Eighty Kiwi marketing heavyweights (and a few lowly journalists) ventured to the floating pavilion in Auckland yesterday for a cup of tea and numerous pearls of wisdom that were delivered by a host of marketing thought leaders as part of the Marketing Association's inaugural marketing forum.
Sponsored by research company Synovate, Marketing Association chief executive Sue McCarty says the "unashamedly elitist", invite-only event aimed to bring together the country's best marketers, whether experienced campaigners or young up-and-comers, in order to promote its newly established Alumni group, ensure marketing best practice filters down to the association's members and to advance the field of marketing as an integral aspect of business in New Zealand.
Joanna Seddon, executive vice president of Millward Brown and global head of Millward Brown Optimor, was brought to New Zealand specifically for the event and kicked proceedings off with a presentation showing how marketing and brand building can benefit overall business performance.
"Marketing is about creativity in so many ways, but the fundamental role is to use creativity to grow profits," she says. So, it's imperative that marketing departments link themselves more closely with their financial departments so that marketing comes to be seen as a long term investment, rather than a cost.
"It's about strategy, being responsible for the demand chain, it's about growth and generating new markets," she says.
She says "the finance guys are starting to get interested" in marketing because, on average, 20-30 percent of a company's value can be attributed to brand. Added to that, companies that continued to market through the recession had a smaller decrease in sales and, since the arrival of a few green shoots, have gone on to increase their market share.
Understanding the brand and investing in it is a long-term strategy. But these days, brand is also more than just media spend.
Every time a brand touches a customer is a brand moment. And she says businesses need to seed the "cupboard of memories" rather than just look for short term results (she warns against promotional activities that may seem successful at first but can actually erode the perception of quality, pointing to the decline of General Motors compared to the brand building policy of Toyota).
"Marketing enhances perceptions of brand, which enhances indirectly the decision to purchase, both in the short term and the long term. It's really important not just to measure the short term but the longer term brand building impacts," she says.
As far as media split goes, she says traditional media still has great reach. But new media can be more effective, with online video being a particularly powerful tool.
"If you want to go deep with a smaller number of people then new media can be more effective."
Tim Deane, Fonterra's general manager of shareholder and supplier service, discussed how much of an impact a change in perspective has had on Fonterra's business, with a huge increase in face to face visits from area managers leading to more brand loyalty from milk suppliers. He even showed a video involving donkey testicles.
And he agrees with Seddon: in a year when extra money hasn't been forthcoming to marketing departments, it's all about optimisation; about proving to the bean counters how smart marketing tactics can affect the bottom line.
"Try to demonstrate that you can make a difference with what you've got and then go back and ask for more money," he says.
Duncan Stuart, principal of Kudos Organisational Dynamics, entertained and informed with his presentation on the complex frontier world of digital technology, the joy of convergence, the uncertainty that surrounds social media and the importance of the disenfranchised as a cultural force. And the media panel, which consisted of television broadcasting council chief executive Rick Friesen, Alan Hard from Marketingimpact message media, Nigel Paxton from NZ Post and Peter Biggs from Clemenger Melbourne (best statistic of the day: 22 percent of Germans and Spaniards had interrupted sex to answer their phones), all put two cents in about the state of their different fields.
The consensus: everything's changing. Now what the hell do we do about it? While it's a scary thought for many, those companies with the cajones to hand the brand over to its consumers and let them become co-creators are coping the best in the new media world (although bad news travels faster in this new media world). And companies that embrace truth are likely to gain respect for it.
The forum heads to Wellington today, where 70 marketers will attend and, if the inaugural event is anything to go by, it should be a regular feature on the marketing calendar.