I’ve just wrapped up 2-1/2 amazing days at the Promotion Marketing Association’s 2005 Annual Conference, where attendees heard from top marketers on how to build brands in the 21st century. The days were heavy with insightful and thought-provoking presentations from the brand marketers most responsible for driving business results within their respective companies.

Folks like Gary Loveman, CEO of Harrah’s Entertainment, who probably provided the best case study for evidence-based marketing, i.e., using behavioral data from their loyalty program to inform how they design marketing programs and, in turn, drive impressive financial performance. Stewart Stockdale, CMO of Simon Property Group, has helped his company rethink the mall and transform it from a channel to a medium. Of course, he’s got strong incentive to do so, given that his 296 malls around the account for 2.2 billion visits per year, and people tend to go to malls when they’re ready to buy something.

Everyone—and I mean everyone—is grappling with how best to navigate this ever-complicated, ever-more fragmented 21st century marketplace. Over and over, it was made clear that brands are struggling to understand how to be relevant to consumers. A year or so ago, marketers used to talk about reaching consumers with the right message via the right medium and the right time. However, podcasting—audio content that is downloaded to any number of portable devices—changes all of that. In fact, through its better known cousin “timeshifting”—the recording of a TV show for viewing at your leisure, as through a TiVo or other digital video recorder—the issue of “when,” particularly as applied to broadcast content becomes tricky, to say the least. It should be noted that these same brands are, I feel, making significant headway in terms of getting their arms around this issue

That the consumer is more elusive than ever is due to the march of technology. As noted by Peter Sealey, the former CMO of Coca-Cola and now a professor at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, commented that he see three (3) dominant mega-trends that should we should be cognizant of:

o Bandwidth expands by 3 each year

o Storage costs decrease by 2 each year

o Processing power doubles every 18 months

Based on the above, he notes what he calls three (3) sub-trends. That is, advertising is becoming:

o Digital

o Personal

o Controllable

Sealey went on to cite ten predictions based on these trends. One that was particularly interesting to me was his hypothesis on the effect of all this technology on the methods studios use to release films. I’ll deal with that in a separate posting, as it deserves its own discussion.

Of course, my main interest in attending the conference was the unveiling of the research study I’ve been project managing for the last seven or so months. The study, a joint effort by the PMA and Northwestern University, is entitled “ROI of Integrated Marketing,” and is focused on two key areas: First, what are some best practices around the way brands develop, execute and measure integrated marketing programs? Second, the study looked at the organizational structure in which this process takes place. As a result of this study, there are now thirteen (13) best practices that were developed. A more detailed release of the study’s results is under embargo for a few more weeks, so check back here for more information.

Posted by Rob Fields