I sometimes wonder, as I sit in the audience at one or another of the marketing conferences I attend, just how much of what the rock-star CMO speaker is talking about has to do with what the marketing manager from Minnesota sitting next to me came to learn about.
Make no mistake: The information is typically relevant, but topics change so fast that there’s almost no way anyone who also has a real marketing job can keep up with the latest and greatest. I have the privilege, of course, to just sit and listen, take notes, and muse, since I am not essentially a marketer—I am an observer.
At last week’s ANA “Masters of Marketing” event, in Orlando, Fla., this was more apparent than ever. Jeff Charney, CMO of Progressive, talked in his presentation about what he called marketing’s Moore’s Law.
In the tech world from which this comes, Moore’s Law simply states that “over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years.” And it will continue to do so. The marketing correlative, according to Charney, goes something like this: “More change has occurred in the past five years of marketing than in the past 100, with more change coming in the next 12 months than during the past five years.” Real marketers working in the trenches have to work quintuple time just to keep up with understanding the law.
Over those past five years, the marketing topics du jour have come and gone. First it was all about digital, then it was all about social. This soon gave way to analytics, with a focus on big data—everyone’s favorite for a while. Digital transformation took its turn on stage for a time, content marketing made a big play for attention, and mobile emerged front and center. Oh, and let’s not forget customer experience and the customer journey. All, to some degree or another, are still issues to be grappled with in marketing today; in fact, many of those marketers from Minnesota have yet to combine their traditional marketing and digital marketing teams into a single entity. Reality is slow.
So it was with great pleasure and interest that I listened and watched to see what the latest topic or topics of interest would be at this ANA gathering—a gathering, by the way, of truly top-notch, high-level speakers and attendees. Believe it or not, “creativity” is making a resurgence, and “disruption” is going mainstream, with “fearlessness” and “bravery” coming in right behind.
Airbnb’s CMO, Jonathan Mildenhall, in discussing what the startup is doing to become a new superbrand, suggested these were the qualities that today’s marketing leaders must develop: They must be disruptive, creative, brave, fearless, and innovative. No mention of data science or analytics, you’ll notice, although many speakers did note that that part of marketing is now a given and something that their teams are all over.
Loren Angelo, Audi America’s director of marketing, focused on both the brand and the chief marketer being “a challenger,” while Dana Anderson, senior vice president and CMO at Mondelēz International, has a code of marketing conduct that includes “be brave.” Arby’s brand president and CMO, Robert Lynch, flatly stated, “Advertising isn’t dead—it just craves courage. Don’t be afraid to upset some people.” Calvin Klein’s CMO, Melisa Goldie, shared that company’s four brand truths, two of which are “dance with controversy” and “leverage tension,” and both of which—not surprisingly for the brand of Kate Moss and Justin Bieber and “nothing comes between me and my Calvins” —require bravery and courage.
Now, let it be repeated that these thoughts are from leaders of some of the top brands in the world, most of which have been thinking digitally and acting socially for a very long time; they have long since passed the basics onto their teams so they can move out ahead of the competition. The marketer from Minnesota feasting from the Thai-food buffet has a lot of work to do to get to where the GEs and AT&Ts and Audis and Airbnbs are today. It takes a great idea to disrupt an industry, and it takes a lot of guts to disrupt a company from inside.
But seeing and hearing these Masters of Marketing gives all of those in the audience something to go back to Minnesota or Richmond or San Jose to think about and strive for. The brave and fearless of which, we hope, become masters themselves.
Read related article, "Where Have All The Brave Brands Gone?"