INBOUND14 Keynote Malcolm Gladwell: 3 Takeaways You Should Have for Ad Tech Transformation

Sep 17, 2014   

Posted by Ashley Osgood

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I had the opportunity this week to attend Inbound 2014, a huge Boston marketing software and strategy conference that has grown exponentially in the last few years. Attendees have gathered here to learn the latest ways in which to make a difference in how to speak to, nurture, and delight their customers. As I listened to the keynote by author Malcolm Gladwell, I couldn’t help but attribute his talk on transformation to what the current online adtech ecosystem is going through.

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With the current shift in focus from blanket online advertising to an importance in delivering the right content to the right person at the right time, we’ve already discussed how adtech companies armed with accurate audience segment context can skyrocket conversion rates by delivering relevant content. The transformation the industry is facing was highlighted in Gladwell’s talk today, as he stressed transformation as the recognition of opportunities for how things can be done more efficiently – regardless of the inevitable resistance you may face.

In the online advertising technology space specifically, this transformation is taking place with the new tools that are available today and how they fundamentally change the way ad agencies, publishers, and advertisers do business – so how do you adapt? 

The Right Attitude

After reading many of his books, (Outliers and David and Goliath, to name a few) it’s evident Gladwell loves to illustrate his points with historical examples to learn from. His running example at this specific keynote was about Malcolm McLean, a prominent figure in the freight industry who began by asking his boss at the gas station if he could make the fuel delivery run. 1,700 trucks later and the biggest trucking business in the South, he was astounded one day at a freight drop-off by the time and cost it took to unload cargo at its destination. With the right attitude to solve the problem, he bought a shipping company to figure it out: he built the first detachable shipping container in 1956, reduced the shipping cost from $5 per ton to 15 cents, and significantly decreased the unload process from several days to 8 hours in his first trip.

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What Can We Learn? 3 Lessons for Successful Transformation:

1. The Courage to be Independent. When McLean first approached the problem, everyone thought he was crazy. His disagreeable disposition positioned him as someone who required approval of his peers in order to do something he thought was correct. His capabilities to be massively open, incredibly creative, and ability to follow through on his ideas made him an ideal entrepreneur – several features that are so rare to occur in the same person.

2. Imagination necessary to bring about transformation. To appropriately solve the shipping problem, McLean re-framed the issue to make the solution possible – he erased the existing boundaries to start from scratch. Re-framing is incredibly hard to do because of resistance – people don’t want to change as that means redefine themselves based on what they have done in the past.

For example, the advertising industry is seeing new context and location tools that, when leveraged correctly, can more effectively deliver an advertising message to an individual more likely to be interested in it. These tools are new and scary, but when embraced and utilized they can produce dramatic results. 

3. A Sense of Urgency. Once you have a hold on a vision of the future, it can be hard to wait. With McClean again - because he redefined the issue of “lifting heavy things”, he wasn’t limited to seeking out a crane manufactured by the shipping industry to help load and unload his new shipping container freight. In fact, when he asked fro a 40 ton capacity crane in 90 days and they told him no, he just went to a generic crane company who could meet his needs in the time required.

Gladwell also provided another example, which depicted Steve Jobs visiting the innovative Xerox PARC for the first time in the late 70s, where they were defining the future of computing in the office. They had the first graphic interface and accompanying mouse device on display, but after Steve Jobs saw the setup on a tour, he halted production on the device Apple engineers were already working on. He then shifted focus towards creating a sleeker and more durable model for consumers to get into market immediately.

The Bottom Line

In such a rapidly transformative, innovative technology economy, the embrace of change and recognition for improvement for these companies will set them apart and help them to better stand the test of time. So as an advertiser, if you are faced with the revolutionary opportunity to increase your personal KPIs and those of your customers today, are you ready to say yes? variety_shot-5

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Topics: Advertising