My Top 10 from the Festival of Marketing

After watching video highlights for many years of the infamous Festival of Marketing, this year I finally made it along in person. These are my top 10 highlights from the event, if you weren’t there hopefully it gives you a flavour for what you missed and if you were there do you agree with me?

1. Mental health themes.

The first day of the conference ran on Mental Health Awareness Day so it made it a natural fit perhaps to cover this hugely important topic, although on the face of it not expected at a marketing conference. But it didn’t just feature in the obvious sessions that covered some key themes and issues.

Most of the sessions I went to, covered at least one element of the importance of being familiar with mental health issues, supportive in dealing with them and crucially why being self-aware is paramount to the success of you and your business, as well as your own mental health.

One of the stats that stood out for me was highlighted by Hearst’s Rebecca Holman – a staggering 16 million hours are lost every year due to mental health related issues. This is of course not only impactful to the industry in people terms, but also in revenue terms. Research shows that the earlier mental health problems are detected, the easier they are to treat, and the more we discuss it at events like this the more aware we all become of how it can no longer be brushed under the carpet. We cannot ignore the impact it has on people or on businesses.

2. Write things down.

As a big stationary fan I’m partial to a lovely notebook or two. Most often I use them for writing to do lists or making notes from meetings. Ruth Mortimer gave a suggestion that really struck a chord with me about approaching writing differently. She referred to Amazon’s Press Release Technique – writing a hypothetical statement that takes place in the future. If it’s compelling the idea is more likely to be a winner, and helps focus from the outset on the end goal.

3. I was right about the principles of Marketing still being relevant.

I recently gave a lecture at Glasgow Caledonian University, giving my thoughts on the Evolution of Marketing. One of the key things I covered was the fact that marketing principles are just as relevant now as they always have been, and although things have evolved considerably in the last 2 decades, it’s mostly the rate of change speeding up that is an impacting factor rather than anything else. How smug am I that industry legend, RBS’ David Wheldon stated “Marketing hasn’t changed - it’s the speed that has.”

4. Data isn’t new. Nor is it everything.

I really love data. When used in the right way it gives incredible insight. But it’s often referred to as this wonderful thing that’s just been discovered, and that everything must be based on, without common sense or logic applied. I genuinely laughed out loud when Sir John Hegarty, gave a great example of where data can’t be used as a crutch. Would Karl Lagerfeld make the decision to go with the colour orange for his next design if he wanted it to be blue, just because the data said so? Of course not!

5. The Event App.

I mean it had everything. Full agenda, personalised sessions, map, live question logging. It really made it so much easier to plan what to attend, find things and get more involved in the event.

6. We all need to show more value.

Sir Martin Sorrell shared the news we already knew – people want things faster, better and cheaper than ever before. So many of the sessions I attended looked at how to do this. Not only for customers, brands, services and agencies, but for ourselves as individuals. We need to make sure everyone we speak to understands we’ve understood their problem. That’s when we can truly add value, because only then can we solve that problem.

7. The lack of plastic.

No plastic cups on the side of the water coolers dotted all over the venue – reusable bottles were in our goody bags instead!

8. Louis Theroux.

As well as being an absolutely lovely man and taking the “you’re so dreamy” chat (not from me!) exceptionally well, his interview was brilliant. He really got across his passion for storytelling and how he’s managed to stay calm in his 20+ year career.

9. You can’t have all the skills.

Dame Carolyn McCall not only gave some excellent advice on making sure you continue to develop and to only worry about what you can change, she very openly admitted she doesn’t have all of the skills all of the time. Building a team with complementary skills is something we all try to do, but accepting you can’t do everything is a powerful realisation.

10. Taking a break is more effective than not taking a break.

One session I attended had the audience do a show of hands; “Who is busier now than they were 3 years ago?”. 99% of the room put up their hand. Right at the start I mentioned the references to mental health and self-awareness, and being mindful of your basic needs was absolutely a part of this. Cate Murden was one of my favourite speakers. She talked about a study which got half of a group to take a break at a point during the day vs the other half who didn’t. Not only was the quality of the output more effective from the group who took a break, but they also finished their tasks an hour earlier!

I’ve come back to Glasgow full of ideas, plans and a boosted passion for marketing as well as a desire to look after myself and my team more than ever. Our industry is one I’m proud to be a part of and this event was an excellent showcase of the talent and compassion that lies within it.