Canadian Marketing Association Summit 2012 in Review (Day #1)

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the 2012 Canadian Marketing Association Summit. The annual two day event was packed full of insights and information from true visionaries, with content focussed on this year’s theme of “connections” – how connections with consumers, with customers and with each other are made, maintained, and measured.

I thought I would share a brief recap of the sessions I attended, inspired by a similar post Michael Zipursky from wrote summarizing the recent VISION marketing conference hosted by the British Columbia Chapter of the American Marketing Association.

Key learnings from the sessions on the first day of the conference are below. Click here to read a review of the sessions for day #2.


Sir Ken Robinson
“Leading a Culture of Innovation”


Sir Ken Robinson, PhD, is an internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation. He is also one of the world’s leading speakers with a profound impact on audiences everywhere. Sir Ken Robinson spoke about leading a culture of innovation – his talk was both humorous and inspiring.

Some key points from Sir Ken’s talk:

  • To be creative, we must actually DO something.
  • A systematic approach to innovation is needed – it must be engrained in a company’s culture.
  • Education systems are locked in the past (see Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk on how schools kill creativity).
  • The transformation of technologies is unpredictable.
    • Apple’s App Store necessitated development of advanced credit card processing technology.
    • Twitter’s original purpose was to enable people to communicate what they’re currently doing to a small group.
  • Everyone has creative capacities – companies that are innovative understand this.
  • Most organizations are built on command and control – if you want innovation, you must think differently.
  • Innovative companies focus on “climate control” as opposed to “total control” to cultivate possibilities and creative capacity.
  • Companies should focus on developing the talents of everyone, rewarding creativity.
  • Create an innovative culture through habits and habitat – deliberately and systematically.
  • Innovative companies mentioned by Sir Ken Robinson included IDEO, Zappos and IBM.

Twitter: @sirkenrobinson

Bryan Pearson
“The Loyalty Leap: Turning Customer Information into Customer Loyalty”

Bryan Pearson, President and CEO of LoyaltyOne, is an internationally recognized expert and author in the fields of enterprise loyalty and coalition marketing with more than two decades experience developing meaningful customer relationships for some of the world’s leading companies. He is also the author of The Loyalty Leap – an insightful book that I just finished reading.

Some key points from Bryan’s talk:

  • Companies can’t cost cut their way to growth; they must connect differently with customers.
  • There are three ways companies compete
    • On efficiency (Walmart)
    • On product (Apple)
    • On customer intimacy (through which we can all win)
  • Media is fragmented, consumers encounter 5,000 to 10,000 brand messages daily.
  • Companies now have an opportunity to capture oceans of data.
  • Need to focus on moving from product centricity to customer centricity (see blog post I wrote on customer-centricity).
  • The three R’s – relevance, recognition and reward.
  • Through data integration, companies need to deliver better on relevance.
  • Several dimensions to relevance – spatial (location), temporal (event based), individual and cultural.
  • Companies can tailor offers taking the dimensions of relevance into account.
  • Shell leveraged customer data from Air Miles to provide customer offers during a period in which their preferred gas stations were closed for renovation – sales actually increased.
  • Nike is great example of building loyalty without control of channel, through Nike+ apps.
  • By being customer-centric at heart, companies have an opportunity to become relevant.
  • Companies must leverage data collected, but it’s key to be transparent to build trust – always use data in best interest of customer.



Twitter: @pearson4loyalty

David Shing
“What’s Next for Media?”

David Shing is the Digital Prophet for AOL and recently was the head of Media and Marketing for AOL Europe before relocating to New York in 2011. He literally gave the most fast-paced, high tempo presentation I’ve ever seen – sharing insights on the digital revolution, trends he sees unfolding, and how to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape.

