SCALE16: Key lessons for marketing startups & digital brands

After months of prep and plenty of excitement building in recent weeks, SCALE16 has come and gone. It’s hard to believe that this was only our second conference – the vibe in the room, the energy of the attendees and the quality of the program are all worthy of a much older event.

We want to say a big thank you to all our wonderful attendees, our amazing sponsors and supporters, and especially to our speakers. You were all so insightful and inspiring on stage – thank you for sharing your learnings with us!

Before we say goodbye to SCALE for another year, let’s look back at a few highlights from this year’s conference:

Building a brand is about more than just a TV spot

Babbel’s Head of Brand, Sylvain Lierre, set the bar high from the start. He gave a great talk about how the Berlin startup is building its global brand. His key message? A successful brand transformation has to have the company’s people and culture at its heart.

“When you do such a brand transformation, it’s about more than turning the brand around; it’s about people,” Sylvain said. “You cannot succeed in brand transformation if you don’t get internal people to rally behind it.”

We’ve also fallen head over heels for Babbel’s hilarious new TVC inspired by the movie Amelie:

Print is not dead – it’s just taking on different forms

EyeEm’s Associate Creative Director, Paul Aguirre-Livingston, brought along the photography platform’s latest print magazine to give us a sneak peek before the official launch.EyeEm Machina is the first ever magazine curated using artificial intelligence.

The magazine is just one type of tangible experience that EyeEm offers its community of millions of photographers worldwide. “It’s not enough now to have an app. You need to give your community a reason to believe beyond the screen,” Paul said.

For startups, timing is everything

In our panel of digital disruptors, Movinga’s Managing Director Finn Hänsel and TransferGo’s  Head of Brand & Marketing Communications Guste Sadaunykaite showed that timing – as well as the right placement – is crucial for young companies. “For us, airports work better than billboarding in the center of the city. Timing is another thing that you should think about – especially if your budget is limited,” Guste said.

Finn had a key piece of advice for all of the startups in the audience: don’t splash out on marketing around Christmas time. “If you have a limited budget, it’s really hard to take a good message to the market when you are pushing against all the other companies during those months,” he said.

  1. Small budgets mean you have to get creative

“If you don’t earn a lot of money, you have to scream.”

This was the advice of Bloomy Days founder Franziska von Hardenberg on how startups can make the most of their limited budgets. And scream she did – Franzi made quite a splash with an out-of-home campaign for Valentine’s Day that had a budget of just €8000.

  1. The performance/branding divide is a thing of the past

DCMN’s Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer, Matthias Riedl, presented the new strategy of brandformance. This approach combines elements of branding and performance marketing to help startups and digital brands in a growth phase continue to scale their business – fast.

Matthias likened performance to beer, which is a staple of any German diet. Branding, he said, was more like Sprite – flashy, fresh and fun. And the two combined? With a little German engineering, you get the Brandformance Radler.

  1. A hyperlocal approach to offline marketing works

There’s a simple reason that offline marketing works, according to Foodora’s Marina Hofmann. “It’s constantly present, it’s constantly there in your daily life. Unlike with an online add, you can’t just click it away,” she said.

The company has successfully used flyering, out-of-home and guerilla campaigns to reach out to customers as they travel around their cities – and has used a range of measures to measure the performance of each campaign.

“You always need to create several touch points with your customers. This is why we are trying to implement as many marketing activities as possible and then also within the one neighbourhood,” Marina added.

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