Category Archives: Conferences

Time for CMOs to Walk the Walk

I’ve been to two CMO conferences this month, and here’s what I don’t get: Marketing execs love to stand on stage and talk about innovation and the changing marketing model and the influence of digital media and yada yada yada. Inevitably, however, when it comes time to wow the audience with some multimedia, what do they offer as a shining example of this innovative thinking? A 30-second spot. Oh, sometimes they put a YouTube wrapper around it, but it is what it is – a 30-second spot. Yes, it’s great to pull the heartstrings of conference attendees with an emotional spot on incontinence. But that’s missing the point. If 30-second videos are the primary vehicle that CMOs (or their speechwriters) choose to demonstrate marketing and advertising prowess, well, they may be talking the talk, but they’re not walking the walk. Any capable agency can do good creative; show me something I haven’t seen a thousand times before.


Embrace the Swarm

Best presentation I’ve seen on social networking came from Chuck Brymer at the ANA’s annual conference in Phoenix on Friday. Brymer, president and CEO of DDB Worldwide, spoke of online communities as digital swarms, formed through a combination of technological advances and a growing distrust in institutions.

“People used to put a lot of trust in institutions,” he told about 1,200 attendees of the conference, held at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. “We believed what the government said, what the news media said, and even what advertisers said. It’s not like that today. As a society, we are more cynical and less believing. … We no longer just accept what we’re told by people in high places. Instead, we trust those who are close to us. Those with similar experiences. When you put the expanding digital swarm together with the simultaneous rise in trust in friends and family, you have a very powerful combination.”

This power, he added, “irrevocably changes” the roles of marketers. He compared the herd mentality of traditional marketing and advertising programs – communicating to people who passively sit in front of TVs and radios and read newspapers and magazines – to today’s far more active digital swarms: “The herd is passive. It lacks active intelligence. The swarm on the other hand is about actively sharing intelligence, and that is a huge distinction. While you can lead a herd, you cannot lead a swarm. You cannot issue instructions to a swarm. A swarm is not an audience in the traditional sense and it’s not looking to [marketers] for guidance.”

The implications of peer communication and localized information are significant, Brymer said. “Forget the idea that digital is the new media. The real new media is you and me.” As an example, he referenced, a site devoted to people “telling each other about the stuff they’re buying, eating, drinking, watching.”

How can marketers enter the swarm? One word: influence. “While you cannot lead a swarm, you can influence it,” Brymer explained. “Influence is one of the most valuable assets a brand can have in a networked world.” Influence, he said, should be measured in the same way we measure share of voice or share of market. “Brands that have influence command attention.”

In a swarm, he explained, success is determined by whether communities are attracted to your brand or run away from it. “Do people see you as a predator or a peer? If you are a peer, you have credibility and influence. As the word spreads throughout the swarm, people begin to flock to you. You gain greater influence and more people seek you out.”

This requires a level of authenticity that many advertisers may not be accustomed to. “Every touch point, every interaction influences whether your brand is accepted or rejected by the swarm,” Brymer said. “Every day, you are being appraised. The swarm is like a modern day Big Brother – it’s watching you, taking your measure, and evaluating your intentions.”

He suggested three ways marketers can influence the swarm:

  • Conviction: Brands that are influential, he explained, all start in the same place: with the personal vision and convictions of the marketers behind them. Brands that stand for something – he offered Harley Davidson, Apple and Volkswagen as prime examples – attract followers. “What makes these brands influential is not their size,” he said. “It’s that each believes in something and has built brand communities of influence among its members, who in turn influence others.”

  • Collaboration: Swarms want a say in how your products and services look, what they do, and what they should do better. Two examples: Lego, which offers downloadable software from its website that lets kids design their own creations>. Another is Philips, which lets consumers track their individual contributions to protecting the environment by switching to energy-saving light bulbs.

  • Creativity: As you would expect from the head of an ad agency, Brymer touted creativity as “the one element that can influence a swarm more than anything.” Creativity is universal, regardless of the media in which it exists, because it allows marketers to connect with people at an emotional level. “Interesting ideas and provocative thinking influences swarms.” The power of the digital swarm is its ability to pass these ideas on virally. One example: an ad from a Dutch insurance company called Centraal Beheer that has close to 1 million views on YouTube:

Brymer closed with a (slightly paraphrased) quote from former Army Chief of Staff Eric Shineski: “You may not like change, but you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”

ANA Conference: Masters of Marketing

Off to Phoenix for the Association of National Advertisers’ annual “Masters of Marketing” conference. Pretty good speaker lineup, including:

  • Steve Ballmer, CEO, Microsoft
  • Bob Lachky, EVP & Chief Creative Officer, Anheuser-Busch
  • Wendy Clark, Senior Vice President of Advertising, AT&T
  • Roger Adams, Senior Vice President and CMO, Home Depot
  • Mary Dillon, EVP and Global CMO, McDonald’s
  • Derek Gordon, VP Marketing, Clorox
  • Becky Saeger, EVP and CMO, Charles Schwab
  • Jim Stengel, Global Marketing Officer, Procter & Gamble
  • Jocelyne Attal, CMO, Avaya

Will be interested in hearing what kind of salvos Ballmer (who is scheduled to “share his ideas for how marketers can tap into the enormous technological power at their disposal to reinvent their brands and connect with consumers of tomorrow”) launches against Google in the battle for online ad platform supremacy. Also will be sniffing out what seems to be a growing angst/apathy over marketing measurement. I’ll report here on anything that I don’t need to save for MarketingNPV, which is paying my freight.

