Storylines Tour Silicon Valley: Be personal, be innovative, scale it up

The Storylines Tour landed in Silicon Valley, where attendees shared their insights on brand storytelling and new ways for technology to enhance creativity.
October 13, 2023


October 4 was a big day for Contentful. In tandem with the Contentful Launch Event, a live stream where we announced the latest and greatest updates to our composable content platform, we completed stop number four of the Contentful Storylines Tour, which took us all the way to the Golden State of California.

Silicon Valley’s Computer History Museum was the perfect backdrop for the event (coincidence or strategic calculation?) centered around building better, more compelling experiences, powered by composable content.

How do brands bring their brand stories to life in new ways, faster, and at scale? Well, speakers brought unique perspectives — from personalizing content to omnichannel orchestration — that kept the audience engrossed.  

Composable technology: Delivering innovation, scale, and speed

Contentful played a vital role in many of the stories shared during Storylines Silicon Valley, and how our composable content platform supports innovation, scaling, and speed. This sentiment was woven throughout various sessions of the day, starting with the welcome remarks from Dina Apostolou, VP of Content and Experiences at Contentful.

Next came a product keynote with Mairead O’Donovan, Chief Product Officer at Contentful, and Satya Krishnaswamy, VP of Product Management at Contentful. The pair provided a brief overview of the new features released during the Contentful Launch Event (which you can read about at greater length in this post).

Welcome remarks from Dina Apostolou, VP of Content and Experiences at Contentful.

Contentful Professional Services was also featured during the event with a breakout session on how to use Contentful to amplify your brand no matter the size of the team supporting it.

Aubrie Hill, Solution Architect at Contentful, and Rob Remmington, Practice Architect at Contentful, shared how Contentful can help teams move faster with less effort by automating certain content management tasks. 

They gave the audience a walkthrough of localization features that come baked into the web app and how to utilize new generative AI apps to lay the groundwork for content creation. They then jumped into features that enable teams to collaborate more closely and eliminate delays during handoffs or gaps in communication.

Specific features include workflows, presence indicator, and live preview — all available with Contentful Studio. According to Rob, these features are vital because “a good digital experience comes down to a good creative experience.”

Get personal: Speaking directly to your readers (and users)

Have you ever read a book with direct narration (i.e., one where you, the reader, are explicitly acknowledged and addressed)? They’re more engaging than the average story — in being spoken to directly, you almost become a confident, even sidekick to that main character, sparking greater investment in whatever subject is at hand. 

Personalization offers a similar effect in the realm of digital experiences. This was a big topic for many at Storylines, including home safety brand and Contentful customer Ring — which participated in a fireside chat.

Alison Dreiblatt, Head of Ecommerce at Ring, joined Amy Kilpatrick, Chief Marketing Officer at Contentful, to discuss the company’s current success and how it plans to sustain growth and customer retention by investing more deeply in personalization and localization across emails. 

As Alison shared, there are multiple interpretations and implementations of personalization: from contextualization of content to delivering more personalized notifications. For example, Contentful has enabled Ring to easily localize communication for its top twelve markets and streamline content creation across a multitude of webpages. 

Alison then began to discuss the potential to serve customers more personalized security notifications by combining Contentful with other technologies. In an ideal future state, customers would get notifications about specific security concerns happening in their area or that their camera was set off by a deer rather than that Amazon package they were already notified was being dropped off. 

Alison Dreiblatt, Head of Ecommerce at Ring, joined Amy Kilpatrick, Chief Marketing Officer at Contentful, to discuss the company’s current success.

While that level of personalization is still in the works, Alison shared that the company already does a great deal of ecommerce-focused personalization to recommend new products and specific upgrades to customers. Ring’s support content is also customized for users that are logged in. Instead of riffling through FAQs and troubleshooting tips for all Ring devices, content on the devices currently attached to their accounts are front and center for easy access.

Get personal, again: Find the right partners

It can be a challenge to know how to implement personalization the right way, at the right time, with the right tool — that’s where partners like Valtech come in. As one can imagine, this requires significant flexibility considering diversity in the size of a company, what its offering, and the audience browsing for and buying those products or services.

According to Todd Harris, SVP of Global Strategic Alliances at Valtech, this is what makes MACH architecture (i.e., frameworks composed of microservices that are also API-first, cloud-native, and headless) and composable content so attractive for digital agencies. 

He shared how the company’s new composable commerce accelerator, LEAP, simplifies the somewhat daunting task of shifting from monolith tech to MACH architecture by giving retailers a high-performing tech stack of reliable tools for a quick launch and competitive edge. 

“With multi-brand omnichannel solutions, there needs to be some level of variability — not everything should be cookie cutter. At the same time, it needs to be sustainable as you create and manage content. It’s a balance between adaptability and repeatability, or reusability,” Todd noted.

It increases speed to market so brands can be really responsive to customer needs and personalize experiences, to an extent, which builds trust. That reusability serves to decrease investment while maintaining consistency in branding and messaging in a way that drives trust and brand recognition. In the end, this drives conversion and profitability.

According to Todd Harris, SVP of Global Strategic Alliances at Valtech, MACH architecture and composable content are very attractive to digital agencies.

Twilio Segment’s session featuring Contentful Director of Content Nicole France and Twilio Senior Director of Product Management Ron Pereira took examining personalization a bit further.

