5 Questions with Obele Brown-West, Executive Vice President, Client Experience Digital & Innovation Lead at Weber-Shandwick



How can marketers use social to drive sales? Our SMWNYC speaker profile series continues with digital agency veteran Obele Brown-West.

Smartphones and social platforms have dramatically altered the way we shop and have brought forth the notion of “social commerce,” that is, when social media content is used to move consumers down the purchase funnel. And while social media was traditionally viewed as an awareness play, marketers today are identifying opportunities to link social to direct sales.

At SMWNYC, Obele Brown-West, Executive Vice President, Client Experience Digital & Innovation Lead at Weber-Shandwick, will discuss social commerce through the lens of the trends and case studies that marketers can look to for actionable inspiration.

We recently interviewed Brown-West ahead of her talk to learn about some of the insights she’ll be sharing in April.

SMW: Your SMWNYC talk will focus on the evolving role of social when it comes to driving sales. What’s the biggest lesson or takeaway you plan to share?

OBW: The biggest takeaway is that social can drive sales. Since the birth of social media, most marketers have looked at social media’s content role as purely an awareness and an engagement vehicle within the marketing mix. However, with technological advances and careful planning, social media content now has a place in the conversation stages of a consumer journey. I also plan to laugh a lot during my talk. That said, I hope a smaller takeaway is that presentations/education can be entertaining!

SMW: What is the biggest trend or development in marketing that will shake things up for brands in 2018?

OBW: A very big trend will involve the use of measurement. With all of the technological advances, we are living in a time when the impact of all marketing levers can now be measured. Proactive marketers are investing in tools and partnerships to ensure they will be able to show measurable impact.

Additionally, these marketers are also using these learning opportunities to help redefine what their marketing mix looks like. The first step in preparation is to know that there should no longer be an excuse to measuring ROI impact.

SMW: As platforms and publishers build out in-house content capabilities of their own, what is the role of agencies in the future of digital marketing?

OBW: JWT opened in 1864. Leo Burnett opened in the 1930s. Agencies are not going anywhere, but they will evolve, just as JWT and Leo Burnett have in their 100 years of existence.

Based on the new threats from consultancies, I think it is safe to say most agencies today are evolving to incorporate some of the efficiency and strategic consultation positives of the consultancy model, without losing the foundational creative problem solving that has made them historically successful. In my opinion, this foundational creative problem solving—along with the scale of agency resources, tools and connects—is an area where agencies will always have runaway to partner with in-house content teams.

SMW: The notion of brand purpose continues to mature when it comes to how brands prove authenticity in digital. What’s your advice for brands that want to “do good” in a genuine way?

OBW: One very important best practice is not to force brand purpose. I think we all can point to recent examples of brands (and I include people as brands. especially when it comes to digital footprint) trying to “do good” in ways that were inauthentic to their established persona and it backfired. As with all things in a brand’s marketing mix, there should be a filter for how this “good” fits into the brand’s voice and story. If it fits comfortably, great! If doesn’t, run away.

SMW: What are some of the apps you can’t live without and why?

OBW: Thank you for allowing me to pick more than one! My most-used apps are a little cliché: Outlook email and Calendar. I honestly can’t live without these two. I also love music, so Spotify and Tidal are also high on my list, and, admittedly, I panic when they do not work properly.

For my less cliché picks, I recently have developed a weird addiction to HQ Trivia and the Hamilton apps. Annoyingly, I’ve only made it to question 11 once on HQ and can’t seem to get past question eight now. Hamilton is a favorite because I am convinced I will win one of their lotteries someday.

Don’t miss your chance to explore the latest trends in social commerce at SMWNYC (April 24-27) at the Sheraton Times Square. Grab your pass today.

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