BRITE Day Two

Day Two at the Columbia Business School’s BRITE conference was much shorter and more interactive than day one.  The following are highlights of the day — or at least my experience of it.

The brand guru Seth Godin started off the morning with the keynote address.  He was wonderfully entertaining, a terrific presenter.  At one point he showed a “typical Seth Godin chart made up of no data at all.”

For 25 or 30 minutes he stood in front of the auditorium shouting to us that the world will no longer tolerate advertisers who stand in front of their audience shouting to the people in the last row.  I’m sure he appreciates the irony of the situation. 

So when I returned to my office I picked up Godin’s book.  It’s not very heavy.  Immediately I turned to the back cover and the name Mark Rovner caught my eye.  I know a Mark Rovner who lives in the DC area and works with many non-profits.  Could this be the same Mark Rovner?  I quickly read the book (not difficult, it’s 151 small pages, including acknowledgements, which comes out to a little more than 13 cents a page if you paid full retail) and found the comments about Mark on page 114.  You can learn more about Mark and his organization, Seachange.

Back to Godin’s presentation.  His thesis is that people inherently form themselves into “tribes.”  Tribes are essentially affiliations, sometimes weak and sometimes strong, that have been made easier to form and grow because of the internet and other new technology. Tribes are fundamentally different from segmentation because tribes are self-selecting whereas segments are defined by the marketer based on the marketer’s criteria and not your own.  Which is a rather distressing thought for everyone who follows the traditional marketing strategies of segmentation.

His quotable comment of the day:  “People love lies.  People love stories.”

Following that the audience split up into 4 different groups to hear or participate in 4 different topics.  I went to hear several more presentations, these by Ross Buchanan of Molson, Alyson Meranze of American Express, Freddy Mini of Netvibes and Professor Eli Noam.  Professor Don Sexton was the moderator.  

Alyson Meranze spoke of the “co-creation of value with partners” as their way of going beyond shooting tv and print ads.  Co-creating value means developing a deeper, mutually beneficial partnership with people such as Diane Von Furstenberg.  She then gave an example of how that turned into blogs, a sponsorship of Project Runway on Bravo which DVF was judging and finally DVF creating a line of clothes that is only available to card members.

Ross Buchanan was candid about the way in which Molson “never really listened to our consumers.  We did surveys every so often but not really listen.”  That was behind the initiative he has led to provide a platform where Molson drinkers could engage with each other as well as the brands.  

He also raised the issue that was plaguing many companies — who owns the social networking initiatives?  PR?  Brand?  Marketing?  In Molson’s case they created a cross-functional team to run the initiatives.

Both Amex and Molson talked about their shift in media spending away from traditional media and into new media.  Molson gave a rough breakdown of 85% traditional and 15% new media today with the % of new media going even higher in the future, particularly with budgets shrinking.   Amex declined to provide any breakdown of the spending split between traditional and new media.  

The quote of the session goes to a saying from Amex that Alyson shared with us: “When you are through changing you are through.”

The last session I attended was led by Bernd Schmitt.  He made the point that advertising in the past was about functions, features and benefits.  “It was what we all learned for a long, long time.”  Now advertising is more emotional, lifestyle, non-comparative.  In an experiential economy the advertising is:

Sense, Feel, Think, Act and Relate.  

Relate is the phenomena of the conference, the crowdsourcing or mash-ups or Tribes or community (insert your favorite word here).  The area that has been least touched on is Sense because much of the internet is still text based.  For instance, I am typing this and you are reading it instead of watching me on video.

This last session was also much more collaborative.  We broke into groups of two or three to discuss the topics and share the ideas around the room.  For a conference about crowdsourcing, this was the first usage we had of it in two days.

Although not formal presentations, the breaks and lunch were enjoyable opportunities to share stories with so many new people and reconnect with some familiar faces.  

Here is my highly unscientific analysis of the words of the week:

Brands, Longtail, Facebook, Hulu, Engaging, Kindle, Experience, Community, twitter, Crowdsourcing, Monetization, Google, Tribes, Platform, Content, iPhone, Tribes, Linked In, Social Media/Social Networking

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