Planning For Next Summer’s Mobile Conferences: What’s Your Jam?
With a slew of summer conferences to choose from, columnist Craig Weinberg details some hot venues in the mobile space to help marketers plan for 2016.
In a few months, if you’re like me, you’ll be planning your 2016 budget, and that’ll include deciding which conferences to attend. At 3Q Digital (my employer), we’ve just concluded our tour of mobile conferences for the summer, and I’ve got a little breakdown for you, music-festival style, that should help you plan out your calendar with the events best suited for your marketing team.
Strike up the band(s)…
Postback (Burning Man)
Postback is TUNE’s annual mobile conference, and it doubles as a Seattle takeover party. (Seattle in the summer = reason enough to be festive.) It more than doubled in size from 2014 to about 900 attendees, and I’d expect many more in 2016.
Where/when: Seattle, July
The crowd is younger: very millennial, with a few 30-, 40- and 50-somethings, most of them cool(ish). It’s basically a who’s-who of bright, young, dynamic talent that grew up in the mobile age and has been “practicing” for the mobile marketing gig since they were kids.
Most of the crowd consists of mobile practitioners, and although there is a smattering of vendors, they fit right in with the focus and pace of the event.
The focus is generally on performance marketing, with a collaborative, get-stuff-done pace. You might well have overheard (or had) a conversation like, “Great partying last night. Hit me back with your API, we’ll ingest it and then start a campaign after lunch.”
The content of the conference was extremely strong, focused on performance and newer, better mobile ad optimizations. And even Apple sent a delegation of eight people to the event, which means they are really paying attention to the mobile performance space.
The goodies were notable: EDM dance parties at the Experience Music Project, afternoon party-boat cruises, and a killer keynote from journalist and speaker Malcolm Gladwell, whose talk pointed out that with all this data, all of these tools, humans are no better, really, at decision-making than we are when using our rationale, reasoning, experience and intuition (so data people shouldn’t take themselves too seriously).
Gladwell also said that although Facebook and apps seems nearly fully fledged, the revolution has just begun.
Mobile Marketing Association CEO/CMO Summit (Lollapalooza)
As you might expect from an event catering to CEOs and CMOs who have the coin to drop on a few days in wine country, the MMA summit is slower-paced, higher-level and caters much more to big money from established companies who want to go shallower and wider to keep up with the mobile landscape.
Where/when: Sonoma, July
The crowd is older, more moneyed, and the vibe harkened back to the old big-brand/big-agency days. In a word: corporate. There were a bunch of vendors, networks and providers, some brand folks, some agency folks and some tech companies, but most attendees were more high-level, not day-to-day practitioners.
The focus was less on performance and more on the big picture — not just of mobile, but of the industry as a whole. It was more well-rounded than Postback, but it didn’t dive nearly as deeply into the techniques and innovations driving mobile forward.
The goodies were pretty obvious: the location was swanky and exclusive, the wine was flowing, and the setup was very family-friendly. The networking, though not as action-oriented as Postback’s, was also top-notch.
Casual Connect (Bonnaroo)
Casual Connect is focused on video gaming, with mobile marketing a huge subtopic.
Where/when: San Francisco, July
The crowd had a lot of familiar speakers and vendors from other conferences (including past Casual Connects), but there were a lot of new faces this time around. The audience skews young, towards game developers and marketers at the experienced account manager level — very few suits were on hand.
The ideal participant would be an owner or developer of a small indie mobile gaming company. In general, it was a mix of game developers, game publishers, analytics companies, mobile networks, ad management platforms and a few agencies.
The focus is on some of the cutting-edge high-level strategies: for instance, identifying and solving problems that mobile gaming faces. A few of the better marketing-oriented panels included user acquisition and monetization, creating a holistic app strategy on a limited budget, the future of mobile tracking and attribution, and publishing a game in APAC.
The goodies are fairly basic: San Francisco in summer (in case you need a respite from the heat), a really enthusiastic vibe, and the promise of a good keynote (this year’s was from former Disney chief Michael Eisner). The event’s big draw is much more the content than the peripherals.
Bonus: MobileBeat (Encore!)
VentureBeat’s signature mobile conference, MobileBeat, has an illustrative history with Facebook that’s bearing out a more even distribution of the mobile ecosystem.
Where/when: San Francisco, July
The crowd is made up of the tone-setters in the mobile marketing space — people who are shaping performance-based marketing on a daily basis by testing and experimenting with new methods and tools for measuring effectiveness. The ideal participant would be a marketing manager for a growing app or service that’s either expanding their mobile presence or wants to take their mobile activity to the next level.
While game developers were not a big part of the mix, we saw some new brands that recently changed their focus to mobile; we also encountered interesting technologies for supporting an influencer community, out-of-the-box creative platforms, and a range of relevant vendors supporting mobile growth.
The focus was on telling a coherent story across the entire mobile marketing world. That includes the VentureBeat ethos of diving head-first into the exploration of new and significant trends. The one thing that stood out this time was the need to break the silo between user acquisition and user retention. We heard more CMOs talking about retention and engagement tools (such as email marketing, push notifications and app re-engagement) as part of their overall growth strategy.
The goodies are pretty much the chills you get from seeing your industry blossom. CMOs who are coming from the new digital world are getting into traditional brands and changing them from the inside. The new generation mobile CMOs are teaching their companies how to deal with the new reality where brands have to work harder to make themselves relevant to an increasingly fickle and sophisticated user base — mainly, every one of us glued to our devices.
Of course, there are a ton of mobile conferences popping up all over, but these are some of the most significant domestic ones. Here’s hoping you can find the one that hits the right note.