5 essential lessons we learned at Marketing United 2018

Now that Marketing United 2018 has officially wrapped, it’s safe to say our fourth year was a huge hit. In fact, here’s just some of the feedback we’ve received so far from attendees…


  Tweets about Marketing United

This year, brands like CNN, Google, and The Onion joined industry experts like Kindra Hall and Jay Acunzo to help marketers find breakthrough ideas to tackle their toughest challenges. While I can’t possibly cover it all in a single blog post, here are five of most impactful takeaways from our best Marketing United conference yet.

1. Storytelling is a marketer’s most powerful tool.  

Kindra Hall at Marketing United 2018

Kindra Hall delivering "The Irresistible Power of Strategic Storytelling."

During her opening keynote, Kindra Hall taught us all about the power of strategic storytelling. Stories have been scientifically proven to enhance brand recognition and compel action, yet so many marketers fail to truly capitalize on it. According to Kindra, that’s because they fail to understand what storytelling is and what it isn’t. And in many cases, she finds that while brands will allude to a story, they don’t actually tell it.

To illustrate her point, she shared two videos. In the first, a company founder told a story about losing both of her parents, but she glossed over the details. In the second video, the founder told her full story, explaining how losing her parents helped shape her vision for her company and product. The difference was incredible, and it was an excellent illustration of the emotional impact we can make if we get our stories right.

“Storytelling, when used strategically, is the most influential, effective and engaging form of communication.” – @kindramhall #MarketingUnited twitter-logo

“Good stories must ring of authenticity. They reveal deeper truths. And the best ones do it in ways that aren’t immediately obvious.” - @siebergd @google #MarketingUnited twitter-logo


2. “Best practices” have their limitations.

Jay Acunzo at Marketing United 2018

Jay Acunzo shares, "Why Best Practices, Conventional Thinking, and Trendy Tactics Hold Us Back from Doing Our Best Work." 

As marketers, we’ve all fallen victim to the “best practice” mindset. In today’s information age, we can instantly find countless guides telling us what we need to be doing. Simply uncover the most credible best practice, and your results will soar...right?

Maybe not. In Jay Acunzo’s keynote, he shattered this common assumption by introducing the idea of context. While best practices are a great place to start, they lead to average results—and no one aims to be average. Instead, marketers must use the details of their own context to discover the kind of insights that lead to remarkable outcomes. For instance, Jay shared the stories of Death Wish Coffee, a business that was built by defying industry norms, and Merriam Webster’s social team, a group of marketers that made a name for themselves by changing the way “boring” industries thought about social media. The common thread? To become exceptional, best practices simply won’t cut it. You have to discover for yourself what can differentiate your brand from the crowd.

“Make adjustments based on trends in your own data, not just what’s in the news or blips on the radar.” – @sietsema #MarketingUnited twitter-logo

“What is your aspirational anchor? What is your unfair advantage to get there?” – @jayacunzo #MarketingUnited twitter-logo

3. Every marketer has constraints. Embrace them.

Amy Landino at Marketing United 2018

Amy Landino shares, "How to Create Video That Gets Attention." 

As marketers, we’re all working with limited resources, whether that’s time, budget, or manpower. But while it’s easy to see those limitations as what’s holding you back from doing your best work, this year’s Marketing United speakers argued that those types of constraints can be incredibly freeing.

For instance, Jay Acunzo argued that constraints help enable the creative process since many people find themselves stuck when they’re given no parameters to work from. Amy Landino, who spoke about video marketing, argued that given the sophistication of everyday technology like smartphones, the barrier to entry is lower than ever before. Nathan Elson of CDF Capital offered a case study on how his own team learned to both embrace limitations and exploit them. The major takeaway here? Never use your limited resources as an excuse not to get started or try something new.

“If we embrace our constraints, we can scale our work based on results, not trends.” – @jayacunzo #MarketingUnited twitter-logo

“Don’t lean on the things that make you look professional. Lean on the things that make you relatable.” – @schmittastic #MarketingUnited twitter-logo

“To be realistic about what marketing can and cannot do helps you embrace limitations and overcome them.” – @nathanrelson #MarketingUnited twitter-logo


4. Own your brand and do things differently.

Paul Beck at Marketing United 2018

Paul Beck of Storybooth delivers, "The Art and Science of Storytelling: From Emotion to AI."

Another one of the biggest themes we heard throughout the conference is something else we’ve all been guilty of from time to time: Copying our competitors rather than finding creative ways to differentiate ourselves.

To make an impact, you must determine what makes your brand different from all others. While it’s easy to want to emulate and improve upon what others are already doing well, the only way to capture attention and loyalty in a crowded marketplace is to be yourself.  

“Creative copycatting crushes conversion.” – @ayat #MarketingUnited twitter-logo

“I’m into people marketing, not brand marketing. Tell original stories people actually want to engage with.” – @cherfuller @eroi #MarketingUnited twitter-logo


5. Don’t let fear hold you back.

Mel Robbins at Marketing United 2018

Mel Robbins shares "The 5-Second Rule: Achieving Breakthrough Performance in Your Career and Life." 

During her powerful keynote presentation, Mel Robbins inspired us all to take control of our reactions and have the courage to make better decisions. Rather than letting fear paralyze us, she suggested another method... "The 5-Second Rule."

Here’s what that means: If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must do so within 5 seconds, or your brain will talk you out of the idea. So in those pivotal moments—whether it’s in your career or personal life–you must show the world and yourself that you’re serious by taking action (however insignificant that action may seem) RIGHT NOW. After all, it only takes a single step to begin moving forward.

“There will literally always be an excuse not to do what you want.” – @melrobbins #MarketingUnited twitter-logo

“Change happens 5 seconds at a time.” – @melrobbins #MarketingUnited twitter-logo

“People don’t follow vision, they follow availability. Make yourself available and open yourself up to people, even if you don’t want to.” – @bobgoff #MarketingUnited twitter-logo

Thanks so much to all who attended!

We’ve been blown away by the caliber of speakers, sponsors, and attendees we’ve been able to gather at Marketing United these past four years, and we can’t thank you all enough for making this year’s event possible. Marketing United has become a rallying point for marketers who share our view that great marketing starts with being genuinely helpful to your customers, and it’s a natural extension of our belief here at Emma that we do our best work when we do it together.

If you’d like to chat with our team about implementing these takeaways using the Emma platform or scheduling a consultation with our Professional Services team, just get in touch!


About the Author

McKenzie Gregory is a senior content manager on Emma’s marketing team. A Nashville native, she can be found covering all things email on the Emma blog, debating hyphenation rules, and watching obscene amounts of Netflix without a trace of shame.

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