Ignition Conference 2015, Day 2: Brand Leaders Discuss Social, Mobile, Digital


Business Insider Ignition

At Day 2 of Business Insider’s Ignition—Future of Digital Conference, Carolyn Everson, VP Global Marketing Solutions, Facebook, reminded us that the social network is almost 12 years old. Instagram, which was acquired by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion, is almost six years old, with 400 million users. Between 2012 and 2013, Instagram had grown 23 percent while Facebook grew just 3 percent.

“They are very different,” said Everson. “Instagram and Facebook are the two most important mobile platforms in the world. Instagram began as brand-oriented but now meets a variety of business objectives. Both cover a broad range of case-use but people-based marketing makes the difference, using Facebook data to better tailor the product.”

Asked about VR and Oculus, “We’re focused on the consumer product. It’s transformational and will change the home, travel, entertainment and education. But it’s too early to think about marketing, as Oculus is in early days.”

Facebook’s WhatsApp has 900 million users and messaging is de rigueur for younger people who rarely open emails. About CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Everson said, “He’s one of the most important business leaders of our generation. He constantly wants to improve, never settling and has a humble work ethic. Add the birth of Max and the $45 billion and you have a humanitarian who’s not even 32 yet.”

Everson’s bottom line: “Never be complacent. Companies that failed in the past failed over time.”

Bonin Bough, Chief Media & eCommerce Officer, Mondelez International, took the stage, saying, “You can’t buy mass reach for big brands anymore. Brands are not publishers and they are lying if they say they are.”

He referenced the enormous success of mobile games Candy Crush and Angry Birds, asking, “Why don’t I own that? We’re a 103-year-old company with assets, people, knowledge and ability to drive mass distribution.”

Bough looks for models in the marketplace he can replicate, “like BuzzFeed films, a scalable model, or Red Bull, that put five years and $20 million into its space capsule documentary they can now sell in small pieces.”

Bough predicted, “By 2020 e-commerce will equal 50 percent of our growth. Leaders of tomorrow must figure out how to digitize themselves. We can create dragons. E-commerce is the lightning rod that will fundamentally change business.”

He cited Mondelez’s recent Colorfilled Oreos initiative that took the world’s bestselling cookie (more than $2 billion in global annual sales) and tapped into the trend of adult coloring books. The company invited US fans to customize the packaging of Oreo cookies online or on mobile, adding color, graphics and recipients’ names.

Bough calls this #fearlessmarketing, still resonating for the company whose 2013 Super Bowl message—“You can still dunk in the dark”—raised the bar for real-time marketing.

Jeff Immelt, Chairman & CEO GE, admitted it’s taken 14-15 years to remake GE. “In 2001, we were a classic conglomerate with a focus in high tech and a management-based infrastructure.”

Now, Immelt added, “We’re the pre-eminent industrial company worldwide—a good place for GE to be. But if you want to last, you have to pivot and transition.” Immelt referenced $300 billion worth of GE exits in one year.

Transparency and accountability with investors are critical, he noted. “We make really difficult things. Like jet engines. We are really good at it. We invest in R&D for products with long-term returns. I admire CEOs who can walk and chew gum.”

While the consumer/social internet has exploded, industrial productivity is way down. “There’s not enough production from assets,” he said. “Capturing data from machines. The average velocity of a freight train making long-distance runs between cities in the US now ranges between 20 and 25 MPH. They crawl because of congestion on tracks and in trainyards, breakdowns and the frequent slowdown and drag for other passing trains—not from inherent lack of capacity to go much faster.

GE’s tools aggregate data on velocity, traffic and location and the Norfolk Southern said a 1 mph increase for them could be worth $200 million. GE’s goal is to boost speeds by up to 4 MPH and its products are available to others as an open, cloud-based, industrial strength operating system.

“It’s the CIO today who is the driver of production-connected customer satisfaction,” said Immelt, noting operational technology will “dwarf” information technology. “We’re a vertical company that wants to go horizontal.”