I have been in the DMV area for a little over a year now, and when I reflect on impactful experiences, my time at the Mid-Atlantic MarCom Summit in early November comes to mind. It was held in Capital One Hall in Tysons, VA. There were two sessions that made a lasting impression.

The Power Behind the World’s Most Successful Brands, from Apple to Beyoncé

One of the most interesting breakouts was led by Marcus Collins, author of the book “For The Culture: The Power Behind What We Buy, What We Do, and Who We Want to Be.” He has been making waves in the industry, and his insights shine a bright light on the importance of understanding cultural contagion and making meaning out of how people view the world. He emphasized some gems like how traditional marketing uses media for awareness. Savvy marketers use media to connect with consumers. And the best marketers use media to help people connect with each other. Not just people who share a similar consumption activity, but people who share a similar worldview. Marcus illustrated this concept using an analogy of “Fireworks and Campfires.”

Fireworks represent the attention-grabbing, large-scale marketing communications that aim to reach a wide audience. However, Marcus urged marketers to complement these fireworks with campfires that help form new bonds between people. By building that cultural cachet through these connections, brands can achieve a deeper impact.

It’s in the practice of aggregating these different campfires and growing them are how brands get scale. It changes how we think about targeting. Instead of reaching as many people as possible (broad awareness), whittle it down to the few people who are more likely to convert by identifying your target congregation.

In his book, Chapter 3 titled Preaching the Gospel, Marcus explains this network effect that is achieved is more than just people hearing a message from a company or brand. They hear it from someone whom they trust, someone like them, which increases the likelihood of adoption for the next person. Again, the takeaway is to double down on people and not rely on an outdated marketing communications playbook to do the job. Reaching the right people will convert your ‘Motivated Marquis’ persona into actual buyers and loyal followers of your brand. I plan to cover my favorite parts of his book later this year in a post, but for more on Marcus and this topic, you can buy his book here.

Mastering the Legal and Intellectual Property Issues Surrounding the AI Revolution for Communicators

In a year where AI-generated content has been at the forefront of headlines and marketing newsletters, I felt it was important to get some proximity to the main challenges that marketers and advertisers face as we explore this evolving frontier. Dan Jasnow (Partner, ArentFox Schiff) and David Fuscus (CEO, précisAI) tackled the complex issues of intellectual property, data privacy, and authentic communication, all while providing real-world examples that brought these concepts to life for those that sat in on their talk.

The session highlighted many considerations, but here were a few good points they shared:

  • Currently, the U.S. Copyright Office will only issue registrations that only protect works of human authorship across the board. An example of this is the case where where PETA settled a lawsuit on behalf of “Naruto” the monkey, but a U.S. circuit court decided that animals can not own copyrights. Content that is created solely by machines like generative AI are not protectable under U.S. copyright law. They’re also not protectable under patent law.
  • There is currently no amount of prompting you can have an AI tool complete for you to qualify it as a work of human authorship even if you come up with the prompt. In the case of Thaler (Plaintiff) v. Perlmutter (Defendant), the copyright office denied the application on the basis that work “lacked the human authorship necessary to support a copyright claim.” Noting that copyright law only extends to works created by an individual. The U.S. District Court in D.C. sided with the Defendant.
  • In early 2023, the U.S. Copyright Office issued a registration for Kristina Kashtanova’s comic book, Zarya of the Dawn, but later said they would reissue it when they learned that she used Midjourney to create the images. Concluding that she did not have sufficient control over the AI-generated images to claim authorship. Kashtanova is entitled to a copyright for the parts of the book she wrote and arranged, but not for the images produced by AI.
  • There are practical concerns of integrating an AI tool in corporate business operations. Many companies would require the upload of sensitive documents to train said AI. Which raises significant privacy and security issues. To mitigate this, Dan encouraged attendees to enter into custom agreements with their sales rep as new AI capabilities are released and new companies are created. Build in the assurances you need for data security and ensure other protection standards are met. Including the creation of “locked data vaults” which are secure, controlled environments for handling clients and a companies sensitive data.

To get a closer look at the lineup of speakers and a brief descriptions of the talks I couldn’t attend, you can explore my event booklet here.

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