MN AMA – Annual Conference – 2007

Insightful. Provocative. Inspirational.

This year conference was phenomenal. I just wish it could be possible to attend all tracks to avoid a choice between four very interesting speakers.  Luckily, podcasts are coming soon.

The main idea of the conference, from my perspective, was simple. Technology changes incredibly fast; to avoid commodization companies should seek new categories. One of the routs to new categories and new markets is design (product design, distribution design, etc.). The goal of design is to understand and solve customers’ problems. One of main challenges is the status quo, but one of the best hopes is the creativity of people on any level of the organization.

First keynote Scott Williams (Speech Topic: Indifference Sucks) described progress of hospitality industry to understand what is exactly important for the customer and providing it to the customer. He mentioned the classic case of a hotel chain investing into exceptionally comfortable beds. He also showed several examples where hospitality industry (and other industries) have not thought about the customer.

Communication design track started with very insightful presentation of Jane Casto (The Creative Cocktail: Getting Results from a Stressed Organization).  She defined designed in two dimensions: surface (beautiful) and “under the hood” (smart, profitable).  She emphasized channeling creativity into the right direction (where the innovation needed) and emphasized the vital need of the entire team getting in touch with the customer. One of the practical examples of dealing with “no” people in the organization is to do more research then required and producing better prototypes, or visual concepts of the idea.

Next break out session of communication design track touched on intricacies of branding Aaron Keller and Amy Arias (Speech Topic: The relationship between design and business).  The case study of rebranding of Mosquito was concentrated on the goals of the organization (particularly differentiation) and how effectively all goals were achieved (last 7 years 100% growth). Mosquito is a strange name not everybody liked, but “if you are not uncomfortable with your name, you did not differentiate enough.”

Lunch keynote Eric Ryan (Speech Topic: Building a Belief Brand) was absolutely phenomenal!  He and his friend started the 7th fastest growing company while they were in their late twenties. The field there they play is soap. They noticed that this was a very crowded category with many identical brands. They created different product – and a new category – based on exceptional design and green ideas.

The last speaker of the experience track Geoffrey Warner (Speech Topic: weeHouse: Making Prefab Architecture Good, Cheap, Fast) emphasized that he was an architect, not a marketer. However, the product that his company created was praised with its innovative design, “accused of being green,” and was expanded into a range of innovative products.

The last inspirational keynote Malcolm Haines (Speech Topic: Cultivating Creativity in a Culture of Conformity) concentrated on creativity itself within modern corporations. He mentioned classic cases of large companies loosing their innovative potential. Two recommended books: Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Colloboration and The Accidental Mind: How Brain Evolution Has Given Us Love, Memory, Dreams, and God. 

The conference was exceptionally good. We are so lucky to be in the fascinating field of marketing in our changing times. What a privilege!

Oh, and the food was great!  I need another diet…  🙂

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