PublicationsConferencesAbout Me

Nick Johnson

Marketing, social media, other
I'm the founder of Incite Marketing and Communications, and Useful Social Media.

I live in New York.
  • February 12, 2014 1:03 am

    January results in: multi-channel ‘most critical’ this month

    If you read this blog, you’ll know that the Incite Summit is based on feedback from marketers.

    Every so often, I check in to see how that feedback is coming along, to see if any particular issue is getting a lot of attention at the moment.

    We had about 100 marketers vote on the various sessions at Incite West this month. They took a look at our agenda, and ranked the topics as ‘critical’, ‘important’ or ‘not important’. 

    Here are the 4 topics most frequently ranked as ‘critical’:

    1. Make the right decision on channels: Hit customers when and where they’re listening
    2. From campaigns to engaging stories: Become a brand storyteller
    3. Build unique customer experience: Move from insight to action and create personalized, engaging experiences
    4. Big data-driven creativity: An oxymoron? Use what you learn to drive better marketing

    We also asked people whether we’d missed anything - whether there were other big issues looming.

    Reassuringly, there doesn’t appear to be anything too major that we’ve missed.

    Somewhat less reassuringly, people evidently aren’t reading our agenda - because they’re requesting stuff we already have covered:

    1. Tracking success and aligning metrics with overall company goals
    2. Relevancy in terms of content and messaging (usually with the addendum ‘by understanding our customer better’)
    3. Selling internally - whether it’s getting the board on board, or pitching to other depts the value of collaboration (sales and customer service namechecked)

  • December 12, 2013 1:04 am

    The agenda for the Incite Summit:West - marketing innovation for brands


    Hi all

    You can now see V2 of the agenda for May’s Incite Summit:West - which we’re holding in San Francisco (if you don’t want to click the link, then the agenda’s embedded below).

    This is based on feedback from over 1,000 marketing execs - via votes on sessions here, completing various surveys we’ve sent to our community, and primary research I’ve done with senior execs (see the results of this in interview form here).

    There’s a common thread running through all of this - the imperative to understand your customer better, and then act on that insight to deliver marketing of value and relevance.

    We’re privileged to be joined in our discussions on this by some of the most senior executives and foremost thinkers in the USA today. You can see a (constantly updated) list of the great people coming to discuss these issues over at the Summit website here.

    More than any other event out there, the Incite Summit is built on collaboration with the marketing community. So please do give us your feedback. Start by voting on the core topics we’re discussing here (if you do, we will knock $500 off the price of a ticket if you’d like to attend)

    I’ll look forward to hearing from you.



  • November 26, 2013 9:01 am

    My interview with Elaine Lawson, VP of US Digital Marketing at Mastercard

    I recently did an interview with Elaine looking at driving brand engagement, right time, right place marketing, and developing deeper customer understanding.

    You can see it on the Incite homepage here.

  • November 25, 2013 8:30 pm
  • November 20, 2013 7:12 pm

    Marketing at General Mills: an interview with Ami Anderson

    Here's an interview I did with Ami Anderson, Director of Marketing Excellence at General Mills.

    In it, we discuss the changing internal organisation required for the modern marketing landscape, the importance of solving customer problems, and how to turn social interactions into usable insights.

    Read more over at Incite.

  • November 15, 2013 6:51 pm

    The big four trends for 2014 - and the big four themes for Incite:West

    The Incite Summits we run are different to most conferences.

    As well as bringing together an unrivaled speaker list, and a very strong set of attendees, we have fundamentally changed how our conferences are built.

    In short, we give you a far more powerful role than any other event. We allow you to vote on the core topics we discuss, to request speakers, and submit specific questions to be asked at the event.

    This way, we’ll not only deliver an event more relevant than any other, but one that is completely up to date. Too many conferences stay exactly the same from launch to the show date. That’s sometimes 3 months. And we all know that three months time in marketing is a long time. Lots can happen. Our model ensures we stay up to date.

    Happily, this system also allows us to take the pulse of the marketing community several times in the lead up to the conference.

    Below is a list of the top issues in marketing right now (suggested through collaboration with our community, and with the attendees of the Incite:East Summit). These have now been ranked by your peers for the last month or so, and we can start to draw conclusions about which are the biggest and most important topics for you in the months ahead:

    1. RELEVANT AND ENGAGING MESSAGING: Create new, targeted and relevant marketing messages more aligned to consumer need/interest (30% of people put this as one of their top 2 priorities)
    2. RELEVANT AND ENGAGING MESSAGING: Real-time insights for quick decision-making and responsive marketing (18%)
    3. EXPLOIT MULTI-CHANNEL: Build a strategy that incorporates many channels and media effectively (14%)
    4. EXPLOIT MULTI-CHANNEL: Keep up with the pace of change - assess value of new marketing platforms and channels (Vine, for instance) as they appear (12%)
    5. CLOSER TO CUSTOMER: Change your internal culture to be more customer-centric (12%)
    6. CLOSER TO CUSTOMER: Evolve your internal organisation and workflows to enable customer-centricity (6%)
    7. MANAGE BIG DATA: Collect the right data across multiple customer touchpoints. Break down silos for better data-sharing cross-functionally (6%)
    8. MANAGE BIG DATA: Synthesise multiple data sources and build up a customer insight strategy for a better picture of the customer (2%)
    Number one focus: Relevant, and engaging messaging
    Not much change on the last 10 years here.. Delivering relevant, engaging messages has been the focus of marketers for years. The popularity of the first option - “creating new, targeted messages” is certainly down to the explosion of marketing technologies enabling marketers to deliver a more precise, relevant message to smaller and smaller niches. Evidently, this is seen as a significant opportunity and challenge.

