I’m just getting back from one of the most whirlwind trips of my life last week, as I presented our Marketing with Meaning manifesto on two continents. I started the week in Sao Paulo, Brazil, speaking with a few hundred members of the Association of Brazilian Advertisers (ABA), and finished the week in Ghent in front of about 1,000 people at the annual Belgian Marketing Federation event. Both were great opportunities to bring our message to a diverse, global audience of people united in their desire for a new marketing model. Plus, I got to be an audience member for others’ great presentations, and get to share what I learned with you here. First up, Brazil…
Sao Paulo Impressions
Let me begin by saying that I was incredibly impressed by the country of Brazil and the people who I had a chance to meet. It was my first time in this fast-growing country, and I believe we will be talking a lot more about Brazil in the years ahead. Brazil has a large, youthful population, huge resources, and a government that seems to be balancing democratic freedom and guided development. In comparing Brazil to fellow growth engines China and India, I would say that Brazil has the freedom and cultural vibrancy of India, and the tighter, organized infrastructure of China. It didn’t even sneeze when the rest of the world suffered the recent economic sickness, and it seems like every entrepreneur is building profitable businesses there. Buy and hold Brazil, folks.
Pekka Rantala, Global Marketing SVP, Nokia
We started off the event with a speech from Pekka Rantala, who came all the way from Finland to share his thoughts on the future of marketing and how Nokia is evolving.
- “Technology is back in the hands of the people.” Pekka talked about how the mobile device is used to fall in love or create a flash mob pillow fight—use scenarios that the company would never have imagined. He said that Nokia “is in the business of connecting people… and making technology as human as possible.” Nokia “wants to be in the business of connecting people to what matters most, wherever you are.” One thought I had is that Nokia should be measuring its success by whether people are connecting more and are happier once they have purchased Nokia devices.
- “Brand Strength = Number of Users x Net Promoters.” This is a new success measure that Nokia is tracking, and a new way of building brands—with word of mouth at the forefront. It follows from Pekka’s belief that “conversation is the new conversion” and a brilliant way of adapting measures to the new rules of marketing. Nokia is spending less time and money on the old purchase funnel, which is too biased toward TV.
- Interesting data from consumer usage. By owning the connection device, Nokia is at the forefront of understanding how consumers around the world are shifting their mobile habits. More than 1.3 billion people around the world use a Nokia device. They see that in terms of daily time allocation with these devices, only 12% is devoted to voice communication, and 37% to instant messaging.
- Nokia is shifting its organization to be more digital. The company is spending more on digital than TV already—not because Pekka ordered it, but because of smart decision-making by local managers around the world. This has been driven by an organization project aimed at creating training, rotating experts, sharing best practices, encouraging networking, and getting senior leaders to personally engage.
Steve Rappaport, Director of Knowledge Solutions, Advertising Research Foundation (ARF)
I had a fellow U.S.-based speaker in Steve Rappaport, who came to speak about the power of listening to make great marketing. Steve has written a few books on advertising research and has a new one coming out in the spring titled Listen First! You can check out Steve’s recap of his speech here, but I wanted to share some of my notes:
- First, it’s worth noting that the ARF has a brand purpose: “Advocate for quality research that improves decision-making in marketing.” The organization has been doing its good work for 75 years.
- “Listening is the study of naturally occurring signals.” These are conversations, behaviors, and biometrics (i.e., how people feel). The idea is to listen so that you can bring the voice of people’s lives into the brand.
- “There are 4.5 billion brand-related conversations per day in the U.S. alone.”
- “Competitive advantage results from getting the right information, the right interpretation, then acting on it in marketing.”
- “Constant adaptation is the new key to marketing; and listening is the key to adapting.”
- Hennessy discovered an opportunity with African-Americans after seeing inbound URL links from a website called Black Planet five years ago. Marketing to this community grew sales with the niche, but also grew relevance and sales among its wider target.
- The Gillette Fusion team listened to lapsed users and found that they said it “shaves a little better, but the price is too high for the slightly better shave.” As a result, the brand took the refill cartridge price down and also toned down the promises in its advertising.
- MINI came up with some of its best marketing because of a need to maintain sales momentum after launch, despite no new product launches. It discovered that “owners treat their cars as pets” and it decided to drive engagement among current owners. A large increase in their word of mouth from these efforts continued the sales surge.
Fernando Vila, CEO, Havas Group
I don’t normally like to take the time to rave about my competitors, but I have to give some credit to Havas CEO Fernando Vila for flying in from France to share a compelling perspective on marketing today and tomorrow. He captured the state of our industry exceedingly well:
- “Marketing is a dangerous industry.” Vila pointed out that the average CMO tenure is only 26 months, and that marketers are facing the biggest crisis in mass consumption in the Western world since World War II. He talked about how the crisis lies in the fact that “consumption” is no longer celebrated and no longer a major yardstick of personal progress. Once it was “news” in the neighborhood when someone on the block got a new car or new washing machine. Back then, advertisers talked at consumers like they were babies. Today, technology is putting consumers in the driver’s seat. We are moving from a tyranny of advertisers to a consumer democracy… and it’s easier to govern a tyranny than a democracy (see China vs. India, but I digress…).
- “Total media consumption time is about the same, but media interaction time is much higher and growing exponentially.” I think this is an under-reported story of media today, and one that should give marketers pause.
- “Agencies are not capturing value; they are surviving.” This comment was pretty impressive coming from someone who runs agencies for a living, but it is absolutely true. Vila compared our industry to others that are turning into commodities. We are consolidating rather than growing—only five out of the 13 communications holding companies that existed in 1995 are around today, and clients are investing less and less in advertising expenses. Meanwhile, new players such as Google, Facebook, IBM, and Omniture are the ones growing and adding value to marketing today.
- “Agencies have three assets that they can still use to win in the marketplace, but they won’t last forever.” (1) Goodwill: We still have “some” respect for our clients and they still call an agency when launching a new product; (2) Creativity: These skills are still a key element of building brands and the new players are largely lacking it; and (3) Expertise: the ability to understand and connect both brands and consumers.
- “The new brand-building process is all about getting social capital.” We must get consumers to talk, think, and trust. The role of agencies is to “help brands restore trust through meaningful communications strategies.”
I enjoyed the chance to take my message to Sao Paulo along with these amazing thinkers and leaders and I can’t wait to return.