New retail marketing group takes on trade association

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A group of retail heavy-hitters have formed a splinter organization from the industry's longtime marketing association.

The new Retail Marketing Institute was founded by Doug Raymond, former CEO of the 50-year-old, 2,000-member Retail Advertising & Marketing Association, or RAMA. RMI has scheduled an invitation-only meeting for the top two marketing executives at selected retailers, with about 150 expected to attend.

"A trade association has to devote itself to meeting the needs for the majority of its members," and the large RAMA gathering often precluded "peer" group activities focusing on executive-level training and leadership issues, said Mr. Raymond. A RAMA official declined to comment.

The new group's "founding advisory committee" includes Craig Sinclair, senior VP-advertising, Walgreen Co.; Michael Francis, senior VP-marketing, Target; Gary Vasques, exec VP-marketing, Kohl's; Ernie Speranza, senior VP-marketing/international, Toys `R' Us; and Ellis Verdi, president DeVito/Verdi, New York. Members of the "partners advisory committee" include John Costello, chief global marketing officer, Yahoo! and John Muszynski, exec VP-chief broadcast investment officer, Bcom3 Group's Starcom Worldwide, Chicago.

One new group supporter, Phil Schneider, exec VP-marketing, Pier 1 Imports, recently quit the RAMA board while other RMI supporters, including Mr. Sinclair, remain. Mr. Schneider was unavailable for comment. Some retail marketing executives, such as Terry McDonald, senior VP-marketing, Shopko Stores, will go to both conferences.

Mr. Raymond said the organizations are complementary, serving different audiences with different formats. The two groups, however, are competing for support from many of the same sponsors among the media community and other suppliers at a time when budgets are tight, one executive familiar with the situation said. Mr. Sinclair said that RMI's sponsors include some who have never backed RAMA events, such as Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett USA and Discovery Financial's Discover Card, as well as two sponsors which previously backed RAMA but were not in the RAMA fold last year, Univision and the Tribune Co.'s Media Net.

RAMA, meanwhile, is said to be considering adding a more exclusive event similar to RMI's.

Mr. Raymond said RMI will focus on ways to bring shoppers into stores. "We have to convince our customers we are real, honest and forthright," he said. "The role of advertising has to change."

Fast Facts

What: Retail Marketing Institute

Founder: Doug Raymond

Former position: CEO, Retail Advertising & Marketing Association (2,000 members)

RMI conference: Tuscon, Ariz., Sept. 26-28 (invitation only, 150 expected attendees)

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