, generated unparalleled positive reaction and brand experience to overcome many barriers.

For the Look At Me Project,  the Converse and Uber campaigns, the technology itself – tablets, shoes, ride sharing apps – wasn’t the showcase, but rather, these brands focused on the storytelling first and the application of the technologies second. It was about showing the kind of human experiences these technologies enabled, and telling those stories.

But in each of these cases, technology was at the centre of how the story was told. Whether it’s virtual reality, 360 video, or seamless connectivity, the mechanisms exist to offer remarkably rich and immersive experiences that build brands and create meaningful audience connection.

Good stories take time to create. To germinate. To be enjoyed. The technology world is home to tremendous stories of human triumph that deserve to be told, and we owe it to our audiences to tell them effectively.

Mark Bio Pic June_2016 (1)Mark Childs is CMO of Samsung Canada.