It was The Marketing Society’s Annual Conference 2011 speaker line-up that first grabbed my attention… …the only way to describe it is stellar. Willie Walsh from International Airlines Group, Andy Fennell from Diageo, Keith Weed from Unilever, Dan Cobley from Google, Heston Blumenthal, the list goes on. All would be seen as a keynote speaker coup for any other event but at The Marketing Societies Day of Global Leaders they were just another name on the bill. With a line-up this illustrious this was going to be day of unparalleled inspiration and learning.
The day focused on a number of themes; international leadership, the emerging BRIC markets, the global consumer, but the main theme that I took from the conference was that marketing is currently undergoing a big and fundamental change.
The marketing rulebook that has been the comfort blanket for many marketers over many years is no longer relevant. The global economic changes that have rocked the world over the last few years have created unprecedented challenges for brands, leaders and marketers. The speakers, all global leaders themselves, highlighted how they are tackling these challenges head on.
Mark Brittain, Global Head of Commercial at Syco Entertainment talked about how social media and brands make content more powerful. This “Brand Fusion” focuses on emotional similarities rather than physical differences and puts passion into marketing – something that is resonating with audiences globally and which Syco take advantage of through their TV formats.
Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Unilever spoke about how his company are dealing with the challenges of illiteracy in some of the world’s developing markets – if someone can’t read the adverts, how they know if they want the product? Unilever’s solution is to bring back door to door sales people. A sales and marketing technique that many had thought had died with the era of the internet but in the 21st century it’s solving a problem.
Roberto Giolito, Design Director at Fiat echoed Keith Weed’s marketing solutions when talking about how he reinvented the Fiat 500 in the millennium, “Sometimes you need to plunder the past to reinvent the future”.
Ironically it was non-marketer, Heston Blumenthal, who highlighted innovation as a key to the future. He gave us a sneak preview of the new online experience you’ll have if you are lucky enough to get a booking at his restaurant The Fat Duck – an animated roller coaster ride through the inspiration behind his meals. It’s bringing an entirely new brand experience into going to a restaurant that will lead to growth (although as he receives 30,000 table booking requests a day it won’t make getting a Heston meal any easier!)
I feel that Andy Fennell, CMO of Diageo, summed the day up when talking about the potential these changes can bring to marketing and leadership by saying “I’m more excited by what’s possible than scared of what could go wrong”. It is this attitude that will cause great things to happen, new paths forged and new strategies realised. The old rulebook may no longer be relevant but for the bravest marketers and leaders there’s a new rulebook to invent!