HBS Marketing Conference 2005: Breakthrough Brands – Bring on the Revolution

The 3rd annual Marketing conference was held last weekend on the Harvard Business School campus, attracting approximately 300 MBA students, professionals, executives and scholars. This year’s theme was “Breakthrough Brands: Bring on the Revolution”, which emphasized the importance of evolution and innovation in the future of marketing. As expressed by the conference co-chairs, “the future of marketing now requires nothing short of a revolution.”

The event was kicked off by keynote speaker Russ Klein, CMO of Burger King, who spoke to the recent successes of Burger King with their subservient chicken campaign, the idea of “having it your way”, and the impact of provocative marketing on their target consumer. Other keynote speakers included an insightful Antonio Lucio, Sr., VP Insights & Innovation at PepsiCo, and a dynamic Cammie Dunaway, CMO of Yahoo! who spoke about doing something “worth talking about” and thinking about media in new and invigorating ways.

Many consider the highlight of the conference to be keynote speaker Amy Curtis-McIntyre, CMO of jetBlue Airways. Reminiscent of a stand-up comedian, Amy captured the audience with her charisma and sass, while simultaneously communicating the message of “keeping it simple”. Amy spoke about her experience of building the product from the inside out and the importance of integrating the brand with everything from sales to new products to the website. Many words of wisdom were passed on to her audience, including “take really good care of your product, don’t wait to be asked to re-invent yourself”, “under promise, over deliver”, “good advertising is only a support to your product, but bad advertising can destroy it”, and “tell people stuff they want to know, the truth for example.”

Intermixed with these enthusiastic keynotes were three panels and executive round tables. The first panel, “Ignore your customers – they don’t know what they want” included representatives from Newmarket Films, Avon, BMW, Ogilvy & Mather and Product Genesis who spoke to the idea that truly groundbreaking ideas don’t necessarily come from market research, but from market insight.

The second panel featured executives from Quiznos, P&G, Design Continuum and New Century Brewing Co to discuss the idea that groundbreaking ideas typically come from smaller, up-and-coming companies, and how the larger elephants in the room respond to such innovation. The cast of characters bantered back and forth about the idea of innovative products versus innovative brands and whether or not both can be accomplished at companies both small and large.

The final panel spoke to what traits and processes need to be in place in order for creativity to truly breed. The panelists here included representatives from eBay, Hill Holliday, Microsoft and Puma.

Overall, the conference was a great success and stimulated much discussion, not only between the panelists, but also between all of the attendees, on the topic of what exactly does breed innovation and creativity and how best to cultivate such creativity.

The committee of the conference would especially like to thank the corporate sponsors who contributed financially, were represented at the conference by speakers, or donated products for the goodie bags, for helping to make the 2005 conference such a wonderful success!

April 19, 2005
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