There is a lot of talk about 'true' marketing integration and brand optimisation, but where can marketers get information about the issues that surround these issues in a 'neutral' way? If, for example, you ask your agencies who should own social media (internally or externally) for your brand, the answer will depend on the nature of the agency: PR agencies say it is a comms function, digital agencies say something else and so on.
The pressures on marketers have been exacerbated by the sheer wealth of media channels, all clamouring for attention and presenting a brand opportunity.
This is the idea behind BrandMAX, a two-day summit that takes place on 21 and 22 September at Altitude 360 in London's Millbank Tower. It aims to provide a platform for such expertise and give marketers access to essential information.
The venue will host some of the most inspirational and experienced marketers from brands and agencies across the globe, with keynote speeches from Andy Street, managing director of the John Lewis Partnership, Nina Bibby, global chief marketing officer of Barclaycard, and Richard Hudson, marketing director of BMW.
Through these speakers and a series of 'Thinking out loud' sessions, BrandMAX will take delegates through the ingredients required for brand optimisation, including integration, data, creativity, making best use of owned media, achieving ROI and going global, supported by award-winning case studies from Tourism Queensland, Nike, Walkers, Yeo Valley and Gatorade.
These will inspire, give a taste of the future and, importantly, show how creative thinking can not only win attention, but also improve the bottom line, driving sales and valuable market share.
'Everyone is grappling with the pace of change, which is both exciting and scary,' says Adam Tucker, managing partner of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO UK and co-presenter of the Walkers case study. 'The value of an event like this is to get people to see that, when you try things in beta mode, they can be very successful. It's inspiring.'
Hearing about the success of other brands is one thing: implementing changes within one's own organisation is another.
Brand optimisation is so big a task that the question for many is where to start. Integration, as the conference will reveal, is key - not only in terms of campaign activity but also within the organisation.
'It's not easy to define,' says Guy Hayward, who will chair the event on the first day and is chief executive of BrandMAX headline partner JWT UK. 'True integration goes beyond comms. It is now affecting the entire behaviour of brands.'
In fact, the starting point comes in getting the different departments within a brand to develop an understanding of one another and work together.
This is particularly salient for the marketing and technology departments. With 40m people now online in the UK and brands here committing £8bn a year to web advertising, digital growth and innovation drive marketing and the media. The web has put control in consumers' hands, so marketing departments need to understand not only the channels available, but also the technology behind them.
Technology and the internet are impinging on marketing and advertising, with the result that the disciplines need to work together. It is a topic upon which keynote speaker Michael Kassan, chairman and chief executive of MediaLink, will expand in his speech 'Wag the dog - why Silicon Valley will determine the future of marketing', which kicks off BrandMAX.
'It's not so much about what Silicon Valley has to teach marketers, but what marketers need to be thinking about as they address the changing market,' says Kassan. 'The lesson is about having that conversation between Silicon Valley and Madison Avenue earlier. You can't know how to use technology if you don't understand it.'
Nick Manning, managing director of Ebiquity, a headline partner, and chairman of the event's second day, says: 'It's not brands telling consumers what to think any more.' He adds: 'Brands have to consider how consumers view them and what they say about them "behind their back".'
When brands get it right, the results can be outstanding, as the BrandMAX case studies will show. In their 'Yeo Valley - live in harmony' presentation on day two of the conference, Mel Exon, managing partner at Bartle Bogle Hegarty and BBH Labs, and Alison Sudbury, marketing manager at Yeo Valley, will explain the strategy behind the organic dairy brand's first ad campaign.
Among a range of activity, this broke during ITV1's The X Factor with a two-minute ad featuring farmers performing the 'Yeo Valley Rap', inviting people to visit the brand's online virtual farm. It also used blogs and an on-pack promotion.
The ad won the 2011 Marketing Society Awards for Excellence Grand Prix and, crucially, increased both Yeo Valley's share of the organic market and average spend per household. Fundamental to this campaign was the social media strategy, which ensured a continuous dialogue with consumers that in turn influenced campaign activity.
One of the biggest changes digitisation has brought is that no element of a brand or campaign stands alone any more. Each part feeds into the others, and brands have to be ready to respond and adapt on the fly.
'Think of your campaign as an ecosystem,' says Exon. 'With Yeo Valley, we were constantly creating different content and pushing it from platform to platform based on what we were hearing from the likes of Twitter.'
This also demands new levels of creativity. The consumer's everyday embracing of digital means the case studies on show at BrandMAX are yet to become the norm, but provide a glimpse of what is achievable.
It's becoming about much more than just an eye-catching ad or pack. Yeo Valley's campaign went against the grain of its usual ads; similarly, Walkers took the unusual step of 'taking over' a town, Sandwich in Kent, in its campaign to convince consumers that sandwiches were improved by the accompaniment of a packet of crisps.
'The opportunities are the most exciting they have been for decades. However, they are also pressurising fundamental issues, such as what does creativity really mean, what is and isn't media, and what's the correct balance between continuity with the fundamentals and innovating,' says Carl Johnson, co-founder of agency Anomaly, who will present a 'Thinking out loud' session.
In the Walkers campaign, the brand and its agency, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO UK, sought to 'dazzle' Sandwich residents with celebrity-led events, promoting its activity online, through Twitter and its famous participants. As a result, Walkers beat its target of 15% sales growth with an impressive 26%.
'That sandwiches and crisps go together is too blindingly obvious to say,' explains Tucker. 'We had to prove it, to challenge behaviour, and the retail trade, hence the importance of creating a brand experience. Campaigns must have highly engaging, highly entertaining, content that people will interact with and share.'
