Personalize, Simplify… and Don’t Be Creepy: Lessons from Acquia's Engage 2015 Conference

This week, Boston was the scene of Acquia’s second annual conference for customers and partners: Acquia Engage. It brings together digital executives and leaders from many of the world’s leading brands, higher education, and the public sector. The central theme? You can’t afford to annoy your customers with over-aggressive campaigns and untargeted, one-size-fits-all content. Understand your audience and deliver experiences at the right time in the right context.

In all, more than 600 people attended the two-day event. Acquia customers were centerstage, and the opportunities to learn and network were unrivaled. The event was kicked off by Acquia CEO Tom Erickson, who discussed the landscape of our industry today, and shared compelling examples of customer success across different markets and industries. There was no shortage of material to draw from when discussing the organizations implementing groundbreaking strategies to deliver exceptional customer experiences. He remarked on how Cisco transformed how they deliver customer support and saved millions for the company in the process, and how Pac-12 Networks reimagined the fan experience, delivering digital coverage for more than 3,000 events each year.

The Government of Australia was another point of focus, for how they’ve leveraged Acquia Cloud Site Factory to launch govCMS, a platform for federal, state, and local government agencies to build their sites on. Erickson touched on many other stories, and yet only just scratched the surface.

There was a lot of talk about the idea of digital, and how there’s little use for the word itself, because when you get right down to it, everything is digital. During one of the panels Acquia unveiled the new WPP-Acquia Alliance, a global partnership of WPP agencies that design, build and optimize Drupal websites on the Acquia Platform. A panel of WPP leads took the stage, and were asked to list the most overhyped things in the market today, and along with the overuse of the world ‘Digital,’ they came up with this list:

Internet of Things (IoT)
Artificial Intelligence
Machine Learning
...and a topic of high debate: the man bun

Dries Buytaert, CTO at Acquia, took the stage next to address the future of the web, and the complexities of the digital landscape that many businesses are facing. His answer to the question, “what’s next for the web?”

“It’s complex & it’s personal.”

HUGE CEO Aaron Shapiro talked about anticipatory design, about the decision fatigue humans face, and how technology is making daily decisions a lot harder instead of easier. He painted a picture of a decision-less future, and discussed how anticipatory design will pave the way there.

Acquia’s Chris Stone and his team talked the audience through some new products headed to market in the coming months. They officially announced the launch of Content Hub, Acquia’s newest product, and performed a live demo which they later revealed was run on Wordpress.

Lisa Welchman, a self-described veteran of dysfunctional digital production teams herself, and now an acclaimed authority on digital governance, used music to demonstrate the power of coordination. Using the interactions between 2-person, 3-person, and several-person bands, she exemplified what it’s like for individuals of different sized teams to work together. She stressed the importance of digital governance as a foundation for internal success, driving home the point that without organization, you’re setting your business up to fail.

Al Nugent, CISO at Acquia, and Max Peterson from AWS handed out the first-ever Cloud Innovator Awards, given to Pac-12 Networks and The City of Los Angeles. Both organizations were applauded for their exceptional, ahead-of-the-curve digital experiences in both the public and private sectors, and being exemplary models of digital innovation.

Jake Sorofman, Research VP, Gartner for Marketing Leaders, talked about how great brands use content, personas, and personalization to resonate powerfully with customers. One theme addressed during his presentation, and widely addressed in others, was that if you don’t make the customer king and deliver content in the right context at the right time, then you’ll never succeed. As Jake put it, “customer experience is the new marketing.”

Daniel Pink, New York Times bestselling author, delivered the final keynote, in which he discussed behavioral science, employee engagement, and the general topic of motivation in the workplace. The biggest takeaway from his session was research feedback that indicated making progress on meaningful work is the biggest factor in whether someone feels motivated and satisfied with their work, along with the ability to be autonomous and the presence of consistent, high value feedback. Pink said, “The recipe for engagement is self direction,” which seemed so simple, and yet so true.

And to leave you with the most basic, yet insightful suggestion from Gus Murray of FFW:

“Be more like Tesla.”

In other words, create a company built on the right principles with the right priorities (the customer, always) that addresses real pain points and delivers true value to make your customers' lives easier. It doesn’t matter what corner of the market you come from, if you can do better, be better, and deliver more to your customer, then you’ll win every time.

And of course, Acquia Engage wouldn’t wrap up without a bit more fun. This year the crowd was treated to an American Whiskey tasting with reps from George Dickel and Bulleit, followed by a cocktail social hosted by Diageo.

Share your comments here on what you took away from #AcquiaEngage2015.

*Originally posted as a blog by NEA portfolio company, Acquia


  • Taryn Collins, Acquia


  • November 5, 2015


  • Marketing & PR