Brain Dead

A lost week for me, blogwise. Immersed in a couple of new projects on top of a couple that are just wrapping up, ferrying the kids around to various camps and activities during school vacation week, the blog has calcified. Too brain dead at this point for a real post, so here are links to a few stories that caught my eye this week.

BT’s Next Stage: Custom Creative. An interview with EchoTarget CEO Greg Smith, who claims his hotel and travel clients see a 200% to 400% lift in transactions when the EchoTarget behavioral network sends the right destination-specific creative to targets. I have experienced this targeting a few times over the past few weeks after checking a few travel sites for flights to Florida. I didn’t make a reservation, but received a few follow-up emails from Expedia, Travelocity or whatever sites I checked (they all seem the same to me) promising “low fares for your trip to Orlando.” Pretty cool stuff.

Snack Attack! Wired’s current cover story on the bite-sizing of our culture. At first I thought it was a lame idea, but the more I read, the more I liked it. The Biz and Music sections were my faves.

AAAA Media Conference coverage. Microsoft’s top marketing exec, Mich Mathews, said that by 2010, the majority of the company’s media mix will be in the digital space, a signal that the company is simply following its consumers. Mathews followed P&G global marketing officer Jim Stengel, who talked about the need for brands to be authentic, trustworthy and generous. “It’s not about telling and selling,” Stengel was quoted as saying in AdAge. “It’s about bringing a relationship mind-set to everything we do.”

Forest, Trees, and E-mail Marketing

Got an invitation yesterday from Shared Insights to what seems like an interesting event called the Community 2.0 Conference. Here’s the description from the email:

The Community 2.0 Conference will provide a provocative look at how community and social networks are radically improving the performance of companies in the areas of customer service, product innovation, sales, and marketing. Conference topics include:

  • Strategy & Theory– Analyze the underlying theories of community in order to understand what makes them work, as well as look at some strategic angles of community development and management for specific business processes.
  • Applications & Best Practices– Examine the business processes for companies that have successfully deployed communities and what lessons can be learned from those industry pioneers.  
  • Technology & Social Infrastructure– Explore the technology and social architecture that facilitate successful communities.

Shared Insights was nice enough to offer me a $500 “preferred customer” discount. Very thoughtful, but I have minor beef with the invitation: nowhere does it say WHEN or WHERE the conference is being held. Perhaps they are relying on the collective wisdom of the community to divine the optimal time and place.

MPlanet Odds & Ends

Cleaning out the notebook while waiting for my flight home:

  • IBM Chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano gave the Thursday evening keynote after receiving an award from the AMA for “exceptional leadership.” He talked about the transformation of the global economy and made a call to action to marketers to “step up.”  “This is one of the most extraordinary periods in international business that I’ve experienced in my 34-year career,” he said, later adding: “You have to be willing to reinvent and innovate.” The opportunity to transform your business in this way, he added, “only comes along once in a career. Can you step up and take advantage of it?”  
  • There was one good quote in an otherwise flat opening keynote from AT&T COO Randall Stephenson: “The lesson of the Internet is that no audience is too small.”
  • My last session today was a dud. The content was light and the speaker’s pants were too tight. The only good thing was it ended a half-hour early.
  • Billboard on the way to the airport: “ – It’s easier than you think.”

Measurement and Metrics

The morning presentation I attended at MPlanet included Wharton marketing professor Dave Reibstein, Yahoo CMO Cammie Dunaway and Kraft marketing EVP Paula Sneed. The theme was tying marketing metrics to financial outcomes, and both practitioners provided good examples of how they’re doing that.

Reibstein kicked it off by explaining why marketers need to tie intangibles such as brand and customer values back to the ultimate metric: stock price. He neatly summarized the crux of the challenge for marketers: a rapid return on investment. “If you invest in R&D, it’s amortized over the life of the project. If you invest in a plant, it’s depreciated over the expected life of that plant. But if you invest in marketing, it’s an expense – you’re accountable for that in the year that you spend it.”

There was plenty of practical advice about aligning your programs with the business goals and speaking the same language as the CFO – easy to talk about, but hard to do. “The best way to get credibility for marketing is to sign up for delivering revenue,” Dunaway said.

Both Dunaway and Sneed rely heavily on a comprehensive set of metrics to track their performance, but they both cautioned about getting too hung up on analyzing the data.

“If you’re focusing only on things you can quantify, you will not grow, because all you’re doing is looking backwards,” said Sneed. “We’re trying to get our teams to develop more observational and predictive insights. These sometimes defy quantitative measures.”

Dunaway says the trust that allows you to do that type of hard-to-measure experimentation must be earned over time. “You have to go deep into the numbers initially to build credibility. Over time you gain permission to do more intuitive things.”

Dunaway recently sensed her team was spending too much time analyzing data, which was slowing down their decision-making. So she had a bunch of “trust me” cards printed up and handed them out to the team. They can use them when they have a good idea that’s not easily measurable. “It’s their way of saying, ‘Please don’t make me do 16 more spreadsheets. Just trust me,’” Dunaway explained.