Some key points from David’s talk:

  • Fragmentation is accelerating – portals, search, blogs, aggregators, feeds, social networks.
  • Digital content should entertain, inform and provide utility.
  • Attention is the new currency and simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
  • Nike+ FuelBand is a great example of combining physical, digital and social.
  • Location, location, location – social identity broadcasting (when, where and what) is accelerating.
  • People are getting overwhelmed – defriend and unfollow will be a trend.
  • It’s not about size, it’s about influence.
  • Companies need to create experiences authentic to the environment.
  • Generic advertising must evolve to influence marketing.
  • 0.02% is now the average display/banner ad click through rate.
  • As economic woes continue, consumers will appreciate small acts of kindness – even branded ones.
  • Cause marketing is now 3rd largest for sponsorship dollars.
  • What’s next?  Conversations, not campaigns. Conversations, not chatter.
  • Online videos are becoming increasingly prominent.
  • Companies must be an engine of difference to consumers
    • Foster social utility – it’s like like water, electricity
    • Encourage a remix culture
    • Find the right people
    • Harness pre-existing communities
    • Embrace co-creation, and fast fail foundation

Twitter: @shingy

Jim Lecinski
“ZMOT – Winning the Zero Moment of Truth”


Jim Lecinski is the Vice President, U.S. Sales for Google, and he leads Google’s advertising business nationally. His focus is helping major marketers and media agency partners in the Consumer Packaged Goods, Pharmacy & Healthcare, Food/Beverage/Restaurant, Branded Apparel & Durables and Media & Entertainment industries adapt to the new digital marketing realities.

Some key points from Jim’s talk:

  • The traditional mental model of marketing: stimulus -> first moment of truth (in store, point of decision) -> second moment of truth (experience product/service).
  • Recession and technology have changed the model of building brands.
  • A new moment of truth has arisen – online research.
  • Consider:
    • 83% of people regularly rely on review sites when making buying decisions.
    • 93% of Canadian online population conducts research online.
    • 47% of Canadian online population go to product review site.
    • 58% of people indicate online research influenced buying decision “a lot”.
  • TV is still an important stimulus – it prompts more action at ZMOT.
  • With mobile, ZMOT can happen at point of purchase in store.
  • Local searches, coupon searches are growing.
  • The number of sources customers use for information is increasing significantly.
  • How to win the zero moment of truth?
    • Put someone in charge.
    • Find the zero moments in your category.
    • Answer question’s people are asking you (research on Google).
    • Optimize for mobile.
    • Be fast – keep on top of trends and opportunities.
    • Win with video.

Twitter: @jimlecinski

Brent Choi and Andrew Simon
“Maximizing Your ROC – Return on Creativity. How to make innovate thinking work harder for your company.”


Brent Choi, Chief Creative Director at Cundari Group, and Andrew Simon, Partner and Chief Creative Officer at Blammo Worldwide, discussed creativity and shared some examples of innovative companies that foster a creative workplace culture.

Some key points from their talk:

  • Creativity is a discipline, a commitment and an investment.
  • Google does it well.
    • Employees allowed to spend 20% of their workweek on special projects not related to their normal workload.
    • Creativity is considered a collective pursuit.
    • Failure is fine – employees are encouraged to openly talk about failures.
    • Google has a vending machine for computer parts.
    • Free lunch offered, encouraging people from different areas of company to talk.
  • General Mills “Bold Experiments” strategy rewards brave decision making.
    • Cited Cheech and Chong promotion of Fibre One brownie.
  • Procter and Gamble has developed a “playground” property which employees can make use of, to incubate ideas while also escaping from the office.
  • To think creatively, companies need to break free and think differently.
  • Bring together people from different disciplines, with different ideas and perspectives.
  • Successful companies are ones that embrace creativity.

Twitter: @brentchoi, @andrewlsimon

Adam Froman
“The Age of Intelligence: From Insight to Action by Harnessing the Voice of the Customer”

Adam Froman, Founder and CEO of Delvinia, believes that digital platforms can be used to create meaningful, human connections between companies and their customers. His talk focussed on how companies can capture attitudes and behaviours of their customers to develop customer-driven strategies and improve customer experiences.