    Second on the list is “real-time, responsive marketing”. The advent of social has made this a popular choice, but - as a senior VP of marketing said to me recently - “We all wish we could leverage real-time like Oreo’s “You can Still Dunk in the Dark” messages, but you’ve got to be realistic about resources. We’re striving towards it, but we’re not there yet.”

    Multi-channel matters

    Understandably, multi-channel issues are high on the list of priorities, too. 25% of our respondents put multi-channel as one of their top 2 issues for 2014. The major focus is to build up a strategy enabling the use of many channels and media types - but following closely behind is a point about speed. New channels are arriving, it seems, weekly. For the marketer to keep up with new developments, and make sensible assessments as to the viability of these new options, is a considerable challenge.

    Big data and customer-centricity aren’t high priorities

    As you can see, the issues are grouped into four key areas:

    1. Relevant and engaging messaging

    2. Exploiting multi-channel

    3. Getting closer to the customer

    4. Managing big data

    At this early stage, it seems that big data and customer-centricity are both far lower priorities than the first two issues on the list. This seems disappointing - there is a growing consensus that both of these topics are critical for the future of marketing, so there seems to be rather a disconnect between said consensus and the ‘marketers on the ground’.

    Perhaps the minutiae of managing big data is beyond the remit of the marketer? Perhaps consumer insight is, too? It would be great to get your point of view in the comments below.

    I don’t for a minute assume that the findings above are comprehensive, nor that this ranking will remain as we get closer to May 2014. Marketing is changing rapidly, and the marketing executive role is undergoing considerable turbulence. Please do volunteer your thoughts on these issues here, and let us know if any of your key priorities are not represented.

    Your feedback will not only lead to further stats like the above, but the delivery of a tightly-focused, cutting edge Incite:West Summit next May.

  • November 13, 2013 10:07 pm

    A different kind of conference

    I’ve been to a lot of conferences.

    A lot.

    And the thing that frustrates me about them is that a gathering of people from the same industry, with the same problems, learning from people who can help solve them, should be REALLY useful.

    And too often, it isn’t.

    It’s just a series of bland, off-topic presentations, and a mute audience.

    That’s the problem I’m trying to solve with Incite. 

    We do things differently.

    Like the best conferences, we bring together an awesome list of speakers (see who we got to our first show in NYC).

    Like the best conferences, we also bring together a good number of people facing the same problems (in our case, it’s senior marketing/comms execs from big brands.

    But unlike most conferences, what they talk about, and HOW they talk about it, is totally different. 

    Three observations:

    1. Marketing moves very fast. Yet conferences tend to need a 3 month marketing lead time from launch to the event, to drum up enough interest. For that three month period, the agenda is static. And that means it’s out of date by the time the conference rolls around.
    2. Conference organisers can’t control speakers: And that means, despite their best efforts there is always a gamble involved. Is the CMO of Company X going to be a great speaker? Is he going to stick to topic? We deal with this by cutting out powerpoint. Every speaker is there to respond to questions - which means their contribution is far more meaningful than it would otherwise be.
    3. Too often, attendees sit there mute, and don’t influence proceedings enough. First, there’s a lot of wisdom in our crowds. And yet most conferences can’t, or won’t, tap it. Second, there’s a lot of benefits to interactivity - attendees interacting with speakers makes a more valuable conference than simply listening to them. Third, the more feedback you get on a conference agenda, the better it is. So you remember those questions we force our speakers to respond to? They come from the community. Everyone is able to submit questions - either for a particular speaker, or on a particular topic. We then pull them together, allow for votes from everyone on the best questions, and then make sure they get asked. This way, we get a hell of a lot of insightful questions, we guarantee interactivity, and we build the most relevant event there is.

    If you want to get involved with the Incite Summit, please let me know. I’m on Twitter at @gnjohnson, and my email is You can also start voting on the key topics to discuss at our forthcoming West Coast event here, submit speaker suggestions here, and check out the front-running issues to discuss here.


  • October 18, 2013 1:38 pm

    Peacekeeper, Navigator, Student: The Marketer to 2015 - Executive Summary

    My company, Incite MC, has just launched a new white paper on the future of marketing. I wrote it, and I’m pretty proud of it.

    Here’s the executive summary.

    You can download your copy of the full briefing, free, at

  • October 17, 2013 9:52 pm
  • October 16, 2013 7:22 pm

    Ikea’s new campaign asks parents to spend more time with offspring (translate: At home, using Ikea products)

    Ikea’s new campaign asks parents to spend more time with offspring (translate: At home, using Ikea products)

    At first glance, it sounds remarkably selfless. Based on the observation that children want to spend more time with their parents, Ikea willon Oct 21 launch a new campaign, encouraging just that.

    It’s when the company’s UK and Ireland Marketing Manager opens his mouth, however, that he lets the cat out of the bag:

    “We want to show people that Ikea understands how people live at home, what challenges the home has….we believe we have the knowledge and solutions, our range of products are designed to let children and adults be together”