SOM Marketing Conference Focuses on the Changing Role of Marketing
Changes in the economy, technology, and consumers’ mindsets have made this a period of creative destruction for the field of marketing. The era of companies broadcasting a one-way advertising message is gone; they must now be open to dialogue with customers. These were among the ideas explored by participants in "Finding the Upside in the Downturn: The Changing Role of Marketing," a conference hosted by the Center for Customer Insights and the SOM Marketing Club. More than 100 students, alumni, marketing professionals, and business executives gathered for the event at Yale SOM on November 6, 2009.
Emphasizing the role of two-way communication with customers, Rishad Tobaccowala, CEO of Denuo, Publicis Groupe, suggested "don’t market, facilitate."
John Hayes, CMO at American Express, echoed the idea saying, "Listening may be the single most powerful sales tool we have." Hayes added that many of the company’s 100 million cardholders know the “Member Since” date that is printed on their card. For him, that underscores that the company is built around relationships. American Express has also run the Members Project which let card holders vote on which social program would receive support from the company.
That idea of highlighting social missions was underscored by other keynote speakers. Steve Sturm, group vice president at Toyota Motor North America, Inc., said that Toyota is launching a "Beyond Cars" campaign that focuses on the company’s commitment to the environment, the economy, and local communities.
Michael Polk, president of Unilever America, noted that every one of Unilever’s products is now analyzed for its sustainability because consumers increasingly expect transparency on practices and impacts.
A key takeaway for second-year SOM student Lisa Law: "Marketing is not static. It requires constant innovation." She added, "Another thing every speaker made clear is that marketing isn’t just marketing, it is general management."
Hayes, for his part, said, "I see a conference like this as a gathering of great minds. My objective was to get those minds thinking about American Express." This sort of forum, he observed, lets him engage smart creative people and opens the door for just the sort of business relationships that build a better company.