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Marketing to Win: Changing the Rules of the Game

Consumers now live in a world where their product choices are endless, their lives are more hectic than ever, and rapidly improving technologies surround them. Thus, marketers must work harder and smarter in order to capture consumers’ attention. This dynamic that exists today was the theme of the 2007 Marketing Conference, entitled “Marketing to Win: Changing the Rules of the Game.” The conference, which attracted 170 attendees and 15 speakers, was held Sunday, December 2 in Spangler Auditorium. The conference hosted the industry’s leading marketers as they discussed and debated their big wins facilitated by revitalizing brands, strategic globalization, and alternative marketing.

Mike Polk, President of Unilever Americas, kicked off the day by challenging the audience of future “brand changers” to find real growth by coming up with ideas that disrupt the norm. The infamous and celebrated Dove ‘Real Beauty’ and Axe ‘Bom Chicka WaWa’ campaigns were used as real and recent examples of how reframing categories can lead to huge growth and substantial consumer dialogue. Polk’s talk did come with some self-admitted controversy: how can the same company market a ‘Real Beauty’ campaign that speaks to young women about a natural, unadulterated sense of beauty and then market a separate product campaign showing attractive women jumping upon a man wearing Axe? As a house of brands, Polk described a sense of courage in risk-taking that is necessary to promote each personality in a way that best serves the consumer, be it at odds with other brands. Additionally, in order to succeed with each brand, companies must be willing to think broadly around how to choose the appropriate channels that will leave a lasting global footprint.

Allen Olivo, Vice President, Global Brand Marketing for Yahoo! described the evolution of the business environment as one of increased complexity with customer entry from multiple access points. Given this complexity and the various drivers at the individual level, the need for participation marketing – a concept that allows a high level of consumer-generated content and experience personalization – is becoming necessary for success. The audience was entertained when Olivo illustrated his point by showing a Yahoo! Music exclusive video with contest winning Shakira fans reenacting her famous “Hips Don’t Lie” song. Consumers want to be involved in the market and Yahoo! is committed to providing this next level of marketing. Olivo concluded his talk by humorously mimicking the attitudes of evolving Multimedia consumers, describing how those over 35 years old “go” to the internet while those under just do – and how to tap into consumers that are overworked, addicted to leisure, and information junkies.

Sharon John, General Manager, Toy Marketing for Hasbro rounded out the keynote speakers. John shared the saga of bringing Transformers to the big screen – a $700M grossing movie that was fueled via multiple partnerships. She closed the conference provocatively, stating “Sometimes you have to say I don’t want to play this game. Sometimes you have to change the game, not just the rules. Don’t be a brand purist.”

Three panels punctuated the conference with exceptional talent from Nike, Procter & Gamble, Dunkin’ Brands, Johnson & Johnson, General Mills, Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve and more. Panelists answered questions concerning revitalizing brands, globalization, and alternative marketing sparking interesting debates such as when to move from one brand campaign to a next generation campaign, how to measure successful marketing, how to best utilize the internet in today’s marketing world, and how to delicately balance local and global marketing initiatives. Attendee Irfan Pirmohamed (NC) reflected, “I enjoyed the marketing conference and found it tremendously relevant. All of the keynote speakers and panelists provided key insights on the latest marketing strategies and effectively engaged the audience throughout the day.”

Nearly 25 RC and EC students contributed to the planning and execution of the event. Joyce Chiu, conference Co-Vice President said, “The conference would not have been a success without the dedication and hard work from all the conference organizers. Everyone did an amazing job.” In addition to the student contributions, a number of corporations provided both monetary and product donations to support the mission of delivering marketing education to HBS and the local community in attendance.

December 10, 2007
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