If you, like me, were fortunate enough to get to spend a fantastic day on 14 November at The Marketing Society’s Annual Conference, then you’ll appreciate just how valuable it is to get to spend a day learning from colleagues and other experts about marketing in our ever-changing, VUCA world.
There were so many provocative, inspiring and energising sessions that it’s hard for me to choose which were most impactful as they all left me with so many new ideas and the chance to step back. So if you weren't there and want to find out what happened, here are my key takeaways
First up was the Headmistress of Michaela Community School, Katherine Barbalsingh, reminding me that children (and adults!) need routines, that phones and other devices undermine kids’ ability to build interpersonal skills, that my role as a parent shapes society through my daughter, and that what we do in life echoes through generations. Having had a couple of coffees before her lecture meant I was prepared to tackle the required self-reflection on how well we raised our only child and how well (or not) my own parents did this job.
Another moving session was hearing from Martha Lane Fox whose personal resilience story is pretty remarkable. Given her meteoric business success and a life-changing car accident, Martha reminded me that resilience as a person and a leader is built through life experiences, which she would know. Challenging me also to think about whether the right people are in the room – whether that’s your company’s talent or maybe even your friends and family.
Of course hearing from Rory Sutherland was entertaining and educational as you’d expect, using his “doorman fallacy” to explain the importance of understanding your business’ context and value drivers. The more the accountants run the show, the more likely you’ll suffer from death by a thousand cuts whether it’s for a hotel or any other type of business that relies on service as a key point of difference.
As if that weren’t enough, Emma Harris treated us to a fast-and-furious recap of her life before and after a heart attack and just how much you miss when you’re going too fast. So her reminder to savour the journey and not just celebrate getting to the destination left me thinking about how key it is that we all step back more and experience JOMO (the joy of missing out).
Hearing from dessert and yoghurt guru James Averdieck was a treat, reminding me that successful innovation can be borne of your intuition about what the market needs and wants besides only relying on market research findings. His hilarious example of how he tested the market for his Gü brand by putting mock-ups of his chocolate soufflé boxes – empty but with weights inside to see if shoppers would select it from the fridge at his local Waitrose really took the cake.
The final session to disrupt my thinking came thanks to Sam Conniff who revealed not only how we respond to disruption and ambiguity, but elaborated our responses to it in 7 F’s (I only knew about fight, flight and freeze!). Since humans naturally have FOTU (fear of the uncertain) and go great distances to avoid it, he offered a free uncertainty test which I’ll be taking shortly so I’m ready for 2024!
With such a fantastic, stimulating day that I and all the other members I got to meet also had, I’m hoping we can all use these great anecdotes and lessons to be even better marketers, leaders and importantly, humans.
Allyson Stewart-Allen is a renowned advisor, speaker, broadcaster, NED and author of Working with Americans who helps leaders and their companies to successfully internationalise.
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