We recently had the pleasure of attending Europe’s biggest start-up event, Web Summit 2016 in Lisbon, Portugal. It was an incredible experience charged with some of the most inspiring and innovative people and companies on the planet. We brought back five key takeaways for communicators that we hope catalyze new ways of thinking about how brands will activate within emerging technologies.
Doing Business with Start-ups:
Entrepreneurship is only growing in Europe, so are the very unique challenges start-ups face when it comes to PR – primarily – lots of great ideas but few resources to execute. But with the start-up scene thriving, more and more unicorns will emerge from European markets. Countries and big international brands are fighting it out for the best start-ups, and are offering increasingly attractive packages in accelerators and hubs. Many of these new companies are focused squarely on product development and need professional support when it comes to communications, from market launch to their first crisis. As a communicator, if you invest the time to reach out to the right selection of start-ups, and offer support to entrepreneurs as they build out their visions, you can ride this high-potential wave to a lasting relationship with the next online juggernaut.
The Disruption of Media:
Media is the most disrupted branch of businesses hit by digitization. Therefore, many panels and key-notes at the Summit dealt head-on with the challenges media is facing, and how media markets will develop under the growing influence of Google and Facebook. Justin Smith, CEO of Bloomberg Media, said that only a handful companies will be able to compete with these internet giants. Although he did add that, aside from the obvious massive telecommunications and online companies vying for control, he sees space for niche media products and regional content to survive and flourish as normal-sized media companies.
Not only the landscape itself, but media usage has changed dramatically. Every 18-year old on the planet with access has never known life without an internet-connected mobile device. Content must be adapted to meet the needs of current and future mobile-first generations to ensure relevance. Mobile will continue to provide the biggest opportunities for early adapters, and be one of the biggest challenges for those asleep at the wheel, particularly when it comes to marketing, PR and content production.
The Future of Influencer Marketing:
The rise of social influencers is simply unstoppable. With easier publishing methods and an innumerable number of digital channels, it has never been easier to share your voice. More and more celebrities are being born on the internet. And by speaking directly with consumers on a personal level, these influencers are offering more credible, authentic and effective channels than many traditional marketing approaches can’t match. YouTube star Jake Paul believes that, in a not-so-distant future, 50 percent of all celebrities’ origin will come from online media and that there is an enormous opportunity for marketers and entrepreneurs to build up, manage and produce content for fellow influencers. Within this paradigm, he calls Dr. Dre as his biggest role model.
Virtual Reality is (Finally) Here To Stay:
Infotainment, customer service, marketing or gaming – it really doesn’t matter, VR is ready for the mass market. It seemed as if everybody at Web Summit was working on their own VR application. We saw massive brand activations with VR as the medium and met a huge amount of VR start-ups trying to offer solutions for every industry imaginable. Two of our personal favorites were the Italian company Solidcolor, and the Spanish start-up Virtual 360 fit.
If development continues at this pace, and all major gaming companies continue to prepare and launch their own VR headsets, prices will continue to drop and VR will be positioned as the most influential technology of the early-21st Century.
Professional Gaming on the Rise:
Nobody asks what e-sports is anymore, and that is perhaps the most telling of all online trends. Through the rise of let’s play video content and platforms like Twitch and YouTube red, gaming has reached the next phase in its evolution. Nearly every gaming and related media panel stressed the importance of this market. E-sports is closing the gap when compared to mainstream sports, and we will soon see franchise teams emerge like in the NFL and NBA. Through the easy accessibility of online gaming platforms the whole world will eventually take notice, and companies should act now if they want to play a pioneering role in this emerging sector.