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Published on October 29th, 2018 | by Stephen Freitas

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Driving Growth is the Aim of Marketing Masters

Stephen Freitas

Stephen Freitas OAAA Chief Marketing Officer


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Marketers gathered in Orlando last week for the annual ANA Masters of Marketing conference, breaking attendance records with more than 3,000 participants. The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) event consists of an impressive slate of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) from Fortune 500 companies explaining what makes their brands successful. While there is little focus on media at the conference, most presenters do address strategic marketing initiatives and broad communication goals.

In an effort to support the growing size and scope of the conference, for the first time organizers presented two main stages featuring concurrent programming. In his opening remarks, ANA Chief Executive Officer Bob Liodice underscored the importance of growth.

He said, “Success in business equals growth because that’s all that really matters. The common denominator for everyone in this room is business growth.”

Liodice explained that 1 percent growth in American business equates to $500 billion over three years. He went on to caution, among the Fortune 500 companies, only 49 percent are showing a growth trajectory in 2018, and there have been declines over the past three years.

Progressive Insurance CMO Jeff Charney was next to speak and addressed the importance of “risk taking” in business. Charney suggested, “The best marketers go close to the edge, but they never go over.”

He went on to explain the best way to mitigate the negative effects of risk is to focus on three factors: relevance of an opportunity, the information needed to make an informed decision, and speed in action.

Charney noted that 78 percent of major brands now have some form of in-house agency. But, most brands still depend on agency partners to do complex marketing and advertising tasks.

He ended with 3C’s for marketers, saying, “A marketer needs to have great character, in order to make great content, to place it in the right context.”

Lisa Borders, president of the WNBA, talked about the league’s unprecedented success. She said the organization encourages every player to serve as community ambassadors. The outreach has built awareness for the league.

Borders showed an impressive OOH installation for the Dallas Wings during her presentation.

Rajesh Subramaniam, CMO at FedEx, discussed the importance of authentic marketing, explaining how markets must, “Think deep to understand your corporate culture to be effective at storytelling. Brand messaging must be aligned with company culture and cut across an understanding about humanity.” By doing so, he said a brand can turn its culture inside out and reflect it externally to customers. He went on to show how this approach was the foundation for the company’s recent Possibilities campaign.

Vineet Mehra, Ancestry CMO talked about brand purpose and how personal discovery is at the heart of Ancestry’s offering. He went on to explain how the company convinced people to adopt a new behavior – spitting in a tube – to discover the truth about their past.  Last year, Ancestry kits were the biggest selling item on Amazon from Black Friday thru Cyber Monday.

Mehra cautioned, “ Brand purpose is the starting point; not the endpoint.” He challenged the marketers in the room to monetize brand purpose.

The CMO from e-Bay, Suzy Deering, said connecting with customers is central for growing business success. She explained three pillars for success used by e-Bay to connect with customers: offering a trusted experience, demonstrating the brand’s purpose of bringing together buyers and sellers in an authentic way, and demonstrating that purpose through stories informed by understanding data.

One of the most important sessions at Masters of Marketing was a roundtable discussion led by Procter & Gamble Chief Brand Officer, Marc Pritchard. He was joined by three CMO’s and members of the ANA “Masters Circle,” who represented Disney, American Express, and Deloitte. The newly formed “Masters Circle” has identified 12 points necessary to foster growth in companies.


As part of the “Masters Circle” initiative, the panel discussed data and technology, listing three imperatives:

  1. Humanize data to understand a consumer’s mindset when they are engaging with a brand.
  2. Democratize data so what matters are important insights when developing strategies to reach consumers.
  3. Change the way companies work, to break silos with the aid of relevant tech.

Disney CMO Anna Hill explained how a customer-centric approach to brand experiences has driven the development of technologies that allow guests to customize their personal experiences while in Disney theme parks.

American Express values the employee experience as much as the customer experience, recognizing how each employee reflects the brand’s value.

American Express CMO Elizabeth Rutledge spoke again later in the day, discussing her company’s “Me vs. We” approach to data analytics. She explained, “While the me is data, the we is humanity. A balance between the two is critical.” She went on to explain how this thinking informed the company’s recent American Express ad campaign, which focuses on telling true stories about real card members.

If media owners want to know what advertisers are really thinking, ANA Masters of Marketing is the place to be.

The Masters of Marketing attracts first-rate speakers and top-talent. Recording artist Kelly Clarkson entertained the crowd on Thursday at an evening dinner, sponsored by iHeart.

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