During a fireside chat in the early afternoon, the pair explored how companies like Shell and Ruggable are implementing personalization successfully by serving the right content, to the right person, at the right time and how missing the mark on any one of these three pillars makes the entire effort a moot point.

Be innovative: Crafting the perfect hook

When it comes to writing any story, the hardest part to get right is often the introduction, or “hook.” To pull readers in and move them beyond page one (or that landing page), you need to put forth something interesting, maybe a little out there, and definitely innovative. 

As Ben Lempert, Director of Web and Content at Heap Analytics, put it during a joint customer panel also featuring Clorox, you need an element of surprise. And the best elements of surprise? Armed with data-driven insights, Ben and his team have a good idea of how, where, and when to inject those moments of serendipity. 

Ben shared the exact creation process his five-person engineering team takes in pursuit of more innovative — but also well-performing content and digital experiences, “This is our process: Analytics, brainstorming, and then going into Contentful and building it out. We then use our tool, Heap, to test things out and see what’s working. It’s really rinse and repeat from there.”

As Ben Lempert, Director of Web and Content at Heap Analytics, put it during a joint customer panel also featuring Clorox, you need an element of surprise.

Brian Jenney, Engineering Manager at Clorox, doubled down on the importance of experimentation when trying to attract customers and improve the user experience, providing examples of how his own company goes about this.

Recently, Clorox’s engineering team declared it would no longer be doing “boring stuff” which led to a week-long company hackathon where team members were invited to be as experimental as possible in merging creativity and technology. They sought ways to deliver the experiences that customers crave and marketing teams want to deliver (another area where personalization comes into play).

And despite some qualms about artificial intelligence (cue video of robots taking over the world), Brian and his team see an immense opportunity to innovate. They’ve begun utilizing ChatGPT to get a second opinion on whether a certain build or experiment will resonate with customers.

AI is being utilized elsewhere in the company too. According to Brian, Clorox’s Marketing team has been using generative AI tools to quickly develop the first draft of content for new promotional campaigns. 

Bring it to scale: Adding volumes

Once you build those innovative experiences, the next step is to bring that impact to scale, but this can be challenging when there are so many angles to consider — digital channels, customer segments, global market. For this reason, many businesses reach out to digital agencies with a track record of success for support. 

With a diverse partner ecosystem, we have plenty of anecdotes about this but were so moved by one in particular, that we pushed for it to be told on stage. At Storylines, Brian Browning, VP of Technology, and Kerrigan Baron, Technical Director, both from global digital transformation consultancy Kin+Carta, were joined by Mark D’Andrea, Senior Director of Digital Marketing at the National Veterinary Associates, to discuss how the two came together to build digital experiences tailored to individual customers that communicate a real sense of care and support. 

On stage, Kerrigan recalled a personal engagement with the NVA that saved the life of their cat, Pixel. Thanks to an easy-to-navigate website and MACH architecture, Kerrigan was able to find and schedule Pixel emergency medical care when he stopped eating and showed signs of lethargy.

Moreover, Pixel’s medical history and some shocking test results were able to be easily shared across providers, meaning Kerrigan wasn’t forced to rehash it or jump through forms during this emotionally taxing experience.

Brian Browning, VP of Technology, and Kerrigan Baron, Technical Director, both from global digital transformation consultancy Kin+Carta, were joined by Mark D’Andrea, Senior Director of Digital Marketing at the National Veterinary Associates.

While Kerrigan’s animal emergency might be unique, their experience with NVA wasn’t. This seamless, tailored digital experience has been brought to scale across thousands of NVA websites accessed by owners and animal care providers alike.

“There’s a big chunk of composable, reusable content available through Contentful — this is the key to simplified scaling,” Kerrigan pointed out. 

Other Contentful partner speakers echoed the importance of delivery at scale, including Commerce Layer, Authentic, and Uniform. During their session, these three companies came together to share how combining their technologies enabled joint customer, mental health education platform Social Thinking, to build more immersive, engaging learning experiences with content types that can scale with a composable tech stack. 

“There used to be ethos in customer relationships where you actually had human interaction — that doesn't exist anymore. Your ability to really distinguish and differentiate yourself through the customer experience is by leveraging digital channels and tech,” JM Guthrie, Chief Commerce Officer at Authentic, noted.

With its former monolithic solution, traditional layouts limited the diversity of content that Social Thinking could create and how it could connect not just tools but content to build a more linear user experience. With a composable tech stack, they have the freedom to innovate, scale their content offers, and build a creative, cohesive experience. 

“Instead of its old siloed content, Social Thinking now has a progressive web app and building experience where events, publications, courses, promotions, and videos are connected. The ability to orchestrate that in a way that makes it accessible for users to consume is powerful,” Sean Skamnes, VP of Partnerships at Commerce Layer, added.


Ready for the next chapter? Although we’ve officially closed the books on Storylines Silicon Valley, there’s still one more stop of our 2023 tour in Berlin. Save your spot and meet with the brightest and the best practitioners in the new art of storytelling. 

📍Berlin, October 19 

And for more inspiration on topics branching out from Storylines, check out these links. Speakers and panelists have shared their experiences and strategies on cutting through the static in an increasingly complex, dynamic, and multichannel landscape.

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