Our three big takeaways -- plus the ten best things we saw -- from ANA's Masters of Marketing conference
Last week, over two thousand professionals flocked to Arizona for the chance to gather wisdom from North America's top marketers at ANA's Masters of Marketing conference. Think of it as a pilgrimage to an oracle: just hop on a flight to Phoenix and you're rewarded with a peek at what the country's top CMOs are thinking and how they're organising their teams to cope with change.
It's a tough task to boil four days of meaty presentations into a single debrief, but it's a worthwhile one. After all, individual strategies espoused by CMOs are likely to be company- and brand-specific, but the takeaway insights that weave through every speaker's deck can help marketers assess their own plans and see what's coming down the line. So, here's what we found most important:
THE CUSTOMER COMES FIRST /
The customer is always right. No longer just a point-of-sale cliché, the well-worn phrase is becoming a guiding light for marketing strategy. Walmart CMO and executive vice president Stephen Quinn said as much in the first keynote of the conference: 'It used to be that whoever owned the customer made all the money. Now it's whoever the customer owns that makes all the money.'
Accordingly, Walmart has increasingly sought to demonstrate tangible value to customers in its marketing. Chief among those efforts: a restructuring of the marketing department to execute a local-first strategy with enormous scale. Store-level Facebook pages help the brand stay close to local communities, and Walmart responds to some 500,000 pieces of content generated by its 34 million Facebook fans each month.
Even more impressively, Walmart has streamlined and sped up its ad production, approval process and media partnerships. Because customers require an increased level of proof on a local level, Walmart is shooting weekly ads in 70+ cities, starring real moms in real shopping locations, comparing the price of a shopping order at Walmart to that of a competitor. The campaign, Quinn says, will produce a staggering 1,500 advertisements in 2013 alone. And here's the kicker: Walmart's production cost per ad is down over 90%.
John Costello, president of global marketing and innovation for Dunkin' Brands, echoed Quinn's sentiment, highlighting Dunkin' Donuts' 'What are you drinkin'?' campaign strategy as putting customers front and center in marketing. 'Dunkin' Donuts is built for sharing, so we're integrating efforts across all of our platforms,' said Costello. 'We're building a dialogue with our fans. The brand features customers sharing their beverage of choice in its commercials. A new multi-screen campaign, centered on personalisation through the hashtag #mydunkin, launches this week.
Costello's big takeaway was perhaps the best summation of the customer-centric attitude espoused by presenters throughout the conference. 'While it's important to study competition, it's easy to get caught up in the curse of incrementalism,' he said. 'We ask what our customers want and try to do it better than anyone else.'
BRANDS NEED A THESIS /
Contagious has been ruminating on the resurgence of storytelling
, so it's no surprise that telling a coherent brand story was held aloft at ANA - not as a case-study ideal, but as a marketing necessity.
Olivier Francois, who took over the reins of Chrysler and Fiat's marketing in 2011 with the companies struggling to compete, illustrated the point with a series of anthemic ads. 'We wanted to sell our product through a brand, not a brand through a product,' he told attendees. 'A brand is a statement, it's a persona, it's a promise. Only then does it become a collection of products.'
Francois' results have been impressive, to say the least. His iconic Super Bowl This Is Detroit ad, starring Eminem, raised Chrysler's brand awareness 2700% in 24 hours, increasing sales from 800 cars/month to over 6,000. A year later, his Clint Eastwood big game spot, It's Halftime America, improved Chrysler's brand sentiment by 2000%, earning 17.3 million views across the web. Dodge Ram trucks, which featured in this year's God Made A Farmer big game spot, has seen 41 consecutive months of sales growth, and has increased its market share from 11.7% to 18.9% since Francois joined Chrysler.
BBDO's David Lubars and Mars CMO Debra Sandler repeated Francois' focus on identity, describing the global Snickers campaign that revitalised the chocolate bar in 2009. 'If you can't write your idea as a text or tweet, you don't have an idea,' said Lubars.
Fidelity's David Speros broke it down even more during a CMO Roundtable, laying out steps to find and communicate a brand's thesis statement. He urged marketers to 'move beyond the cosmetics of branding' and 'think of the brand as the result of what you do'. Then, Speros said, work internally to define the brand's value proposition - based on customer experience - and get everyone on the team on board.
