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Brands Open Up: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Trends in Visual Media From Cocktails With Cloudinary

It is not every evening that you get executives from leading brands, e-businesses, and media organizations, some of them Fortune 500 companies, in one “room.” That was what made Cocktails With Cloudinary—a virtual mixology experience hosted by Rob Floyd, global liquid chef and star of the hit TV show Bar Rescue—so special.

Named Best Bartender in America, Rob has traveled the world training bar teams. He founded his company, RF Entertainment, with the desire to change the way people experience a cocktail. On March 11, Cloudinary gathered clients, colleagues, and partners together for the first-ever virtual, interactive mixology class. Rob made a cocktail turn colors and taught us how to create a delicious smoky drink with a bit of burned rosemary. With fire, ice, and even a power tool, he transformed our homes into a speakeasy for the evening.

It was fun to share that unique experience with the Cloudinary community, and our guests appreciated that we sent them cocktail kits in advance of the class so that they had everything they needed to mix along with Rob. But the best part was the candid discussions we shared after the mixology lesson. With a cocktail (or two) in hand, attendees joined one of two breakout sessions:

  • The New Frontier: Creating Highly Personalized, Immersive Visual Experiences, led by Milind Pansare, Cloudinary’s head of product marketing
  • Digital Disruption: Shared Insights for the New, Omnipresent Digital Store, led by Jason Khoury, Cloudinary’s head of corporate marketing
_East Coast Event Sizzle Reel_

With so many bright minds together, an illuminating conversation followed. Below are a few takeaways from the discussions.

Companies across verticals are using more video than ever to connect with consumers and drive conversions. However, some organizations are struggling to keep up with the demand and aren’t sure how to ensure that their assets yield positive results and meet brand standards. Also, many are looking for ways to maximize the mileage of their video assets by reusing them.

Both B2B and B2C companies are investing in more UGC. In some cases, because it feels more authentic, UGC is outperforming professionally-shot videos on social media. In fact, a leading beauty brand wondered if audiences would always prefer UGC over brand-produced content.

Leveraging UGC can be challenging, though, because organizations must elevate it to meet brand standards and size it appropriately for all channels and devices. Cloudinary customers at the event chimed in that our UGC tools enable them to automate optimized uploads, transformations, and delivery.

Additionally, a leading CPG observed that they need tools for managing employee-generated content (EGC)—videos and images that are internally shared to promote brand values, such as diversity and inclusion. As culturally pertinent as that content is, it is often not optimized and eats up bandwidth—a reminder of the importance of internal media management.

A top CPG noted, “Everything is all about experience,” and every retailer is now an e-retailer. That transformation was already underway pre-COVID, but the pandemic accelerated the pace. Companies that were forced to close stores shifted focus to creating immersive digital experiences, such as virtual showrooms, and to conceptualize the “store of the future” with mobile apps, QR Codes, augmented reality, rendering technologies, and the like to generate omnichannel experiences.

A popular athletic brand mentioned that its surge in online sales last summer was beyond what they’d thought was possible. They are now building a world-class experience for customers by creating B2B tools for retail partners to foster customer relationships and promote sales.

A retailer reported that its website traffic, which used to peak on weekends and weekday nights, has been consistently high since the outbreak of COVID-19. Surges in online traffic have created opportunities for experimentation. A beauty brand tried out new tactics and channels, such as TikTok, Instagram shopping features, live streaming, and 360-degree video. An online grocery got better at “using visuals to tell stories” and discovered that showing customers images of local products is driving up conversions significantly.

The pandemic also changed shoppers’ priorities. For example, a StubHub worked with Cloudinary to optimize its maps experience so its customers could understand seat-pod configurations. Multiple retailers had to shift focus to home decor and “comfy clothes” even if those categories weren’t their “bread and butter.” A wide range of loungewear helped a legacy brand connect with younger shoppers.

However, attracting new customers is one thing; retaining them is another. Increasingly, brands are keeping consumers engaged through personalized marketing and visual-media experiences. For some, a pandemic-related business slowdown created an opportunity to improve internal processes and tools. For example, a major toy manufacturer has been replatforming its entire digital ecosystem, modernizing its approach to media management and delivery. An organization that had been planning a virtual event reimagined their flagship conference. (Fun fact: When Cloudinary pivoted to host ImageCon 2020 virtually, the technology platform we partnered with ended up becoming a client.)

_West Coast Event Sizzle Reel_

Our customers reiterated again and again that Cloudinary’s capabilities speed up processes by automating time-consuming tasks, such as converting files to the right format. As one participant put it, that means more time for making Moscow Mules.

Several Cloudinary customers commented that they’d made more progress in e-commerce and visual experiences in the last year than in their entire company history. For example, a technology company that relies on content as a sales-enablement tool is managing and delivering content internally with AI so that its sales reps can access the right content at the right time. A leading marketplace for lodging is exploring how to use AI for video editing at scale, while another company plans to personalize its homepage, also with AI, to display different promotions for customers based on their interest. Thanks to Cloudinary’s face-detection technology, a ticket marketplace that used to hand-edit images is now automating image centering and other elements of its process, with plans in the works to generate tens of thousands of images without human touch in the future.

We salute all the brands for the ingenuity and flexibility they have demonstrated this last year. To those who joined us for Cocktails With Cloudinary, thank you again. We appreciate your taking time to share cheers with us and to talk industry trends, and we are honored to play a role in your digital transformation.

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