Insights from the 2009 Chief Marketing Officers (CMO) conference Zurich

For the last couple of days I have been lucky enough to be in Zurich, Switzerland at the 2009 CMO conference. There were some great speakers and a few “Ah-ha” moments which I wanted to share. I also tweeted the conference which you can find by visiting my Twitter feed (@justinbasini).

The key theme of the conference that emerged through the excellent content was how the marketing agenda and marketers can drive inspiration, innovation and growth in businesses.

Opening the conference was Scott Davis (@scottdavisshift) who is Senior Partner at Prophet, the marketing and brand consultancy. He shared his insights on the need for marketing and marketers to make 5 fundamental shifts. There was some powerful thinking around how marketing and marketers can drive business growth and real impact by focusing on the fundamentals of the business and the ability to lead but I was particularly taken with the thought:

This is really well put. I was always taught at P&G that you could go up against the CEO of the company as long as you understood the consumer. Marketing and marketers, with our natural consumer and market orientation, have the ability to be a great source of actionable insight for our businesses by representing the consumer in the board room. If you want to know more then Scott has published a book called The Shift.

Michael Conrad, President of the Berlin School for Creative Leadership (who was the Chief Creative Officer for Leo Burnett) then picked up some of these themes as he helped us decode the advertising of iconic brands. It was powerful to hear Michael’s anecdotes: he recalled the Nike brand being all about “the religion of sport” and how this was the guiding context for all their activities. This included building their shops, the Nike Towns, which are “temples to sporting heroes”. A powerful insight for me was:

It’s not about the campaign or the advert anymore but about creating a series of events that together can create a wave of awareness about a new idea. Each domain in the value chain needs to take the theme and develop powerful expressions that bring it alive, no one thing can drive a major change it needs to be lots of elements working together.

Andy Stefanovich from an innovation consultancy (now part of Prophet) called PLAY (based in Richmond, VA for all my Capital One readers) was a force of nature as he took us outside and shared that he believes:

This is powerful way of representing the strands that many of us will be familiar with: the dearth of truly inspirational leadership, the over regimented approach to innovation, the lack of understanding (even fear) of creative thinkers and the creative process and ruthless focus on measures which constrain and create less than ideal outcomes. He passionately implored his audience to step up to inspirational leadership and use the creation of a consumer focused, counter intuitive marketing agenda to drive change and create energy for individuals, teams and organisations.

And finally it was fascinating to hear Chris Hughes, Co-founder of Facebook and architect of the online strategy of Barack Obama’s election campaign. His talk was full of insight and information with his perspective on the current information revolution being:

Previous information revolutions have been mainly driven by changes in the distribution of information. The changes we are currently witnessing are different because they centre on the democratisation of the creation of information. We can all now blog, tweet, comment, and share through the internet. This is causing powerful new forces to arise that bring people together for a range of different effects including those of political and social change such as the demonstrations in Brazil against FARC or the global protestations about the Iran election.

I’ve blogged about these trends before and Chris confirmed my model of how the different social networks play different roles and fulfil different needs.

Overall it was a very enjoyable and thought provoking conference and these are not all the insights uncovered but they are the ones that I wanted to share immediately. Thanks to Prophet and Heidrick & Struggles for sponsoring and the organisers for organising.

What do you think of these insights? Did you attend the conference? As always if you have a view please comment below!



Did you know you can sign up for updates from Justin Basini? Click here