Fashion Forward 2013 - Event Recap Part 1: Big Data

The third annual Fashion Forward conference theme was once again one of the must-attend events of the year for fashion brand teams. Organized around a theme of "global," this year's self-ascribed anti-conference was thought-provoking, social and comfortably luxurious in the Crosby Hotel event space. 

 I loved this slide conveying how (and why!) we leverage different social media platforms

I loved this slide conveying how (and why!) we leverage different social media platforms

After breakfast and a gracious introduction to the Big Data segment by the lovely and brilliant founder of Fashion Forward and Fashion's Collective, Elizabeth Canon, the conference started off with Dr. Bob Deutsch. Dr. Bob is the only speaker who has been invited to return for every consecutive FF conference, and for good reason. A Renaissance man with expertise in the diverse fields of anthropology, neuroscience, geopolitics and business, Dr. Bob is full of interesting insights about human behavior. Challenging us to think about our individual motivations as well as how our customers are motivated, Dr. Bob's talk focused on storytelling and an investigation of the concept of "brand." Here are some choice soundbytes I found particularly compelling, I've paraphrased a bit, not all direct quotes!

  • Create communications that show your audience that you understand them; it's not about them getting them to understand you
  • "Look at our great stuff" isn't a story... a story has to have plot and character(s)
  • The mind is a machine that makes stories, incessantly
  • Brand is not a marketing tool, it's more than a persuasion, it's longing on a mass scale, the engine of history, a primal mechanism of mind
  • Brand occurs when my story of myself gets metaphorically merged with my story/perception of you (that's the golden connection we all seek with our audience!)
  • The design of attachment is like an equation that encompasses these elements: FAMILIARITY (it's like me) - relief; PARTICIPATION & TRUST - it likes me, understands me; POWER - it's more than me, it can make me more, sense of self-expansion. You (your brand) as a venue can help an individual feel more of herself/himself.
  • People who are brand loyalists don't talk in prose, they speak in poetry (because they are inspired!)
  • Big data must comprehend the beautiful curvaceous nature of human cognition
  • A luxury experience allows me to have an expanded sense of myself and the world (also the definition of art)
  • "Any great song has a beautiful emptiness." That emptiness gives the listener space to insert themselves in the narrative. (quote from Dr. Bob's interview with Paul Simon)
  • When results conflict with your beliefs, that means an opening/opportunity, not obstacles (in the context of Big Data)

Clearly I took a lot of notes during this lecture, I love Dr. Bob's straightforward, no-nonsense way of presenting us straightforward information that turns on that imaginary lightbulb floating above your head. I'm not much of a non-fiction reader but he teased us with so many excerpts from his new book, including wisdom from The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, I may have to download it!

 Dr. Omer Artun explaining an infographic on behavioral clusters

Dr. Omer Artun explaining an infographic on behavioral clusters

Next up under the topic of The Story of Big Data was Dr. Omer Artun, CEO of Agilone, a company focused on predictive technology solutions for e-commerce. Omer's presentation had a lot of spreadsheets and numbers, but he still managed to keep up interest on this extremely relevant topic. Some of my takeaways included:

  • Comprehensive analysis of e-commerce requires attention to behaviors, not just transactions
  • The main factors/behaviors to focus on are: propensity to engage, unsubscribe, convert, buy, churn; predictive lifetime value, size of wallet
  • Intelligence Application instead of Artificial Intelligence (the former is bigger than what humans or machines can do separately)
  • Certain customer profiles are attached to a group of brands while they reject other groups of brands = Brand Clusters

The final speaker in the Big Data section was Guarav Shirole, whose company Analytics Media Group, worked on both Obama campaigns. It was fascinating to hear how they took a new approach to analyzing voter behaviors, reaching out to potential supporters based on more than just demographics or psychographics. I guess in a world where Siri can tell you where the closest ATM is I shouldn't be surprised that companies can drill down to the smallest relevant detail of your lifestyle to create interest. My main takeaway was "let the data drive the passion," meaning you have to look at data in a different way - it's the means to an end, not just a result. I also love the term "surrogate celebrities" which means people like Michelle Obama or Jay-Z or Bill Clinton who can make public appearances in place of the President because an audience can relate them in the same way.

With so many insights to report on, I'll be recapping other segments of the day separately. I'd like to end this post with my favorite quote of the entire day by Dr. Bob (this one is a direct quote, btw!), "The future has an ancient heart, we have to capture and train it." Poetry, not prose!