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Sunday, February 10, 2008

The BRITE '08 Conference

Ideas are swirling around my brain. Not just because of Surfaces 2008, but also because of BRITE '08, Columbia Business School's recent conference on branding. innovation. technology.

It took place this past Friday [with an afternoon CMO roundtable session the day before] at Columbia University and picked up where the June 2006 Columbia Business School/Corante Innovative Marketing conference left off. That conference inspired me to blog.

BRITE '08 has only strengthened my resolve to explore. How else to figure out the right marketing tools for a world rapidly evolving beyond captive consumer audiences with no choice but to swallow our messages as we rudely interrupted them?

During BRITE, we heard about companies -- Eli Lilly, P&G, GE, SAP -- reinventing themselves and showcasing Big Think Strategy. Not by comparing themselves to their direct competitors, but rather by looking to their customers to figure out how to offer them more value, by looking outside of their industry and category to deliver that value, and by generally questioning the tried and true sacred cows.

Although we didn't hear much about virtual worlds, we did learn about Nickelodeon's Nicktropolis - which I intend to explore. I liken virtual worlds to the Star Trek Holodeck, with significant potential to educate, entertain and engage, and admire what companies like Cisco and Sun and Starwood Hotels with Aloft have done in Second Life. I haven't figured out how to make a case for creating one for Wear-Dated. Yet. But, I see the potential and am determined in the meantime to stay up with my 6 year old daughter as she explores Webkinz and Buildabearville.com! It won't be long before consumers completely fluent in virtual worlds become our core consumers. Imagine the implications for the retail experience of traditional products and services, especially ones already struggling with their retail experience [i.e., think carpet or flooring]...

We heard how Univision, Lego and Cisco have effectively created open systems to engage customers and build brand loyalty. Yes, it's scary to let go of control, but did we ever have it to begin with?

We heard about networks and communities, built around common interests and conversations.

We heard about interactive media tools -- with examples from politics, gaming, mobile devices and consumer products -- to make brands more interactive for end users. We even heard about TV2.0!

As Francois Gossieux and Lois Kelly [author of Beyond Buzz] explained during the CMO roundtable sessions, this new media environment is one where consumers tune out companies while tuning in people, have an insatiable appetite for content, and react inconsistently to the cool new stuff that companies put out. What's a marketer to do to engage customers?

And, as David Rogers, director of Columbia Business School's Center on Global Brand Leadership asks, if the old brandbuilding model is broken, what does the new one look like?

Stay tuned for more perspectives and details from BRITE '08.

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Thank you to Lois Kelly and Francois Gossieux for inviting me to join them and an elite group of marketers and bloggers [David Berkowitz, Tom Guarriello, Max Kalehoff, Valeria Maltoni and Amanda Mooney] to extend the conference conversations.

Recent posts about BRITE include:

+ from Francois: Brite ‘08 - the end of marketing death valley is in sight,
+ from Amanda: BRITE Take-Aways,
+ from Valeria: BRITE - Marketing Unplugged,
+ from Max: BRITE Ideas,
+ from David: BRITE: TV 2.0, Online Video, and the Future of UGC, BRITE 08 Photos on Flickr, BRITE: Social Networks and Online Communities, BRITE Ideas Begin, and
+ from Tom: Is Marketing A Discipline In Crisis?, Time to Get BRITE.

Do visit the BRITE Conference blog and check out the BRITE Flickr.com group.

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