Some key points from Adam’s talk:

  • Much has changed over the last few years, but what hasn’t changed – need to get messages out to consumers, need to collect feedback to derive insights.
  • Voice of the customer has emerged, opportunity to collect feedback leveraging technology and attain 360 view of the customer in real time.
  • Three parts:
    • Ask customers for their opinion and perspective in real time.
    • Listen to what customers are saying about your brand.
    • Observe behaviour to understand how to enhance customer experience.
  • Ask:
    • Companies can use a variety of methods to attain opinions, including surveys, online communities, forums.
    • Three key motivators, from customer perspective – trust, privacy and reciprocity.
    • Opportunity to leverage innovative methods and platforms in collecting data (crowdsourcing cited as example),
  • Listen:
    • Leverage social media monitoring platforms and analytics.
    • Understand community participation (1% are heavy contributors, 9% are somewhat active, 90% are lurkers).
  • Observe:
    • Companies must integrate data to enhance decision making, understand behaviour and attain actionable insights.
    • Tableau and Clarabridge are companies that enable integration of CRM and social data in one place.
  • Five voice of customer key success factors:
    • Accept every customer is digital and they control the conversation.
    • Don’t let technology lead.
    • Think big data and integration of data.
    • Voice of the customer requires collaboration.
    • Voice of the customer is a customer experience.

Stop Counting, Start Engaging

More and more brands are truly embracing social media as an important component of their overall marketing and communications strategy. That’s the good news. However, unfortunately too many companies are focusing on the wrong metrics when it comes to gauging the success and business value of social media initiatives. Sure, it’s great to have hundred of fans on Facebook and followers on Twitter. But where’s the benefit if fans and followers aren’t engaged with the brand?

Companies must do what they can to inspire engagement and action from their fans – focusing on fan acquisition is simply not sufficient. One hundred engaged fans who can relate to a brand and share it’s core values are more valuable than one thousand passive fans. They’re more likely act in favor of a brand – speaking not only with their wallets, but also through recommendations to friends and family members.

Consumers are looking for companies to be more human-centric, and to show interest in the communities they already participate in. Companies that are currently doing a great job of this include Starbucks, Zappos, Converse and Lululemon. They realize that Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms are not broadcast mechanisms. Instead, they leverage available tools to build genuine relationships with their fans.

How are the relationships built? By providing a fair exchange of value. Companies must offer something meaningful to fans and followers, perhaps product, service or cause related, that generates goodwill and entices the community to spread word-of-mouth.

It’s not about numbers, it’s about relationships. Genuine relationships that will enable a community to grow and prosper.

A Rewarding Corporate Culture

I truly believe that a fun, collaborative, team culture – one which rewards excellence and motivates employees – is a key, fundamental building block for strong corporate performance and competitive advantage. It seems obvious. Yet, from my perspective, such a culture is elusive to attain. I Love Rewards, a Toronto-based company, is an organization that understands the importance of a healthy internal culture.

Their business focuses on providing results-driven rewards and recognition programs for companies worldwide. Yet they do far more than that. They walk the talk, they live their values – the company works hard to infuse a strong sense of passion and commitment amongst their own staff members.

Last Tuesday I had an opportunity to visit with Rob Catalano, Marketing Director at I Love Rewards. My primary purpose, in meeting with Rob, was to hear his insights and perspectives on marketing – and some of his learnings with respect to career development in today’s fast-paced world. It was also a chance for me to learn about what makes I Love Rewards tick.

This video gives a great inside peak at their culture:

I noticed the culture right from when I entered the building, prior to my meeting with Rob. The open-concept office area was abuzz with happy, busy staff members, a couple of whom warmly greeted me. Throughout the office there were notable inspirational quotes painted on the walls. Not in small letters, but in big, bold writing, enabling visitors and staff members alike to take notice.

I Love Rewards, like my current company Chaordix and one of my favorite entrepreneurial successes of all-time, Zappos, were all recently recognized by WorldBlu – a non-profit organization that promotes democratic workplaces – as being amongst the top 52 most democratic workplaces worldwide. That’s quite an accomplishment!

According to Rob, “People define the culture” at I Love Rewards. “Our recruiting is so rigorous, we hire based on fit – everyone is aligned.”

Right now it seems that companies like I Love Rewards are the exception as opposed to the norm. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, I will be able to state that the opposite is true. In this blog, I’ve been writing about how companies can become more social and build engagement, leveraging technology, with their customers. The same opportunity holds true with employees.

To gain more insights on I Love Rewards, read their Love Guarantee, posted recently on Cameron Herold’s Backpocket COO blog.

What are your thoughts? What are some companies that you know of, which have an exemplary corporate culture?