Driving Growth Through Authenticity

Lessons from ANA’s Masters of Marketing Week.

Last week, 3,000 marketers descended upon Orlando for the ANA’s Masters of Marketing Week. With speakers and vendors showing off the tricks of the trade – VR experiences, booths equipped with oxygen bars, celebrity interviews, intimate concerts and more, the 2019 edition did not disappoint.

Adding to the experience were the TED Talk-like presentations centered on a topic all of us marketers can get behind: driving growth. Below, we unpack three of the big themes we heard and why refusing to embrace them will impede the one thing every organization seeks.

Be inclusive.

For a conference that was predominantly white, right down to the evening entertainment, there was a lot of talk about inclusive and multicultural marketing. From #SeeAll, the ANA’s commitment for creative to be more reflective of our diverse world, to #SeeHer, an initiative focused on equal pay, equal leadership, and accurate portrayals of women and girls in marketing, it’s clear that attendees were energized by the conversation.

But even more encouraging than the conversations was the fact that many companies are actually “walking the walk.” Bank of America’s CMO Meredith Verdone proudly shared that her firm is 50% women, with women occupying 40% of leadership roles and 30% of Board seats. Target, who burst onto the scene by offering high end products and designers at low costs, has taken it one step further with their Design For All initiative — creating adaptive clothing for people with disabilities. And then there’s Budweiser, who recently signed on to be the first official beer sponsor of the US Women’s National Soccer team, showing their commitment to women’s sports year-round.

The takeaway is that companies can’t drive growth if their marketing doesn’t appeal to every single kind of consumer. And they can’t do that until they build marketing teams that look and sound more like the world we serve.

Be human.

Beyond appealing to a more diverse group of consumers, brands have found that speaking authentically and emotively is critical to driving growth. One theme that came up time and again was the notion of infusing humanity in the marketing journey, which helps build closer and more meaningful relationships with consumers.

Alicia Tillman, CMO of SAP, took the opportunity to remind everyone that purely emotional ads still perform twice as good as rational ads. Ally Financial’s CMO, Andrea Brimmer asked a very pointed question: “If your brand went away, would anybody care?” She reminded the audience that as marketers, this is something we should all be thinking about. And to ensure that people actually do care, you must stay focused on the relationship with your consumer across the entire brand-building journey.

Large companies have the opportunity to infuse more humanity into their brands through small and unique ways. One of our favorites was Verizon’s AllOurThanks.com, a campaign that connects first responders to the people they helped save. This not only demonstrated the power of their technology, it also celebrated the good they’ve helped create in the world.

Be local.

This may sound cliche but the reality is this is more important than ever before, especially for large global brands trying to remain relevant in the markets they operate.

Recently, Bank of America deployed 92 of its local CEOs to learn about what mattered most to the community they operated in. Pearle Vision took a key sales insight — that people are willing to travel up to 9 miles to visit an eye doctor to buy glasses — and brought that back to their marketing strategy. Now they have hyper-targeted ads focused on geotargeting people within a 9 mile radius of their stores. And Oatly’s General Manager spoke about using billboards, murals, and bus stops to grab people’s attention and start dialogues close to home.

Whether it’s being more inclusive, more human, or more localized, we’re excited to see the growth that stems from this year’s lessons. See you in 2020!