INNOVATE OR DIE...BUT DO IT INTENTIONALLY /
As at any marketing-related event, the word innovation got a workout at ANA. But presenters were quick to attach a disclaimer: innovation is only worth something if it's done with customers in mind. Coca-Cola's executive vice president and chief marketing and commercial officer Joseph Tripodi laid out the timeline: 'It starts with creativity, which drives innovation, which drives brand news, which drives brand love and equity. That drives shareholder value.' Coke's innovation in fields like packaging, partnerships and products have driven the brand to add 1.2 billion cases of volume for three consecutive years.
GE's CMO Beth Comstock described the role of innovation as crucial to marketing officers. 'Innovation is change that creates a new dimension for performance,' she told the audience. 'At the end of the day, my job is as a chief growth officer. Marketing's role is about value and innovation.'
Quinn agreed, in his opening remarks. His most-repeated quote of the weekend was 'CMOs need to be Chief Innovation Officers'.
Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft's corporate vice president of marketing and strategy, showcased real innovation with his walkthrough of Xbox Kinect's new technology. Making it clear that Microsoft is pushing to take control of the living room, he predicted four trends that should define marketing in the future. First, he predicted that the most powerful computing device people own will be attached to the television, making form factor a secondary concern to technological capability. Secondly, he noted, devices will truly recognise and understand users - from mood recognition to experience personalisation. The third important trend for marketers is the necessity to unify devices to create unique consumer experiences. And lastly, marketers should be ready to harness these different trends to create completely new entertainment and marketing experiences.
'You will need to understand the consumer in a deeper way in the living room,' said Mehdi. 'All of the power and the accountability that we've come to learn and love online will be expected and delivered in the living room with all forms of entertainment.'
Finally, Subway CMO Tony Pace extolled the virtue of experimentation in marketing, to find new and innovative ways to meet consumer needs. 'I'm a big fan of the concept of marketing R&D,' he said. 'If you're waiting for the book to be written, by the time the book has been written it's going to change anyway.'
The Ten Most Interesting Things We Saw/Heard/Learned At ANA 2013:
1. Xbox One and Forza Motorsport 5. In a stunning demo by Yusuf Mehdi, rendered Xbox One images taken from the new Forza Motorsport 5 game rivaled video quality. The brand hopes to use the tech to make car commercials in the near future.
2. Dunkin' Brands' John Costello, on branding. Costello admitted he buys pre-packaged lettuce, and used that experience as inspiration to overcome marketing challenges. 'I'm buying bagged lettuce, how did they get me to do that? If they can brand lettuce, what's our excuse?'
3. Jewel. We're not joking. The surprise hit of the conference, singer-songwriter Jewel impressed audiences with a performance that was part stand-up comedy, part hit song parade. The formerly homeless poet and recording star showed a room full of marketers how to tell a story.
4. Our favorite term of the conference: Infobesity. Sure, it sounds like jargon. But the overweight Twitter bird that accompanied the phrase was a perfect illustration for data overload.
5. Roger Adams, USAA CMO, on setting the bar higher. 'When you rate yourself and you're getting five out of five, develop a 10 point scale. Fives become 8.8s, and there's more to work for.'
6. Duck Dynasty: Illustrating that customers control the market, Stephen Quinn pointed to surprise hit show Duck Dynasty. Mind-bogglingly, Walmart will sell hundreds of millions of dollars of Duck Dynasty merchandise this year.
7. Ron Burgundy. Chrysler CMO Olivier Francois revealed the first three of 70 (yes, 70) separate Dodge advertisements, starring Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy. They're even better than we expected.
8. Subway CMO Tony Pace on why the company feels poised to make a breakthrough in mobile - and underlying third-mover advantage: 'Moving too late is better than moving too soon.'
9. Evidence that marketing works, particularly in confectionery: Snickers will be a billion dollar brand in the US by the end of 2013, the second Mars product to do so, following M&Ms.
10. Coke's packaging innovation: From personalised bottles in Australia and the UK to sharable cans in Singapore, Coke has used packaging as a progressive engagement strategy globally. In South America, Coke bottles made out of ice sold at twelve times the standard rate of sale, despite being 90% more expensive.