Why Kraft, Mercedes, Sears, State Farm and Verizon Are Presenting at the Brand Innovators Chicago Summit

By: Brandon Gutman  Published: December 20, 2011

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The first Brand Innovators Summit in New York City during Advertising Week brought American Express, Carnival Cruise Lines, Coca-Cola, Electronic Arts, MasterCard, New York Life, Unilever and Virgin Mobile on stage to present to a crowd of brand marketers (which included their competition). We talked with just some of the brand leaders who are participating at next month’s Summit to find out why this platform is such a hot ticket even during the peak of winter in Chicago.

Ian Gomar, like most of his fellow CMOs at Sears, receives an invitation to a conference or networking event almost daily. Gomar, who is Chief Marketing Officer for the fitness, sporting goods and toys business units at Sears/Kmart, admits that some events he’s invited to are valuable. However, most tend to be an attempt to gather marketers into a venue where there are a lot more sellers than buyers. In the situations where content is provided, the speakers are usually discussing last month’s news or delivering a canned speech. “What I love about the Brand Innovators Summits is that the speakers on stage are leading brand marketers so the content is fresh and applicable. And because it’s invitation only to client side executives, I don’t feel concerned about being surrounded by sales reps. I hope the content I’m preparing to deliver is as valuable as what I’m expecting to digest.”

The objective of the Brand Innovators Summits is to put the media industry on review by getting client side marketers to share best practices and case studies. To validate how evolving media vehicles, including online video, mobile, social, and out-of-home, are creating new methods for connecting with consumers, anytime, anywhere, and on any device. As Director of Innovation, Consumer Experiences at Kraft Foods, Ed Kaczmarek, is responsible for spearheading many of the CPG company’s digital initiatives and his constant quest is to discover new platforms that improve consumers’ lives while benefiting the brand’s bottom line. Due to his role, it’s no surprise that Kaczmarek believes that technology can enable marketers to better engage with consumers in ways unimaginable even two years ago. It’s also no surprise that Kaczmarek was chosen to be a speaker at the Summit.

Kaczmarek explains that due to the exponential speed of change and so many options, it often appears daunting, with many marketers opting for more traditional and supposedly ‘proven’ tactics. Because of that, Kaczmarek feels it is imperative for marketers to test and learn and evolve in their use of these new, dynamic and more engaging opportunities. “The Brand Innovators Chicago Summit is a perfect opportunity for marketers to embrace the next generation of marketing, hear from others who have experimented, learn at warp speed and collaborate. I’m really excited to participate by contributing and receiving in the knowledge share.”

The producers of the Summit understand that while the opportunities for engagement have never been greater, these new ways of interacting with consumers are, for the most part, a new science. Therefore, more information is needed about what’s working and what’s not and marketers who are deemed more as trailblazers than followers are being tapped. For example, Mason Nelder, Director of Social Media & Digital Strategy at Verizon Communications, looks forward to sharing his personal proof points on social media. As brands realize more and more that they need to embrace the social evolution, who better to learn from than someone who understands where they are coming from and what they need. And what does Nelder get out of giving? “If we all become more savvy as an industry, than ultimately I can raise the bar further. Verizon will benefit. Our vendors will benefit. I’ll benefit. We all end up winning.”

Pam El, Marketing Vice President at State Farm isn’t planning on just swinging in for her presentation and then departing. El is putting a high level of value on what will prove to be a beefy agenda for the day by bringing her team along. “The opportunities for brands to connect with consumers in today’s world of ever changing technology is staggering. We are thrilled to be a part of the Brand Innovators Summit to share and learn with the other amazing brands that will be in attendance. The Summit offers us the unique opportunity to get together and learn from each other about the emerging opportunities in a collaborative environment.”

In addition to opportunities for internal team building, the Summit will strive to address the topic of “How to Best Engage Your Agencies.” Many marketers struggle with this as traditional AOR agencies usually haven’t developed all the digital capabilities and digital agencies aren’t ready to take the lead…so it falls on the brand to take the lead and everyone has a different approach, org structure, et al. One of the speakers marked for this panel is Derek Johnson, Digital Platform Specialist, Digital Marketing & CRM at Mercedes-Benz USA. “I’m looking forward to the Brand Innovators Chicago Summit with great anticipation. It is a great forum to discuss the challenges that face us and the innovative ways to solve them. I plan to walk away inspired to push harder and think more creatively.”

Even though the Summit seating is available to client side execs only (qualified marketers can request an invitation and there is no charge for attending), there are some sell side companies in the room. However, they are limited and only best of breed service providers are granted the opportunity to sponsor. Furthermore, the Summit producers encourage the executive level leadership of the sponsors to participate. Marta Martinez, CMO of leading DSP technology provider, MediaMath, is proud to support and attend the Summits. “My passion is in helping the great brands that the Brand Innovators team brings together to build solutions that transform the way they do marketing.”

TiVo, which is a household product that also provides services to brand marketers, did its first B2B sponsorship by partnering with the Brand Innovators Summit. According to TiVo SVP, Tara Maitra, “as a consumer brand and a technology-driven media innovator, we at TiVo find the Brand Innovators Summits an ideal forum for stimulating and insightful sharing of best practices with other category-leading brands, while at the same time providing for an open and collaborative dialogue around media experimentation and evolution. This is a place where ideas get exchanged one day, put into play the next, and results reviewed and optimized on the third – that’s not something we’ve found anywhere else, and not for the lack of looking.”

Other brands that plan on presenting in Chicago on January 25th include Gatorade, Heineken, OfficeMax and Western Union to name a few.

In full disclosure, the author is co-producer of the Brand Innovators Summit.