JUN 01, 2012

ROKKAN @ Digital DUMBO’s dd:IMPACT Conference

A few ROKKANites went to the Digital DUMBO dd:IMPACT conference last week and had a great time thinking, talking, and “drinking the Koolaid” (thanks, Berocca for the orangey goodness!) with fellow digital innovators.

From the minds of the talented Digital DUMBO team, dd:IMPACT was “a one-day exploration of how technology has disrupted, evolved, progressed and impacted key lifestyle segments—music, food, fashion, and design.”

So, how was it, you say? Well…

We cabbed it to sunny DUMBO and walked under the bridge amidst happy picnickers to the conference. We settled in all be-name-tagged, and a few folding-chair mishaps later, the Food panel began…


The Food panel was moderated by Greg Morabito, editor of Eater NY, and featured panelists Amy Cao (Head of Community, Foodspotting), Natasha Case (CEO, Coolhaus), Kasey Fleisher Hickey (Editor, Evernote), Alex Rein (Founder/CEO Kelvin Natural Slush Co.), Mike Lee (Founder, Studiofeast), and Raquel Pelzel (Senior Food Editor, TastingTable).

Overall, it was a bit of a wash due to meandering tangents on “the food blogosphere,” but several interesting questions about the trends of local sourcing and responsible consumption were batted about, as well as the rise of “food porn” (we’re looking at you, gojee) and Instagram’s playing a role in expanding latent foodie culture.

What we learned: “Eat whatever the hell you want, just make it yourself.”

After some Pavlovian mouth watering at food trucks and certain digital dinner tables, the Fashion panel came next…


The Fashion panel was run by Lauren Indvik, Associate Editor of Marketing + Media at Mashable, and saw panelists Mollie Chen (Editorial Director, Birchbox), Drew Deters (President + Co-founder, Rumbatime), Lexy Funk (Founder + CEO, Brooklyn Industries), Sian-Pierre Regis (Founder, SwaggerNewYork.com), and Jen Rubio (Head of Community, Warby Parker).

This talk turned into a great social media discussion talking to divide often seen in social commerce between quantifiable/ROI-friendly interactions (read: sales conversions), and not-so-quantifiable engagements (read: community building, brand awareness).

Proof that social commerce is more about lifestyle content than pushing product: according to Mollie Chen, the most popular Pinterest content for Birchbox is actually their food/recipes board—not their cosmetics.

To be a successful retailer in the social scene, you need to mix your content, campaigns, and interactions with your fans/followers between lifestyle/editorial content and product/sales-driven content.

Jen Rubio of Warby Parker also made the point that different social channels lend themselves to different types of interactions, and that brands should tailor their content and campaigns to the social channels that will reach their target consumers most effectively.

So what’s next for retailers and eCommerce? According to Lexy Funk “Multi-channel retailing is the next hurdle: integrating in-store with online (digital) to let your customers shop anywhere, anytime in one seamless experience.”

What we learned: If Pinning and Instagramming are the new vogue, we’re too sexy for our shirt.

After a few WTF Coffee Lab pour-overs (why don’t all conferences have an official coffee sponsor?) and a much-needed Brooklyn Bridge Park walk/sit break, and we were amped up for the Design panel.


With Tim Nolan CD at BBH Labs NY presiding, the design panel included Randy J. Hunt (CD, Etsy.com), Jeremy Fisher (CEO + Head of Product, Wander), Alex Rainert (Head of Product, Foursquare), and Allan Yu (Designer, Svpply)

Perhaps the strongest of the four panels (IOHO), the Design panel had several nuggets that resonated with us:

1) Design is now mandatory. People (read: consumers) expect elevated aesthetics and simple, intuitive interfaces. It’s up to designers (UX and visual) to elegantly solve users’/viewers’ problems for a successful and gratifying online/interactive experience. The nexus of design, now, is blurring the line between online/digital and physical reality, UX & visual.

2) Trends in digital & design that have (or will) be top of mind for usability and aesthetics:

  • Intimacy (location-based technologies, recommendation engines, personalization)
  • Nostalgia
  • Data journalism (“Big Data,” analytics and infographics)
  • Online/offline fusion (interaction, haptic technology, real-time social media)
  • Timeshifting (bookmarking)

Randy J. Hunt, a creative director at Etsy, brought up a very interesting point in digital design tactics/philosophies: data-driven design vs. data-informed design. Basically, it’s the extremes of designing for just optimization vs. just intuition. He argued (and we’re inclined to agree) that you have to find a sort of balance between the data (what’s working) and intuition/aesthetics—perhaps even falling a bit heavier on the intuition side of things—to produce truly user-friendly and elegant, anticipatory design.

What we learned: Everyone’s a producer. You must have glasses and a plaid shirt to be on a Design panel. And, “Eat your own dog food!”—Designer Allan Yu of Svpply on using what you create.

After a super quick panelist mic change, and more than a few “Hurry! This panel is the only thing keeping us from booze!” from the Digital DUMBO hostess/emcee keeping us all on schedule, the Music panel took off.


The Music panel was refereed by Douglas Smiley, CMO at RCRD LBL and saw panelists Mick Batyske (DJ/Entrepreneur Mick Boogie), Gary Greenstein (Counsel, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati), Anthony Volodkin (Founder, Hype Machine), Wesley Verhoeve (Founder, Family Records), and Jesse Israel (Founder + Director of Technology, Cantora Records).

This talk centered on the future of the large music label, and music copyrighting and how its legalese is often the death knell to music start-ups and up-and-coming musical talent.

Counselor Gary Greenstein gave a very thorough talk on musiv copyright law, and that basically, “there’s no such thing as free promotion to major record labels.” Countered Wesley Verhoeve, “That’s why they’re about to die.” But, when asked if record labels will even exist in 20 years, it was Jesse Israel who basically laid out the fact that record labels as we know it, in fact, won’t. However they’ll exist (ideally) as curators, and the business arm that many artists need to make their craft viable and to get themselves out there, he said.

Anthony Volodkin (founder of Hype Machine) brought up trends in new-music discovery and blogging. Interestingly enough, he noted that with the inundation of playlists, streaming services, and tastemakers/music bloggers, that it’s very easy for listeners to feel overwhelmed and get frustrated with a lack of transparency with the “experts.” To turn down the noise, listeners and have heavily earmarked specific sources for new music—trusted tastemakers have only the best and newest offerings (and, often enough, are their own friends).

Basically, it’s “the feel” vs. “the feed”. “Music is linear, one song at a time,” said Volodkin, and this is how listeners are circling back to music appreciation and discovery. People are starting to use more heavily curated, thoughtful outlets like This Is My Jam, in lieu of a streaming service like Spotify or Pandora to highlight and really listen to their music; it’s the classic “quality over quantity” dilemma expressed in digital audio form.

What we learned: “Copyrights lock people into the past.” Lawyers seem to pontificate speak in fine print. And, particularly with new-music discovery, less really is more.

And, after a day of working those little grey cells, we (responsibly) killed some of them while networking and picking the brains of fellow thought leaders, conference-goers, and random people savvy enough to follow the giant crowd to the at the beautiful after-party on the 20 Jay St building’s rooftop.

Can’t get enough? Check out @ROKKANmedia’s feed to see our live-tweets of dd:IMPACT, and “rokkanmedia” on Instagram to see our photos.

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