Redback spiders, paper planes, purple ice cream and the “customer journey”

By September 3, 2015 No Comments

What’s new in the world of marketing? Christine Heard went along to the 2015 ‘Inspiration in the Nation’ conference, run by Marketo, to find out.  

Let’s start with the purple ice cream. It was served as a lunchtime dessert at the Inspiration in the Nation conference and you should have seen the queue! OK, with 800 people in a room there’s going to be a queue for just about everything but still, the enthusiasm for the lilac-coated dairy delight was something that had to be seen to be believed.

What was it about purple ice cream that excited the marketing people so? Was it seen as progressive, funky, outside-the-square? Does the colour – unbeknownst to me – symbolize the digital future we’re all swimming in? Or was it about taking me, the customer on this particular day, on a sugar-filled, brain-freezing journey?

Purple ice cream

Purple ice cream


I have some experience in Marketing, having worked as a publicist (sorry, official title: Communications Specialist) for four years in a national media organisation. I am somewhat used to the crazy blue sky thinking, infectious optimism and love of the next-big-thing that pervades this industry. It was a wild ride, those four years, and one that my naturally-sceptical journalist’s heart at times found hard to embrace. So on this occasion I made a conscious decision to embrace all that this one-day conference, held at The Westin Hotel in central Sydney, had to offer.

First up was free registration. OK, I’m in. Next was bucket loads of food – breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and, for those who wanted it, purple cocktails during happy hour (I’m not kidding). Lying on my chair (once I found one – the place was packed) was a weird contraption that I eventually realised was a selfie-stick, one for each attendee. I haven’t attempted to make it work yet (I am definitely not an early-adopter) but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time until I see a use for it.

In the venue’s foyer a pop-up photography studio was encouraging us more flamboyant types to pose for a photo with various props (we didn’t need any encouraging).

Photo booth

The writer

Inside the venue a tree of lights was a marvel to look at, until I realised I was supposed to be posing for a nearby video camera in front of the tree and starring in my own short film rather than enjoying the scenery.

Sponsors lining the walls of the auditorium were offering all kinds of freebies – jars of lollies, expertly mixed, to suit your exact target audience, branded notebooks, paper planes, even plush redback spiders, courtesy of a certain webinar company, that screamed when you squeezed them.

plush spider, lollypop, selfie stick



There were moments I wanted to scream too – like if I heard the term “customer journey” or “customer experience” one more time from a guest speaker.   But that’s the cynic in me. Because when you think about it, aspiring to give your customer an enjoyable experience is admirable, honorable and to be applauded. So how does one do it?

The theme of the conference was marketing in the digital age so there was a great deal of emphasis on ‘big data’ and the “Internet of Things’ which promises to reveal so much about our clients’ likes, dislikes, habits, movements, lifestyles, purchases and aspirations that marketers won’t be able to keep up. Unless, that is, they invest in people who are able to take that big data and translate it in useable ways.

Once it’s translated and ready to be used as a marketing tool for individual customers, make sure what you’re offering follows these golden rules:

  1. It simplifies your customer’s life.
  2. It’s available anytime, anywhere and on any device.
  3. It’s relevant to them as an individual, but not creepily so (like all those IVF ads that keep popping up on my Facebook account just because I’ve turned 40).
  4. It’s responsive and interactive. (One speaker suggested gamifying any forms you ask clients to fill out on your website – make it fun, he said. I like that idea.)

Above all, listen to what your customers are telling you. How do they want to engage with you? What sort of journey do they want to be taken on? Over what timeframe? On what platform? For what outcome?

Sure, there’s likely to be some hits and misses over the next 3 – 5 years as the world’s marketers experiment with their new ‘big data’ toy.   Like, discovering when is the most appropriate time to interrupt a potential customer with an offer you think is too good for them to refuse? Luckily there’s been some data recorded on that subject too. Apparently, 24% of those aged 25 and under are happy to be interrupted while they’re on the toilet. And 11% see no problem with interruptions during sex.

Welcome to the digital age.

Christine Heard is a former journalist and publicist, now a media trainer at Heard Communication and a strategic communication coach with the Gaia Coaching Group. She can be contacted at [email protected] but preferably not when she’s on the toilet.