The BRITE conference at Columbia was a great one. Much has been written about it already by David Berkowitz, Tom Guarriello, Max Kalehoff, Lois Kelly, Valeria Maltoni, Amanda Mooney, Christine Whittemore and then also on the BRITE blog.
Here are some of my (heavily biased) takeaways from the conference:
- Many companies are truly in need of help – their traditional marketing programs to attract and retain customers have become much too costly.
And when a competitor in their space figures out the secret formula, the benefits to that competitor are game-changing, not just level-setting.
There were some good examples of that at the conference – including Eli Lily (more on them in a future post), Cisco, GE, P&G and Lego.
- Companies have to radically rethink how they do marketing and how they staff it – marketing can no longer be viewed as a collection of programs, but instead as way of behaving in the marketplace.
- Many marketers are complaining that in the new social media world there are not enough opportunities to reallocate their traditional fat advertising budgets – i.e., not enough keywords in search marketing, etc. Forgive my French, but isn’t this looking at marketing in the social media age totally ass-backwards? Maybe you do not need the same traditional fat budgets to achieve the same results – what do you think it cost to produce the coke/mentos video, which resulted in increased sales of 5-10% for Diet Coke and 15% for Mentos? Sure, programs like this may not be replicable, but neither are the results of ad campaigns. Another good example is Amazon – with zero “interrupt” marketing dollars in their budget – which does not mean they don’t do marketing, in fact they are a marketing machine.
- It is clear that agencies are trying hard to redefine themselves, which is a must if they are to survive. Most of them are just using new buzzwords to talk about the same old programs that they’ve been doing for ages. Saying that you will be delivering 3D marketing programs – the right message to the right person at the right time and in the right place does not make it so. Interrupt marketing messages delivered on a computer screen, a cell phone screen, even if powered by GPS, or in an electronic game will work no better than they do on a TV screen or in print. And to say that TV viewing has not gone down as a way to continue to justify non-measurable expensive ad campaigns is totally ignoring what really happens in that marketplace.
- Many marketers have learned that they need to put the customer at the core of their offering, not their company nor their product. It does not matter how a person feels about your product; it matters how they feel about themselves in the context of your product.
- In an attempt to fix the fact that 90% of all new product introductions fail – mostly because they do not address the right market requirements – there may be a bit of an over-correction in the direction of getting your customers involved in designing your products. In certain product categories as with disruptive innovations, getting your customers to help you design your products may in fact not yield the best results. Do you think we could have had the walkman or the iPod through customer co-creation? All that said, an over-correction is still better than the alternative.
- The barriers to marketing innovation are still based on the same fundamentals – which are mostly organizational and cultural in nature. Maybe we need to invent a new marketing department – one in which either nobody reports to the CMO, or one in which most people report to the CMO. And like Eli Lily, maybe we need to change our event horizon and measure it in years instead of in quarters.
- While most companies are confused about what communities really are and how to leverage them, some examples presented at the conference, including the Eli Lily communities, the Lego community, or the P&G innovation communities, clearly demonstrate the power of those communities on achieving game-changing results or results that would just not have been possible without them. You need to be willing to let go of control, go where your most ardent community members hang out, and be supportive but not necessarily provide incentives.
So all in all BRITE was a great conference, with some thought provoking session & presenters, some great insights, and best of all – good discussions and conversations among the audience members. Let’s hope that the blog conversations will extend the life of those great face-to-face conversations.