This week, we attended the Missouri State University Public Affairs Conference to explore how digital technology is influencing us and changing our lives. To stay current on our craft, we keep up on best practices and the latest and greatest in digital media, but what we loved about this conference is that we heard perspectives on how digitalization is transforming the way we live, work and play. There’s no doubt that the 21st century digital world is disrupting things in ways we never could have imagined. Marketing and advertising is all about affecting behaviors so it’s important for us to understand how today’s tech is changing the way people do things, and why.

MSU brought together speakers from all over the country and with different backgrounds covering topics such as ecommerce, education, agriculture, healthcare, social activism, just to name a few. We walked away with three key takeaways that apply to those of us in the world of branding, marketing and small business.


Takeaway #1 – People are still looking for an experience – even if they are buying online.

You hear all the time that people are shopping less in brick and mortar locations and more online. They don’t have time to shop, so they buy using their phone or computer. As our habits become more “digitized,” we still seek ways to physically interact with a brand and maybe as part of that community. Companies need to figure out how to genuinely interact with those that are consuming their product or service. You may be selling doughnuts or dog sitting services, but ultimately people are buying an experience. It all comes back to personal connections, feeding the emotional side of your brand for customers and fostering community.


Takeaway #2 – Information is convenient, maybe too convenient.

Most people don’t get past the third search result before they move on when searching. Couple that with the fact that more and more people are getting into the e-commerce game, and it’s not hard to see that everything we could want is right at our fingertips. Between YouTube tutorials, online reviews, and a never-ending 24-hour news cycle, there’s SO MUCH CONTENT. As one speaker put it, “good content rises to the top.” People are using the internet to connect and to gain information. Give them good stuff and not fluff! Likes and retweets are vanity metrics at best, one speaker explained. Get real engagement and provide info your audience can actually use. 


Takeaway #3 – The fundamentals of marketing/advertising are still the same.

How we buy, live and socialize with our friends is changing so rapidly with an ever-evolving digital landscape. On the business side, when we think about how our customers are interacting with our brands, it feels like a moving digital target. But with all this, the core components of marketing haven’t changed.

  • Understand your target audience and know who they are.
  • Know the competitive landscape! Where does your brand fit?
  • Given all the options out there, why is your target audience buying from you?

Every 18 months, there’s a new direction we are all following when it comes to marketing strategy and tactics. It’s so easy to get caught up in the new stuff or what everyone else is chasing. But remember, the core fundamentals of how to brand and market your business don’t change.