Surrounded by the trains that brought past transportation gains, the Tuesday afternoon conversation at Baltimore Innovation Week turned to the future movement of people and products.
The significance of the B&O Railroad Museum wasn’t lost on Craig George. As the marketing and creative manager for Northeast Maglev, he is on the team that’s working to bring a 314 mph train to connect Baltimore and D.C.
During a panel on the future of logistics and transportation, George recalled that in the days of Tom Thumb, people were aghast that the early steam locomotive could make the trip from Baltimore to Ellicott City at all of 13 mph, wondering how their bodies would be able to tolerate such speeds.
With any big change, “there is a leap of faith that people need to make, that we can do things better,” George said. For Maglev, which is in an environmental impact study phase, that means bringing not just a realization about the technology involved, but also the environmental limitations of building more roads for cars.
It was among the insights from the event, called The Innovation of Speed and Technology, which offered a forum for conversation on changing habits of consumers and voters inside the museum’s roundhouse. Organized by Enradius, the series of three panel discussions and networking was a showpiece for BIW19’s Creative & Media track.
The changes in consumer habits are leading to big shifts in how goods are moved, panelists said during the transportation and logistics session. That means the people selling those goods also must adapt.
Ecommerce has created an environment where consumers have more choice, and more ability to get goods quickly. But there’s still a lot that goes on behind the scenes between the click and delivery. At Whitebox, CEO Marcus Startzel leads a growing Baltimore company that offers a technology platform to help businesses navigate those processes of selling and marketing on ecommerce platforms.
This creates a way for Snacklins, a D.C.-based maker of vegan pork rind chips that founder Sam Kobrosly said started as a joke, to thrive. Whitebox helped navigate selling on Amazon that resulted in its ability to compete with larger companies.
“It helped us compete at a very large scale when we were not at that scale ourselves,” he said.
With change comes new ways of getting an audience’s attention, as well. That’s led to the importance of understanding unique audiences and where to reach them. Mobile devices offer a platform where lots of people spend time. Juliana Buonanno, director of client engagement and operations at the Canton Group, said the software company is working with clients where 60% of users are consistently connected to the internet.
That means their devices form an obvious place to reach them. But just be sure to do it quickly, said Aaron Moore, founder of the Harbor East marketing and branding agency Orange Element. The habits of fast scrolling and constant barrage of messages only stresses the need to stand out.
“You have to do it not just through tone, style, voice and message, but you have to do it very quickly. You have about 10 seconds to capture someones attention,” he said.
In that environment, having a clear idea of who you want to reach and what they’ll respond to is key, said Jennifer White, the managing director of digital fundraising at Maryland Public Television. As MPT seeks to reach younger audiences, White sees a shift not just toward where users are reached (via mobile or email), but the approach that fits the audience: Bringing transparency and showing the value of their participation is key.
“It makes a huge difference if you’re able to capture their attention while you’re providing value,” she said.
Morrell Park-based Pixilated helps companies offer branded photobooth activations that are fun for users, but cofounder Patrick Rife said a follow-up via email is just as important when it comes to engaging the audience. Since a person has already shown interest in taking a picture with the photobooth, it creates an avenue to keep the communication open with an email in the future. Along with starting the conversation in a new way, Rife said it’s important to be upfront about how they got the email.
“Start the relationship honestly and then be very diligent to follow up and be sure that it feels like a real back and forth, as opposed to just shouting to people,” he said.
In the political realm, a panel that closed out the day focused around the forthcoming campaign called attention to how political fundraising and campaigning has also become data driven. Yet there remains a bit of science and a bit of art to the process.
Jennifer Mellinger, who helps campaigns implement fundraising campaigns with The Mellinger Group, said there are new ways to get access to lists of donors. But the data alone won’t drive someone to give.
“You still need to know how to use the data and interpret the data to know how to act on it,” she said.
While campaigns have become more expensive to run, it’s the small-dollar donations that are a driving force for candidates across the ballot.
“Technology made that accessible to every campaign,” said Colm O’Comartun, founding partner of 50 State and former executive director of the Democratic Governors Association.
Yet television still remains a key medium in this realm. While digital tools are increasingly key for fundraising and polling, O’Comartun said television is still a reliable and measurable way to reach people.
“Video premium content and safe reliable content is one of the key things that every political campaign is watching for,” said Mark Failla, who’s director of political advertising at D2 Media Sales, a joint venture created by DISH Network and DIRECTV.
More populations turning away from broadcast television, SRCPmedia Media Director Betsy Vonderheid sees streaming platforms as being increasingly important in the next election.
When it comes to testing digital tools, it’s the local elections that are more likely to try to something new as they seek lower-cost means of reaching people, panelists concluded — so even as the presidential race gets a lot of airtime, the obscure state senate race could be the proving ground for what’s used in the future.