The Walkers campaign also provides compelling evidence for the benefits of taking proper advantage of owned media - in this case, footage of events in Sandwich.
Mark Eaves, co-founder of Gravity Road, who will present 'Thinking out loud' session 'The ultimate brand optimisation ingredient - leveraging owned media', says: 'A big issue is the tyranny of the "campaign mindset". Consumers are constantly connected, but most brands still don't have the right creative assets and behaviour. Better assets - better content - is what's needed.'
Another valuable asset is data, but it has its challenges. 'A key point for brands is how to better use data to optimise the business and sales - to look at what the real future of the business can be by harnessing data properly,' says Andy Sandoz, creative partner at Work Club and presenter of 'Thinking out loud' talk 'The ultimate brand optimisation ingredient - mastering the data game'.
Do all the digital media opportunities available make the marketer's job harder? There is undoubtedly a temptation to embrace the technologies and platforms of the moment simply because other brands are using them. The tool has to fit the purpose, however, and brands need to decide what will make the biggest difference to their business.
'Marketers should focus on what matters commercially to them and hold on to those core principles. Ask how something can transform your business, not how many friends it got you on Facebook,' says Exon.
There are also wider issues to contend with, such as the challenges of going global and ensuring a strong ROI.
With digital comes the opportunity for every brand to be global. This will be addressed by keynote speaker Simon Clift, former chief marketing officer at Unilever and member of the EffectiveBrands Advisory Board. He kicks off day two of BrandMAX with his speech 'Knowing no boundaries - the globalisation challenge'. The conundrum, he says, is how to be a global brand and yet think local (see below).
The bottom line, however, is that wherever a brand operates, it has to be profitable. In her keynote speech at the conference 'A bigger bang for your bucks - what the chief executive wants to see', Nina Bibby, global chief marketing officer of Barclaycard, will explore the issue of making marketing pay. She will examine where the focus of marketing spend should be and how important the context of advertising is to its ROI.
BrandMAX promises to cover a lot of ground, providing marketers with a valuable opportunity to take stock of what is going on, look at what other agencies and brands are doing and gain a glimpse of the future. 'It's important to see what you can learn from new examples of best practice and success,' says Neil Christie, managing director of Wieden & Kennedy, who will co-present the Nike case study at the event. 'Get curious, or you may be left behind.'
Clift sums it up well. 'What's so exciting,' he says, 'is that these key developments are going to change marketing and business forever. Today's managers are blazing a trail - none of their bosses had to confront these issues seriously. It's empowering to be leading the way in these areas, and this brings with it substantial responsibility. There's never been a more exciting time to be a marketer.'
THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR MARKETERS
'There are few issues on the marketer's agenda simultaneously so pertinent and so poorly documented as the management of global brands. Today almost every marketer works for, or competes against, a global brand. As they manage their brands to address this, more marketers are running into the challenge of making their marketing mix work in different parts of the world. This represents a daunting challenge for most companies.'
SIMON CLIFT former chief marketing officer at Unilever and member of the EffectiveBrands Advisory Board
'Everybody is grappling with the incredible pace of change and the new media opportunities that we are discovering on a daily basis, and there is still a significant challenge in justifying investment, accountability and ROI, especially as these new media and social media opportunities proliferate. It is very difficult to get these back to metrics, so redefining them will be an ongoing challenge for marketers.'
ADAM TUCKER managing partner, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO UK
'The biggest challenge is getting your day job done while continuing to move with the times. It's about managing the deluge - every day we are contacted about new research methodology, or platform launches. Marketers need to work out what is commercially important for their business, accept that they are never going to know everything, and surround themselves with great specialists.'
MEL EXON managing partner, Bartle Bogle Hegarty and BBH Labs
'The marketer's biggest challenge is (deciding) where to spend their money. It has been said that there have never been more ways to reach a target audience, but it has never been as hard to connect with them, and that is true. Marketers have to ensure that an audience has multiple touchpoints that encourage positive participation. This means clients need a range of connected solutions, rather than just an above-the-line campaign with a digital element tagged on the end of it.'
GUY HAYWARD chief executive, JWT; summit co-chairman
'The marketing agenda has changed as a result of digitisation. The biggest issue is the need to consider not just what to do as a brand talking to consumers, but also how consumers view you and share that information. The challenge is managing the brand's reputation in multiple channels and making sure you have a messaging strategy that works through multiple channels and is driven by clear, compelling communications and creative ideas.'
NICK MANNING managing director, Ebiquity, and summit co-chairman
Day one of the conference promises a hotly anticipated keynote speech on transformational thinking, 'The X Factor - the need for creativity and innovation', by Andy Street, managing director of the John Lewis Partnership. In it, Street will give examples of brands that have stolen a march on the rest by thinking and acting differently, and discuss what it is that makes these brands - and John Lewis, of course - successful.
Perhaps one of the hardest jobs in this fast-moving digital age is just keeping up to date with consumer trends. It means listening to what consumers are not only telling you, but are saying about you, and reacting appropriately. Gurmej Bahia, director of global customer marketing at Expedia, will expand on this in his keynote: 'Competing on analytics - real-time marketing investment that works.'
In his keynote speech 'Oiling the machine - bringing everyone together to build the brand', Richard Hudson, the marketing director of BMW, will discuss the importance of bringing everyone together within a brand to enable the business to perform better. In it, he will talk about the organisations that have cracked the infrastructure problem and dramatically improved their performance as a result.