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Marketing 'Masters' on How to Win

No Blueprint: Insights From Speakers at This Year's ANA Conference Are Varied but Profound

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The 97th ANA Masters of Marketing Conference has just concluded -- leaving behind a massive dose of insight and learning. We were all privileged to tap into the mind-sets of some of the most influential and powerful marketing minds in America today.

After three days of this conference, I find myself in awe of this industry. It is big, it is complicated, it is confusing and it is ever-changing. There is lots of sage advice, there are boat loads of insights, there are tons of experiences to lean on -- but there is no blueprint or manual for success. In fact, we often don't know what success looks like.

But it is fun -- if you can stand the wild and crazy ride. It's why we all participate in this field that marries so much art, that we often define as creativity, with an increasing level of science, which is becoming increasingly embedded in sound business-management practices.

This conference was about hearing what the successful marketing professionals had on their minds. They are the ones who have found a bucket of order in a sea of consistent seismic ground shifts. Here are some of the snapshots of the key lessons espoused by the "Masters of Marketing."
AL GORE
CURRENT TV
Photo: Rohanna Mertens
TRUST YOUR BRAND. TRUST YOUR AUDIENCE. NOTHING CAN HELP YOUR BRAND MORE.
Mr. Gore was certainly an inspiration for the conference. After a heartbreaking loss in the 2000 presidential election, Mr. Gore transformed himself into an Oscar- and Nobel Prize-winning individual -- while elevating the worldwide dialogue about global warming. Mr. Gore is a part of an Emmy-winning brand -- and he had some wonderful lessons about the emerging world of consumer-generated media and advertising. If you trust your brand, your consumers will become your advocates -- and may make a flattering commercial or two that heralds its attributes and key benefits.
STEVE BALLMER
MICROSOFT
DIGITAL, DIGITAL, DIGITAL. IT IS THE FUTURE OF ALL MEDIA.
This is hard to argue with. Technology has truly transformed the marketing landscape. During the past three to five years, we have seen an explosion of nontraditional media that is digitally based -- with lots more to come. Even TV will have to truly become "all digital" in 2009. Mr. Ballmer's forecast is an exciting one as it will provide marketers with increasing ability to target key consumers, improve marketing efficiency and forever move accountability to the front burner with metrics and measurements that will make the finance guys smile.
JIM STENGEL
PROCTER & GAMBLE
BRAND ADVOCACY IS ACTION-ORIENTED, WHILE BRAND AWARENESS IS SIMPLY A ONE-WAY CONVERSATION.
Brand advocacy was one of the key conclusions identified in the ANA/IAB/4A's/Booz Allen Hamilton Marketing Ecosystems Study. Mr. Stengel trumpets this as the new direction for marketers. Marketing must be focused on turning consumers and customers into brand champions -- enabling them to be the most vocal and visible advocates for your brand. That will resonate in greater consumer loyalty -- less influenced by discounting or competitive maneuvers in the marketplace.
BECKY SAEGER
CHARLES SCHWAB
FOCUS ON WHAT THE CUSTOMER NEEDS, RATHER THAN YOUR BRAND STRATEGY.
This was one of the more curious comments, as the brand strategy should reflect customer needs. But many times, brand strategy gets left in the dust, failing to shift to the evolving and emerging needs of consumers. Charles Schwab learned that lesson several years ago and underwent an incredible marketing transformation to reset its relationships with the customer. Letting go of the seemingly tried and true is one of the most difficult challenges facing marketers today.
WENDY CLARK
AT&T
A ROBUST BRAND STRATEGY ACTS AS AN INSPIRATIONAL BEACON.
When you do get your brand strategy right, it acts as the lighthouse for all marketing activities. The incredible brand overhaul at AT&T stands as a shining example of how to align smaller, weaker brands behind a behemoth platform that galvanizes marketing strategies and tactics. Such a strategy has profound implications in terms of organizational and agency alignment and provides substantial benefits in terms of long-term efficiencies and productivity. There are few things more powerful than that.
BOB LACHKY
ANHEUSER- BUSCH
DON'T LEAVE AN IDEA TOO EARLY.
Mr. Lachky may have provided the conference with the most important stake in the ground. Anheuser-Busch is one of the most creative marketing companies in America. More important, they may have the most courage. And it takes incredible boldness and courage to back some of the creative ideas that have emerged form the A-B shop. Whether it's lizards and frogs or Bud TV -- success and failure mean you don't camp in the middle of the river. You take logical chances to stretch your brand, stimulate your consumer base and create the long-standing relationships that have propelled A-B to command 50% of the beer market.
MARY DILLON
MCDONALD'S
TO TRULY CONNECT WITH COMMUNITIES, YOU CANNOT SIMPLY ACT LOCAL; YOU MUST BE LOCAL.
There are so many success stories that emanate from great brands getting closer to the consumers. Outstanding marketing begins with understanding your consumer, wherever he or she may be. Sometimes you have to visit them in their homes, sometimes you need to live in their towns and communities, and sometimes you need to work in their factories. Until marketers walk in the shoes of their consumers, they will have difficulty truly appreciating what it will take to have loyal, bound consumers. McDonald's has always gone the extra mile in that vein, as they understand what their local consumers need and want. So much of that has translated into the resurgence in their business performance during the past few years.
LAURA DESMOND
STARCOM MEDIAVEST
DON'T CLASSIFY THE AD-AVERSE AS "NOT WORTH IT."
This was one of the more refreshing concepts coming out of the conference. It also marries with well-grounded research that says consumers will pay attention to your advertising if you put it in the right context for them. Ask the smiling marketers at P&G who have reframed the relationship with Pampers consumers. That relationship has moved beyond just buying diapers to keep your baby dry. Rather that relationship is now about baby care and development -- a position that Pampers' competitors are having a difficult time overcoming.
STEVE SULLIVAN
LIBERTY MUTUAL
Photo: Rohanna Mertens
CONNECT WITH THE EMOTIONAL SIDE OF YOUR CONSUMER.
Mr. Sullivan has created a brilliant campaign that appeals to people "to do the right thing." Whether it is picking up a toy that a child has dropped or giving people the common courtesies of life, Liberty Mutual reminds us all that we are a community, needing and leaning on each other. That concept is integrally interwoven into the fabric of Liberty Mutual marketing -- to lean on them as we would a good neighbor and relative.
JOCELYN ATTAL
AVAYA
Photo: Doug Goodman
TRANSFORM FROM UTILITY TO COOL.
Avaya's transformation and success is one of the most exciting to watch. Dwarfed by giants such as Cisco and outspent by other competitors, Avaya has found a way to be different in the somewhat staid world of business-to-business telecommunications. Their approach -- based on a strategy of "Unified Communications," Avaya's novel, offbeat marketing has caught the attention of key customers, giving them brand and franchise momentum that escaped them for many years since their spin-off from Lucent Technologies.
Bob Liodice is president-CEO of the Association of National Advertisers. He was previously exec VP, handling member relations and business development, and VP-global marketing and sales for Grupo Televisa.
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