By Mark Kersteen - December 8th, 2015

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The following is a summary of the session "Build Meaningful Connection with a Brand That Stands for Something" from Incite Summit: East.

Pearle Vision, Doug Zarkin, CMO
Hiscox Insurance, Hunter Hoffman, Head of US Communications
Motivated, CEO, Donna Peeples
Moderator: Forbes, Bruce Rogers, Chief Insights Officer

Two words came up time and again in the morning’s sessions: courage and authenticity.

Doug’s acid test authenticity at Pearle Vision is: “Is it on brand? Is it true to your brand? If it is, then it’s authentic. If not, then it’s not.”

Donna: “People are watching what you do. Be true to your brand. People have to trust that you are who you say you are. And that all your employees are committed to that vision of the brand. Authenticity is in your action.”

Hunter added: “When people get something of value before you even ask them for something, then that is what gets at authenticity.”

According to Doug, in most categories, points of difference are unbelievably difficult to carve out. “How is the consumer going to react to what we do? If you can’t give a simple answer to that, maybe it’s not what you should be doing now.”

“Marketing is the Art of Sacrifice: do a few things and do them really well. Be consistent and committed to it.”

Donna cautioned that there’s a thin line between courageous and foolish: “So start with the data, there’s truth in numbers – though we’re drowning in them – and make sure you use the right data. And put forth an elegant equation to the senior team about what you want to do.”

However, Doug countered: “Numbers can lie. The data point you get is only as good as the questions you asked. The art of marketing is in understanding how to ask the right question. We all can read that ten is bigger than nine. What separates good marketers from great marketers is the ability to ask really good questions, and then shut up and listen.”

On the topic of creating content and storytelling, Doug said he looks for the reasons people trust in the brand, and uses each of those touchpoints as the starting point for content. It allows him to have a process where a process doesn’t exist.

For Donna, building a story and engaging your audience with an emotional attachment is the most powerful position to be in as a brand.

According to Hunter: “Content should inform, entertain, or inspire. You must do one or you’re just creating the content for yourself.”

Bruce informed us: “1% of all digital content is creating 99% of all digital engagement. So, 99% of the content out there is not generating any useful business outcomes.”

Hunter said that he always tries to put a face on his content. Even when he does a study, he’ll write a blog post about it. People relate much better to that than when the content is just from Hiscox. People like people.

For Doug, the balance of the art and science of marketing is a fine, but crucial, one: “Marketers must be able to not just read the data, but to know what the data is telling them, and what the data is not telling them. The art part, the ability to process data, is where experience comes in. It’s where gut feel comes in, where surrounding yourself with really smart people comes in, and why marketing will always be a necessary part of any organization that wants to succeed year after year. Because it’s not just about plugging in numbers. It’s about interpretation, asking the right questions, and processing reams of data to figure out what’s most important.”

Donna said that she’s been accused of relying on her instincts, but as she put it: “It’s all based on experiential data, and that is data in the same way that hard numbers are data. And with all this technology, we have to focus on being human, and there will be a premium on people who think that way.”

An audience member asked about how to determine where to put money in a marketing organization.

Doug said that, “As a marketing organization, to care means deciding what you’re going to be best at, and what you’re going to win at. Those are two very different things. You can only be best at a product or service. To win requires you to define what you are going to stand for. It costs more time and money to win than to be best. Best-ats are important, but you can be pretty darn good and still be successful. But your win-ats have to be absolutes.”

The pendulum of control has swung hard away from companies and towards the customer. You can create a customer base through brute force, through money. But you can’t create engagement without thinking about your customer, without thinking about what matters to them.

The Incite Summit East 2015

November 2015, The Marriott Brooklyn Bridge

The USA's best brand-focused marketing conference. Featuring CMOs, SVPs and marketing leaders from Dell, Citi, Chobani, Activision, HSBC, Mondelez and many more.

Brochure Programme
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