The easy bit: I was lucky enough again to be asked by Sophie Devonshire to attend The Marketing Society Global Conference.
The impossible bit: Being asked by Sophie to sum up the highlights of an eight-hour day full of brilliant speakers delivering vital lessons across a multitude of topics – brilliantly curated, and expertly hosted.
The title of the conference was Illuminate. A word that my dictionary says means “Clarify and Explain”.
The day started with a video clarifying and explaining what The Marketing Society meant to its members. (You can watch that here). The most frequent word that came up? Community.
This is what I really took away from today, and the words of the self-styled ‘Uncertainty Expert’ Sam Conniff, rang very true for me when he said the best approach to how to solve the problems that we’re all facing in a world of increasing uncertainty:
“I don’t know, but we’ll work it out together”.
I wasn’t sure how to start to write the highlights of a day so chockfull of them, so I thought I’d fall back on the trusty, tried and tested list.
Here’s my top 5 speakers.
The brilliant Naomi Walkland from Bumble talking about the challenges and triumphs of establishing one of the success stories of the online dating world. The key lesson for me for all of us was simplicity. One goal (empower women) and one message (make the first move) and then stick to it. Too many businesses or brands flip flop (or ‘pivot’ as it’s often mislabelled) when faced with challenges. Bumble seems to be a success because it is single minded in its purpose and follows it through. Simple lesson, often the most successful ones. And I liked that they still stick to purpose as a key to commercial success.
James Averdieck from Gu and Coconut Collab. Again, some of the very simple basics of marketing that are tried and tested, but too often forgotten. Start with a great product and you won’t go far wrong. To be honest I just loved his honesty and the seductive nature of his storytelling. From milking coconuts to one-man product research missions, it was just a brilliant 20m of honesty and openness.
Emma Harris from Glow won the popularity contest, hands down. Great lessons for us all on prioritising what’s important and a lovely, honest, passionate (and yes, emotional) journey into what happens when one’s own body tells us what our brains don’t listen to (“we need to slow the f**k down”). Her own cardiac arrest taught her how to listen more to “Kick-arse” vs. ‘Negative Ninny” and basically how to stop listening to FOMO, fear, and guilt. And she also taught us a good lesson in visualisation and manifestation by getting that standing O. This chimed a lot with my own personal work journey in the last year – decide what you want, decide what you don’t, and go for it.
Sam Conniff talking Uncertainty and how we can all navigate it better. A manic tour-de-force that was part stand-up, part science lecture and a large dollop of common sense. I’d never realised smugglers suffered from imposter syndrome, or that we had 362 human biases (the 362nd being that we don’t have any biases). Basically, we all need to learn to live in a world of uncertainty and I, for one, will be delving into the work he’s doing on the Uncertainty Effect and how we can all navigate this world of constant change. And who knew that Fight, Flight and Freeze also had the bedfellows of Feed, Fawn, Fold and F**k (it was a sweary day – I’m blaming Emma).
The standout talk of the day was from Martha Lane-Fox – polymath, dotcom superhero, and a lady who seems to have more jobs than Manpower. Her talk on the three lessons for successful decision making will live with me for a long time:
- Does it matter? (Yes! I loved a reoccurring theme of the day that purpose DOES matter. And feeling like you’re doing something that matters does have a role)
- Do we have the right people in the room? Making sure that you have diverse, different people in the room & making sure everyone doesn’t look or think like you.
- Am I using the tools of the modern age? Not being a slave to technology but utilising the tools available to get to better decisions.
To be honest I just loved listening to someone who laid out some simple truths and basic lessons but did so from a position of strength and success. Bravo. It can sound so simple but sometimes be so hard to remember that the blueprint is often just “work hard, keep going, try your best”. After all no one knows better than her the truth in Martin Luther-King’s words of: ‘If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving’.
I especially enjoyed her evisceration of Mr Musk, and those who choose to worship at his altar of snark. Her lesson that ‘character matters’ and to always ‘treat people with decency and dignity’ was something more leaders would do well to listen to.
The day ended with a sober reminder from Olena Martynova from Starlight Media in Ukraine that some problems we face are bigger than flogging ice-cream. It was humbling to hear how the marketing community of Ukraine is coming together to deliver the emotional connections that have been proven to minimise personal trauma. Everyone here wished them all the very best.
As ever a brilliant day, one which was as much about the conversations in the tearoom as it was about the stage. No one of us can ever be as good as all of us, and once again I was reminded that there are a lot of smart, useful people out there if we take the time to chat with them.
Like Mr Conniff, I don’t know what all the answers are to the very real challenges we all face as a marketing community, but I know we stand a better chance of solving them when we come together.
Written By Kevin Chesters a strategist, trainer and speaker.
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