Highlights from Digital DNA Belfast 2018

Last week, the 19th and 20th of June, myself and Emma from Allsop attended Digital DNA 2018. The conference hosted in St George’s Market boasted a huge variety of talks and workshops from a wide range of speakers. The event brought together a mix of entrepreneurs, business owners, marketers and software developers.

Across the two days we attended numerous talks from a range of great speakers, sharing their knowledge and experience on a vast array of different topics.  I would be here for hours if I was to tell you about all the talks we attended. So here are just a couple of my highlights from the event.


Joanna Jarjue – From Digital Graduate to the Apprentice Boardroom


Digital DNA - Joanna Jarjue

Digital DNA 2018 – Joanna Jarjue

As watching The Apprentice is a guilty pleasure of mine, I was intrigued to hear from Joanna Jarjue. Joanna made the final five in the most recent series of the Apprentice.

Joanna, as expected, delivered an exceptionally polished keynote. Joanna shared her experience of appearing on the Apprentice and how she worked to gain the trust and respect of her fellow team members. After what could be described as a bit of a rocky start on the show.

She also discussed how her experience of working as a digital graduate, not only sparked her business idea for the Apprentice. But has also helped to shape and mould how she plans to market and deliver her woman’s workwear collection.  Having a strong digital background Joanna stressed the importance that every business must now deliver a superb digital experience to their customers and potential customers. We now expect a digital presence from every brand, restaurant or shop that we purchase from. With bigger purchasing decisions including increased research from trusty online reviews.


Aoife Caulfield – Twitter is What’s Happening


Digital DNA 2018 – Aoife Caulfield

Aoife discussed how Twitter in the last 2 years has positioned itself as a place to go to find out ‘What’s Happening.’ The social media network that is ‘look at this’ rather than ‘look at me.’ Twitter also has the unique advantage of the number of celebrities, politicians, and influencers that use the platform. You never know you might even get a retweet from Donald Trump or a NASA Astronaut.

After the bad press it received in 2016, Twitter has seen a resurgence in daily users by focussing on becoming the second screen for live events. With their live video sitting alongside the conversations and narratives that users are having about such events. Notably this year it even included the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Aoife also touched on the most popular conversations that have taken place this year on Twitter. Naturally, as we love to talk about the weather so much in Ireland. Our most popular conversation was the #BeastfromtheEast and the horrific bread shortage that this weather caused. ? Distraught bread fans were even seen tweeting pictures of Brennan bread deliveries.

Another story that broke on Twitter from the #BeastfromtheEast was the live video broadcasting of the Lidl break-in. This video, later actually helped police to identify those responsible as the snowy conditions meant they couldn’t get to the store. Aoife also saluted Lidl Ireland’s excellent response to this incident, with them tweeting on Monday morning ‘So err…anyone do anything nice over the weekend?’ This tweet received over 4,621 retweets and shows the impact that Twitter can have for sparking a conversation about your brand.

Some of the other most popular conversations included the Six Nations, the Great British Bake Off and for those as addicted as me, unsurprisingly Love Island got a mention too. Aoife discussed how brands, where relevant can piggyback on to the popularity of these events to increase awareness of your brand and start a conversation on Twitter.

Aoife also discussed the new features that they have introduced to the Twitter platform over the last year, such as extending the tweet limit to 280 characters, however, only 9% of tweets have actually gone above the original 140 character limit. She also discussed the different way brands can use custom emojis, promoted video and in-stream video to market their product and services.

Ash Ali  – Marketing Lessons from Building JUST EAT – UK’s Tech Unicorn from 0 to £1.5 Billion


DigitalDNA 2018 - Ash Ali - Marketing Lessons from Building JUST EAT - UK's Tech Unicorn from 0 to £1.5 Billion

Digital DNA 2018 – Ash Ali

Ash Ali, is the former Marketing Director from JUST EAT. His talk explored how the JUST EAT team built their start up from 0 into the £1.5 billion IPO it has become. JUST EAT, for those not familiar with it, allows you to order takeaways through an app on your smartphone.

Ash is currently an angel investor and multiple startup founders. He follows the mantra that most startups fail, not because they can’t build the product, but because they can’t get distribution, marketing and growth. Based on this mantra Ash delivered 5 key areas that should be included in any start-ups sales and marketing strategy to support success.

Know your Customer

Originally, JUST EAT believed their customers would be students, so their marketing targeted fresher fairs. What they found, however, was that the students would use their discount voucher and then that would be it, therefore not becoming a valuable customer long – term.

Ash then told of how a disgruntled takeaway owner led them to uncovering an important customer segment. The owner complained that they guy who lived above his takeaway, walked past on his way home, waved in at him and then proceeded to order his takeaway through JUST EAT rather than coming back downstairs to get it. A representative rang this customer and asked him why he did that and what was the benefit of JUST EAT for him. He explained that he was an online gamer and using JUST EAT, meant he didn’t have stop his game to get his dinner. Having a quick conversation with this user of JUST EAT helped dramatically to shape their future marketing strategy as they then began to sponsor conferences and events aimed at the online gaming community.

Go where your Customers Go

Sometimes the simplest and most obvious ideas are the best. Potential customers were already using google to find takeaways, so JUST EAT approached google and integrated with the search listings to pull the customer reviews already available within JUST EAT into the google search listing for each takeaway, to provide richer search results for customers.

Another clever tactic for JUST EAT was to partner with Yell, on their directory website they introduced an order online button for takeaways listed on JUST EAT. Resulting in a massive 60% conversion rate. They also used their economies of scale to negotiate a lower printing cost for their takeaways to print leaflets and menus. Their takeaways were already doing this, but by negotiating a better deal, they could get their logo on the leaflets and increase their brand exposure.

Be Creative

When your marketing budget is low, you’ve got to get creative! Ali’s example of this was they used their customer base of takeaways for their marketing. Each restaurant on the platform is required to place a number of JUST EAT stickers in their windows. In the beginning, this simple tactic accounted for nearly 50% of JUST EAT’s users.

Know your Numbers

Avoid vanity metrics and focus on customer numbers and customer retention. Although numbers are very important, Ali also stressed that it is also vital to listen to your gut feeling – it is, after all, millions of data points that you have collected over the years and therefore shouldn’t be ignored.

Embrace a Growth Culture and Mindset

This culture needs to come from senior management, right the way down. A lot of the marketing you do within a start-up is about testing the market to see what works and what doesn’t. Learning from these ‘experiments’ to then decide what your next tactic is.

My role here at Allsop is marketing, so unsurprisingly I attended mostly marketing themed talks, but there was such a wide range of speakers at Digital DNA 2018, that there really was something for everyone, not forgetting the delicious free coffee 😉

I would definitely recommend this event to others next year and congratulations to all involved in the planning for such an informative and well-organised event.

A Few Pictures from Digital DNA 2018 

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