But The Marketing Society Conference 2023 was anything but slow! Little did I know when I arrived at the Elizabeth II Centre on Tuesday, 14 November, I was in for a day of inspiration, ideation, and laughter. The conference brought together leaders and inspirational speakers from both inside and outside the marketing industry, who spoke on a wide range of topics, from Gladiator’s Maximus Meridius to yoghurt, Obama-AI, Saudi Arabia, lab-grown diamonds, building loved brands in the face of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, how FOMO can lead to cardiac arrest, and FOTU (and the dangers of “hustle-culture”).
The day was brimming with exceptional content from a range of sensational speakers below, I’ve picked my top three. It was a reminder that sometimes, we need to slow down, take stock, and check in on what we’re actually doing versus what we set out to do in the first place. And for me, the ideas that really made an impression were the ones I’m going to hold onto and revisit.
Lessons in leadership
First up, Katharine Birbalsingh CBE, founder and headmistress of Michaela Community School, opened the day with an impassioned keynote speech. Katharine shared her insights as a brave and unapologetically outspoken leader of a unique inner-city London school. Under Katharine’s direction, the school drives success for its pupils and helps them flourish through setting firm boundaries, giving strict love, nurturing kindness, being consistent, and fighting hard for what you stand for, even against adversity.
This keynote was a powerful reminder of the importance of strong leadership in education. It emphasised the need for educators to set high expectations for their students and to provide them with the support and guidance they need to succeed. She also stressed the importance of consistency in teaching and discipline, as well as the need for educators to be willing to fight for what they believe in, even when faced with adversity. The message was particularly relevant in today’s fast-paced world, where things are changing rapidly. Katharine’s emphasis on the importance of strong leadership, consistency, and perseverance is a valuable lesson, not only for educators but also for those of us in the marketing industry.
Keeping up with fast change
Our next speaker, Martha Lane Fox, told attendees from the outset that today would be the slowest day of the rest of our lives. Well, that certainly got my attention. Things are only going to get faster. Eek! Martha called on marketers to embrace new technologies, play around with them, explore the opportunities they can provide to advance our lives and businesses. But don’t forget to hold on to the slow. A clear afternoon in a diary now and again is vital. Remember to pause to integrate all that’s new. And don’t forget, the key to success in our ever-changing world, is to surround yourself with people who bring their differently lived experiences, backgrounds, and voices to the table. Don’t end up in an echo-chamber of one. That leads to a decline.
Building Bumble for women, by women
My third top speaker – Bumble’s Naomi Walkland – told us how the company was built on the simple question: what is the current experience of our target audience, i.e. women on dating apps, and how can we make it better? The solution in Bumble’s case was to build an app where women make the first move.
Since launch, Bumble has managed to diversify its product portfolio while maintaining its core proposition of empowering women in the online dating space. Naomi emphasised the importance of consistency in branding and user focus, backed by market research, as the key to the company’s success. Furthermore, Bumble’s founder Whitney Wolfe Herd’s background in marketing and current role as CEO – Wolfe Herd is stepping down in January 2024 – has helped the company maintain a clear branding narrative.
Clearly, it’s working. Since entering the market, Bumble has added 58 million active users and more than 3.6 million paying users across its apps.
Energised, moved, and motivated. That was me at the end of the day. The conference certainly lives up to its premise to illuminate.
By Jhan Hancock-Rushton, Client Director Ozone
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