Key takeaways from Hitwise: Summer Summit 2019

The Hitwise Summer Summit is one of the biggest summer events in the marketing calendar. From Gen Z to veganism, this summer the Hitwise event took a deeper dive into how marketers can utilise the ever-changing world of digital marketing.

Here’s a summary of the key takeaways discussed at the event.

Don’t snooze on Gen Z

Tom Johnson, Managing Director of Trajectory, took us through everything Gen Z. Analysing the up and coming generation and how 20-somethings are shaping the marketing world as we know it. Gen Z’s have become aware of their influential power and are continuing to drive new and diverse consumption behaviours. Tom guided us through how we can utilise their fresh mindsets in order to sell, sell, sell. Focusing on the polarisation of brand opinions, Tom gave his advice on how brands should approach controversial topics such as toxic masculinity and all things Brexit.

Key takeaway: Gen Z is an extremely autonomous generation not to be underestimated and it’s time for brands to recognise the power they have, and move in time with generational changes. 

Consumer versus marketer

Global Head of Insights at Hitwise, Lisa Luu, took a magnifying glass to the world of digital. Discussing the transformation of the digital marketing world, Lisa took us through the differences between direct and indirect buyers and how to map out and communicate effectively.  A recent study from Hitwise revealed that quality is more important than quantity in terms of content, covering how today’s consumers naturally gravitate toward authenticity. In a world of consumer versus marketer, it’s time to de-bunk the preconceived theories and promote the truth, in order to exceed.

Key takeaway: Lisa iterated that without understanding the complexity of our consumers, it’s challenging to succeed in projected business goals. 

The value of experience

Richard Lim, CEO of Retail Economics, discussed how the behaviour of brands can shape them in the eye of the consumer. With online spending having quadrupled over the last decade, Richard highlighted the immense value of experience over materialistic ‘stuff’. With technology and AI being driven forward into the future, it comes as no surprise that retail store sales continue to fall. Richard underlined the significance of entirely understanding consumer wants and needs in order to be able to successfully cater to these.

Key takeaway: Richard focused on the advances of technology and how new inventions will replace manual labour i.e warehouse jobs, but also highlighted how this can go very wrong, very quickly. Just search Ocado warehouse online. 

Hitwise Summer Summit 2019

Panel Discussion 1: Taking Sides

Brexit, Primark and Planet Earth. The first panel discussion of the day asked: What does branding mean in today’s polarised world? Hitwise’s Senior Product Manager, Emma Moorman, raised the question as to whether it is a good thing for brands to take sides in global discussions. Using Planet Earth as an example, we learned how consumer relationships can be either heightened or squashed on the subject of raising awareness surrounding crucial environmental issues. The panel discussion boiled down to the conclusion of the importance of understanding the logistics of the consumer mind.

Key takeaway: The panel emphasised that risk continues to be a huge factor when testing new ideas, explaining that brands will never be able to fully predict how their consumers will react to their choices, therefore leaving room to mitigate this should be a crucial part of strategies. 

Percy Pig and the post-vegan movement

Hayley Ward, Head of Insight at Marks and Spencer, explored the recent vegan phenomenon, highlighting that it’s impossible to ignore the extreme rise in demand for vegan, vegetarian and ‘flexitarian’ food. Whilst their new vegan range, Plant Kitchen, has seen incremental success, their recent move to make Percy Pigs unanimously vegetarian faced backlash across national publications (including Piers Morgan). Hayley pointed out that brands may not always come out on top when taking bold moves, proving how important it is for brands to be conscious about the approach they take to driving sales.

Key takeaway: Hayley advised that while veganism is moving more mainstream, brands and retailers need to be careful how they address this. They need to ensure they’re offering the best solutions which will cater to a wider audience. 

Panel Discussion 2: David and Goliath

Featuring Croud’s Director of Planning and Insight, Kevin Joyner, the second panel of the day discussed the tipping point for the likes of Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google, more commonly known as the FANGs. The panellists yoyo-ed between the benefits and drawbacks of having such big media players within the industry, exploring how consumers are more conscious than ever of trusting brands with data. With the Facebook scandal in 2018, this comes as no surprise. Regarding testing new ideas in marketing, ‘Goliath’ companies have very little to lose and potentially a lot to gain when proposing these ideas. However, using Walmart’s attempt to go online as an example, the panel highlighted that these companies don’t always win. Brands, therefore, need to consider adjusting short-term strategies in accordance with changes in consumer behaviour.

Kevin Joyner highlighted that whilst it’s unclear whether consumer behaviours are changing, public discourse is shifting, and this will ultimately have an effect on businesses. He stresses that authentication is where the big players will be competing over the course of the next few years and iterates that to deal with the challenges of FANGs, brands need to be one step ahead. Looking into the future, Kevin suggests machine learning, AI and speech will transform the way brands speak to their customers causing a significant shift to occur in advertising.

Key takeaway: The panellists made us stop and think about how brands can survive these media powerhouses, suggesting that brands should focus on their customers and identify exactly what they need. Because of their scale, FANGs will not be able to do it in the same capacity as the ‘Goliaths’ of the industry can. 

It is what it is

Finally, Head of Audiences at ITV, Glenn Gowen, taught us about linking real-world behaviours to reality TV. Talking us through how online brands are now becoming dominant advertisers due to the most popular show on TV – Love Island. Discussing how long term brand building versus short term activation, Glenn underlined the cruciality of analysing how consumers behave and using data to assist in planning for content in advertising. With millions of viewers tuning in every night, it’s no secret that the recent tactics used in Love Island’s advertising are something to be praised.

Key takeaway: Glenn gave us an insight into how data can ban a vital tactic in analysing the consumer mind in great depth, and reaping amazing results off the back of this. 

Hitwise Summer Summit 2019


Hitwise Summer Summit 2019 showcased the complex science behind marketing that is not be underestimated. There are never-ending layers of how marketers can utilise the developments of the digital world to their advantage, and understanding how the consumer mind operates is absolutely imperative in order for brands to flourish in the new and improved digital marketing world.



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