MIMA Summit 2016: The Human Element

From the co-founder of Square to Minnesota’s own brilliant minds, at MIMA Summit 2016 digital marketing success looked anything but one dimensional. 

My brother Matt was a pioneer. “Pick a number from one to Dionne Warwick,” he’d say. To him, this was more than just a non sequitur. In his mind, information was clearly conveyed on a scale from basic integers to the multi-platinum-record-selling, Solid Gold-hostingface of the Psychic Friends Network Dionne Warwick. Twenty years later, the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (MIMA) proved how ahead of his time Matt was. From the co-founder of Square to Minnesota’s own brilliant minds, at the MIMA Summit 2016, digital marketing success looked anything but one-dimensional. 


It was a little scary—I’d give it a Miley Cyrus?

The breakfast and lunch keynotes foretold the death of radio, newspapers and many of our own jobs in the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI). In the near future, we’ll sit in autonomous vehicles—that know our faces from our government IDs, our streaming habits from our home wi-fi, and our entire purchase histories—plugging away on our devices free of the need to drive or even turn the dial. We’ll streamline everything by conversing with bots built by people and their implicit biases, further forming the echo chamber of our narrow world view. 


But it was really hopeful too, more like an Amy Grant?

Square’s Jim McKelvey knows better. He believes we can be wise with our capabilities. We know how to apply technology and when not to. Personalized experiences, as the summit’s data panel explored, move from endearing to creepy very quickly. Successful programs, he said, make customers feel cared for—rather than targeted—through deep analytics and gut insights.


Actually, I found it inspirational, closer to a Patty LaBelle.

Upworthy’s Sara Critchfield uses the Warwick scale by another name: The data experts call it guts, she calls it “emotional data.” We can think of it as a high order modifier that cascades through the analytical data you use to measure success. Testing what changes in emotion or attitude can holistically tell you something about your data, it can help you make the choices that people are telling you they want.


Meanwhile, speaker Nora McInerny Purmort simply says “do it for the right reasons.” She never intended to go viral. Now a successful blogger, author, philanthropist and podcaster, she operates straight from the heart, connecting with individuals who never thought there was a place to tell their own stories.


We claim to be innovative, but what’s new about innovation? It’s an occupational hazard. To be sincere in innovating, as said by McKelvey, we solve problems rather than look for opportunities. We’re naturally drawn to the negative, so is it not easier to find problems than opportunities?  


OK, maybe MIMA was just full-on Beyoncé.

For all the opportunity represented by AI, it is problematic. Machine learning trains in real time and requires people in order to do so. People can be horrible, and so they were when Microsoft’s Tay.ai chatbot debuted ahead of the company’s Build conference. In less than twenty-four hours, a troll army converted Tay’s positivity into racist rhetoric


All is not lost. Futurist Amy Webb reminded us that technology, even artificially intelligent technology, is an augmentation. Like inventing the wheel to travel faster than walking, AI can improve us. What if Tay.ai had a lesson in ethics to teach? It’s possible and it’s continually evolving. For example, IBM Watson’s Debater refutes and fact checks in real time. It’s debating technology that keeps us honest. 



I’ll tell you a secret: You actually can’t rate anything from one to Dionne Warwick, and it’s not because the scale is fake. It’s because my brother Matt just yells “wrong!” no matter what you pick. It’s a fascinating game of perspective. Like the challenge of digital marketing in 2016, being wrong shouldn’t stop you—it’s about trying to understand what’s right when you think like people.