China's weird ways
What a stormer of a Global Conference from the Marketing Society this year. It certainly feels like they have grown into their new conference home at the British Film institute as the lofty interiors of The Opera House fade into distant memory. It was wonderful to be reminded by Ed Lu - a bona fide astronaut - to really appreciate what you have in life and how little you really need to be happy. It was especially moving to hear how after six months on a space station, his landing was made all the more memorable by the evocative power of the smell of cut grass coming through the air filters. A powerful lesson in the use of the senses to reinforce memories perhaps?
Nicola Mendelsohn from Facebook reminded us of the need to focus on the biggest problems and not to get dragged down into all the mindless crap that weekly status sheets and PowerPoint has a tendency to encourage. Lucky Nicola!
Mark Wilson from Aviva took a more combative approach to the concept of marketers and marketing, bordering on sneering at the profession at times. That said, it was a lively account of Aviva’s 320 year history to current day A.I. disruptor. In the great marketing echo-chamber it was refreshing to have someone challenge conventions, admit mistakes and espouse a mantra to ‘kill complexity’, ‘compete and cannibalise’ and wait for it, ‘hack fate’ (You might find yourself back in marketing at this rate Mark).
The two big gun CMOs – Silvia Lagnado from McDonald’s and Dave Wheldon from RBS – both gave insightful glimpses into their own leadership styles and organisational challenges. Key takeouts for me included:
- the need to not get overwhelmed by trying to ‘learn new things every day’ but rather to package up as intense learning days. (Silvia)
- Think about the CMO role as one of Chief Integration officer (Silvia)
- Reboot brands by understanding their past, admitting mistakes and don’t ever forget the basics of serving customers better than your competitors. (Dave)
A switch to the academics, Paddy Barwise and Thomas Barta brought a change of emphasis and a fascinating insight into the three central challenges for marketers – namely – The Trust Gap, The Power Gap and The Skills gap. For more insight, you will just have to read their excellent new book, ‘The 12 powers of a Marketing Leader’.
Other highlights for me included Graham Fink’s amusing tour of ‘China’s Wired Ways’ which might as well have been called China’s Weird Ways as far as Graham was concerned! As well as the expected challenges of vast scale, speed and general culture shock he experienced, he shared that for many Chinese ‘copyright’ means ‘copy it right’. Ouch.
Equally engaging was Parag Khanna’s ‘Global connectivity revolution’ and his maps of the world based around our archetypal desire to cluster into cities and live near water. For him, mobility is a human right, and many Asian and African countries are enabling permanent migrants via global visa or pass porting arrangements.
Finally, Mark England gave a fascinating glimpse into the painstaking preparation behind the Rio Olympics’ success and what it takes to build a high performing, enduring culture at the highest and toughest level of all – being the best in the World!
The Marketing Society Global Conference 2016 was reviewed by Chris Pearce, CEO TMW Unlimited.