October 18, 2013
It’s homecoming season. So I returned to one of my favorite forums last week: the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) annual Masters of Marketing Conference. The setting (in Phoenix) was arid, but as always, the ideas and inspiration were fertile.
Here were my Top 3 takeaways:
— As a growth driver, Ideals are entering the mainstream. When I attended my last ANA meeting five years ago, the old language of marketing (“targeting” and “persuasion”) still dominated the dialogue. The discussion of high-order Ideals remained at the margins. Well, a lot has changed over the last several years! At this meeting, most of the success stories included Ideals in the plotline. Some called it “purpose.” Another called it “the really big value.” Whatever you call it, it’s the fuel for a deeper connection with consumers, and it’s the magic ingredient behind celebrated greatness like Coke and new turnarounds like Hennessey. As Brian Terkelsen, CEO of MediaVest, observed, “Purpose is the heart of every great marketing organization.” Yes, indeed. That was the major discovery behind my book Grow, and it was validated by a new piece of research that was presented at the meeting last week. The new “Marketing 2020” study—a joint project by the ANA and EffectiveBrands, Spencer Stuart, Forbes and others—found that 73% of winning brands cite Purpose as a major driver. What an exciting change in just a few short years!
— There’s a bright light in the marketing constellation: Olivier Francois. My favorite presenter at this year’s meeting was the CMO of the Chrysler and Fiat groups. Over the last few years, I’ve admired the company’s advertising breakthroughs: 2012’s “Halftime in America” for Chrysler and this year’s “Farmer” campaign for Ram. They were refreshingly different in a sea of auto-deal sameness. As is always the case, this great work didn’t happen by chance. It quite obviously stemmed from the courage and humanity of Francois. More than most marketing leaders, he exhibits a deep conviction for the power of creativity, storytelling and brand. It was not surprising—but nonetheless affirming—to learn that Francois’ soul-filled approach has successfully moved the business. After the “Halftime” spot, monthly sales of the Chrysler 200 jumped seven fold, and “Farmer” helped take Ram’s market share from 12 to 19%, with more than 40 consecutive months of sales growth.
— Brand enterprises need to reorganize to be open 24/7. In the social era, you can never turn the lights off and go home. Consumers expect real-time responsiveness, and companies need to set themselves up to deliver. That requires new structures, new skills and an end to old silos. Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com dramatized this with stories of how his company is helping Unilever be “on” for their consumers 24/7. Joe Tripodi of The Coca-Cola Company talked about the need to restructure the company and how it works in this era of continual engagement.
I don’t want to wait another five years to return to the ANA meeting, but sometimes you see the megatrends more clearly when you step away. The change I saw–and felt–in how brand builders are approaching their customers, their organizations, and indeed their brands is very exciting for all of us in business and marketing.