The bar in late night “Sleeper” (surely an oxymoron?) train back to Edinburgh was a good place to reflect on the day and our Brave conference. I certainly felt very fortunate to have attended such an inspiring and stimulating event.
The Marketing Society has a well-established mission of inspiring our members to be bolder marketing leaders so having bravery as the core theme for this year’s conference was perhaps no surprise.
The challenge the conference team had was to examine this subject from a broad range of perspectives – from a business and marketing to the extremes of physical endurance and artistic expression.
The skilled and insightful interview of Syl Saller by host for the day Tina Daheley started with a perspective that bravery is perhaps simply a more pronounced requirement of marketers to be bold.
Syl gave a very honest and personal account of the fears she had of her new professional challenges with whilst balancing the personal needs of a young family
Her brief to create a brand new approach to innovation by Diageo across the world within 6 weeks is an example of the intense pressure marketers are feeling in these challenging times.
As if to put this marketing and business challenge into some form of perspective Raha Moharrak then took to the stage with her very personal story of confronting the social and cultural conventions of being a women in Saudi Arabia with her desire to climb 7 of the most challenging summits in the world.
After the break Andrew Clarke from Mars returned to the marketing perspective by presenting a range of brave, inspirational and award winning campaigns from across the world. From the highly acclaimed Maltesers ad featuring a disabled actress to a clever stunt by Pedigree Chum confronting the prejudices on both sides in advance of the US election.
Frances O’Grady of the British Trades Union Congress focused on the bravery of young workers fighting for their basic employment rights to the highly topical issue of dealing with sexual harassment in the work place
The morning session ended with the deeply moving account by Hassan Akkad of his time being tortured and held in solitary confinement in Syria to his escape across the sea then across Europe and eventually to the UK as documented in his award-winning film.
The afternoon started with a remarkable interview with Min Kym and her deeply personal and indeed physical and psychological relationship she had with her Stradivarius violin. Built in 1716 and valued at over £1m - but much more to her personally. The story of its theft and the impact on her life was deeply moving.
For me the highlight of the day was Mark Thompson – now President and CEO of The New York Times. He remind us all that the US President sending out random Tweets attacking the media and The New York Times specifically was “not normal”. He also reminded us all of the importance of protecting free speech the bravery required by journalists and the media to hold all areas of society to account. No matter who they are.
The New York Times got my vote at the evening dinner as my Brave Brand of the Year.
This piece was by Marketing Society Scotland Director Graeme Atha. Follow him @graemeatha