Tuesday is my least favourite day of the week. It’s far from the memories of the weekend gone and detached from any notion of a weekend ahead. Tuesday evening, however, is another beast entirely. Our most recent Tuesday evening informs this article as we hosted our first Comotion Meet Up at the Glassblower in Piccadilly, with speeches by Andy Wilkins and Graham Ruddick. The first ever in what will be a series of gatherings, engagements and great fun, the Meet Ups form the backbone of this writer’s efforts in creating a Community. I capitalise this term not because I have forgotten the penmanship disciplined in me by Irish Catholic Priests, but because it is something very real and important. Something that we are trying to create but which ultimately doesn’t belong to us. More on this later.
From 6pm a trickle of guests turned to a steady stream and over the laughter, shaking of hands and clinking of drinks, this organiser was feeling pretty good about himself. Many industries and companies were present. Teams and their leaders merrily meeting new faces and exchanging cards. At 7pm, my colleague Nish Kotak commanded the room to attention and welcomed our first speaker Andy Wilkins.
For those of you that don’t know, Andy is a regular speaker on the international conference circuit where he has presented on a range of topics including re-inventing healthcare in a digital age, the centrality of understanding customer needs to drive strategy, and innovation and the centrality of customer experience in building sustainable brand relationships. All while having his own consultancy in BE Advisory. Andy talked about his vision for the future of a personalised and digital public health service. This was a rich exploration of some of the acute challenges facing the NHS, our changing need for the service and the opportunities present and being created by enormous data collection drives and such achievements as IoT.
Precisely because his topic is individually specific to each of us as the NHS is a service that we are all in one way or another customers of, Andy received questions about the commercial implications of his vision and how the market will react to an already large but now invigorated player. What, for instance, would the likes of Coca Cola and Nestle do if the government commits to backing an NHS that is no longer just about patching you up but increasingly preventive in nature? Would their sales fall or would they be forced to adapt to healthier, or at least more nutritious, alternatives? Andy believes that this is a unique opportunity for collaboration for business and the public to make society healthier and attack the underlying causes of our malaise.
The interim period between both speeches would normally be a reprieve for our attendees and chance to fall back on important discussion such as corporate strategy, Brexit and whether bitcoin will again achieve Christmas heights. Instead, I overheard personal stories of loss, acute experiences of our most precious institution and views of how it can develop in the future. This topic had hit home for many and it was an absolute privilege being in the presence of such erudition.
After this short burst of networking and discussion, Graham Ruddick took the stage. Graham is the Head of Brand at Comotion and an architect and key contributor to our thinking around the Community. Graham was recently the Co-Founder and CEO at Digital Doughnut, a global community of digital marketing professionals. He has been active in this space for over 20 years and it’s safe to say he has more than a few opinions. Graham took the opportunity to talk about customer-led thinking and its impact on marketing. His rendition of the drivers of change, underpinned by technological and sociological developments, led to an improbably simple but effective prescription for marketers seeking to become customer led: your work must truly be about – and not just paying lip service to – listening, understanding and acting. In this, it must never be forgotten that trust and the need for a meaningful value exchange aren’t just buzzwords but the very raison d’etre of a sophisticated organisation and relationship. What’s needed is a revaluation of KPIs and other internal business metrics, and a need to redefine the relationship between marketing and the other functions of the business. Graham speaks to the end of the “Big Idea” in agency think: the end of highbrow, detached thinking in broad parameters. It’s about fulfilling specific needs and creating individual outcomes.
Such a broadly applicable topic generated much interest. One question probed the idea of changing metrics in a digital age and what to look for when moving from being product-led to being customer-led. Metrics of engagement, Graham contended, are more important than metrics of volume which only offers a snapshot of the customer experience and does not capture broader attitudes towards the service.
Both speeches were highly informative, incredibly engaging and kicked off our endeavour spectacularly. After the speech, the attendees returned to networking and stuck around to at least 10pm (when this writer bowed out). As alluded to earlier, the reason we do these events is to provide a structured and consistent forum to ferment discussion, broad networking and a sense of Community. We very much believe that Community thinking is important and a fertile ground for new relationships to form and develop. A big part of this will be monthly engagements as we saw this week, a platform for content (if you want to write for the Community, then email me on Emiljan.firstname.lastname@example.org) and an associated forum, and increasing outreach and innovation as the community grows.
A big thank you to Messer’s Ruddick and Wilkins and everyone who attended. Our Community is so much richer with you all. As someone very much at the start of his career, the experience has so far been incredible and turning into what can only be described as a formative journey. Bravo, Comotion. Bravo, Community.