Last week, High Road attended the 2011 Canadian Marketing Association National Convention – a wonderful annual event that this year aimed to “cut through the bull” and take a look at the new ideas and evolving technologies affecting our team and our clients’ work.
The event featured a handful of talented marketing professionals from across North America.
Kicking it off was Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post Media Group. It was Huffington Post Canada’s official launch day, and she shared a wealth of insight on the evolution of the way we consume content. Increasingly we are all becoming publishers, she said, and now more than ever it is important to have strong editors and curators to ensure content is accurate, compelling and reaching the audience.
An inspiring speaker, Huffington not only expressed her passion for strong online content, but also community, and the great potential we all have to share in new and innovative ways.
“We are defining the rules of the road as we go along,” she said.
Of course, High Road was live tweeting from the event, and an @ariannahuff retweet sparked a flurry of online chatter about her strong support of nap rooms at work – only further demonstrating the power of social media and online conversation.
A huge theme of the conference was the value of engagement, and Mohan Sawhney, McCormick Tribune Professor of Technology at the Kellogg School of Management, echoed this message.
Sawhney grabbed the audience right away, sharing his view of the way media and consumer behaviour has transformed as a result of the rapid growth of tech. One of his points that we very much agree with was this: because of social networking and other digital communication practices, it is the customers that now own the brand and the brand’s attendance to that conversation is optional.
“It is no longer enough to be consumer-oriented,” he said, adding that companies need to collaborate with the audience to co-create the brand.
“Ask not what you can sell,” Sawhney said. “Ask how you can help.”
This message led perfectly into Rob Shields’ presentation. Senior Vice-President, Marketing and Customer, for Canadian Tire Corporation, Shields’ gave a very open and honest speech on the marketing challenges Canadian Tire currently faces, as well as how they are transforming themselves, both internally and externally, to better market and connect with their customers.
The audience was clearly impressed with Shields’ transparency, and it was very cool to receive a special glimpse into the company’s “Bring it On” campaign by viewing a wonderful mash-up of some of the focus groups’ reaction to CT’s creative strategy.
A big congratulations to Shields for being recognized by the CMA for his contributions to the marketing community in Canada. He and John Torella, Senior Partner and Senior Consultant at the J.C. Williams Group, were both recognized by the CMA with Honourary Life Memberships.
Other highlights of the conference included:
- Andreas Souvaliotis, President of AIR MILES for Social Change, who surprised many in the room with his examples of how Air Miles can become a currency for companies and government organizations trying to prompt more green and socially responsible behaviour. It prompted many questions including ones to re-confirm the cost-effectiveness and amazing results these programs can create.
- David Shing, Digital Prophet, AOL, who discussed the evolution of the online publishing landscape, and really drove home that online shouldn’t be the place where content goes to die –instead, the web is where its life should begin. He emphasized that on platforms like Facebook and Twitter it’s not just about the number of friends and followers that you have, but the quality of those connections. Shing also wowed the audience with some truly wonderful digital marketing examples, and shared his perspective on upcoming marketing trends and the top digital tools we should all be looking at.
- Spike Jones, Senior Vice-President, Customer Experience – Digital/Word of Mouth, Fleishman-Hillard, continued along the theme of engagement. He discussed how to bridge the gap between online and offline, calling out examples from long-term brand ambassador programs he’s actually built. As always, Jones paired his insights with his great sense of humour.
- David Kincaid, President and CEO, Level 5 Strategic Brand Advisors, discussed his views on the lifecycle of a brand. Just as humans grow and transform, so too do brands, and Kincaid shared a snapshot of considerations to ensure brands get the best return on marketing investments.
All and all, it was great to see values High Road lives and breathes every day in our work echo through the conference: the importance community, conversation and engagement.
High Road also attended mesh 11 last week. Here’s what High Road’s Gary Edgar has to say about that conference:
Toronto’s thriving online community gathered last week for what has become one of the cornerstone events for all things digital and social media.
mesh 11 kicked off on Wednesday morning with an impressive keynote from Emily Bell the former director of digital content for the UK’s Guardian newspaper. She discussed the current challenges of traditional media in an ever expanding digital landscape.
The rest of the day was packed with great topics including digital activism, Wikileaks and even how the adult entertainment industry is reshaping the Internet.
One stand-out session was David Eaves talk on the state of open data in Canada. Eaves really made a case for the amazing things we could be doing with the data governments are collecting if they just made it public. For an example check out Google’s flu predicting algorithm and its amazing accuracy: http://www.google.org/flutrends/ca/#CA.
Day 2 was an equally packed agenda covering an array of digital marketing related topics and great insights.
Apart from the amazing speakers and the expert execution, one of the real takeaways was how big Toronto’s digital community has become. It’s exciting to see how crucial digital and social media has become to any business. And while HRC’s own Office Ninja wasn’t in attendance, it was still a fun and informative few days.
Here’s looking forward to mesh12!
After months of heavy snowfall, salt build-up and winter grime, homeowners are eager to get outside to prepare their backyards, decks, garages and cars for summer fun and entertaining. To help deliver the message that pressure washers are one of the fastest, most efficient ways to tackle outdoor cleaning jobs, Canadian Tire invited media and consumers to three outdoor spring cleaning spectacles featuring the latest Karcher pressure washer. The events took place in early May in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
High Road worked with local graffiti artists, Patrick Thompson, Howie Dowitt and Scott Sueme, who were challenged to create works of art using only a pressure washer on enormous 8×12 foot structures made from dirty fence and house siding. The unique art pieces were created free-hand over the course of three hours and demonstrated that spring cleaning doesn’t have to be a chore.
Passers-by in each city also had a chance to try their hand at pressure washer art while also getting to test out the hottest spring cleaning tool. Giant collective art pieces, with the aid of the graffiti artists’ stencils, were created by consumers, one spray at a time.