Day two of RampUp on the Road New York has come to an end. Here’s a taste of the thought-provoking insights we heard:
Insight 1: “‘Made in America’ resonates with almost every consumer group we care about.”
Guess which brand speaker said this? It was Jay Sethi, VP, Brand Marketing Smirnoff & Emerging Brands at Diageo. Who knew that Smirnoff had been made in the U.S. for more than 80 years? Smirnoff used this insight to create a now-famous outdoor ad campaign, stating “Made in America. But we’d be happy to talk about our ties to Russia under oath.”
This ad sits right at the intersection of the art and the science, or the “head and the heart,” of marketing. It was timely, data-driven, memorable, and informative. It also hit on the notion that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel with your brand, especially if you are a legacy company. There are things people may not know about your brand that they will eat up, like “Made in America.”
Following this point, Jay also shared that when he’s looking for creative inspiration, he combs through Smirnoff’s vault of advertising; the brand has been around since the 1860s. One gem he unearthed was Smirnoff’s first LGBT ad, which ran in 1968: “Seeing that they had the courage to do things like that then makes it easier to do so now,” he said.
Insight 2: “Data is neither inherently innocuous nor inherently dangerous.”
What’s a common theme from today’s sessions? More than a few speakers touched on the fact that data on its own is rather worthless—a bunch of ones and zeros. Instead, what’s important, valuable, and sometimes questionable is the use of data. Marketers today must interrogate every use of data to ensure it’s not only legal—which is table stakes—but also fair and just.
So how we define “fair” and “just”? Noga Rosenthal from NCC Media explained that it varies based on culture, ethnicity, nationality, and many other factors. So what’s a marketer to do? First, don’t depend on current laws and regulations to guide you, since your intended use may not have been considered before. That doesn’t mean you can act unethically. Second, ensure that uses are evaluated by a committee to avoid individual biases and gain consensus. And lastly, to build trust, keep telling consumers what data you’re collecting and how you are using it.
Insight 3:” Incrementalism is better than a moonshot.”
We’re usually told shooting for the moon is necessary to achieve massive success, but in his keynote presentation, Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics fame told the fascinating story of Impossible Foods. Founder Pat Brown follows a philosophy of incrementalism to reverse-engineer meat with the goal of creating a substitute that would be accepted by the everyday meat eater (and perhaps save the world along the way).
After countless experiments trying to discover the magic ingredient, Pat’s team of scientists developed heme, which gives their product a meaty essence and even allows it to “bleed” like a beef burger. After the Impossible Burger, Impossible Foods, which now sells 2.5 million pounds of meat substitute each year, will tackle steak, then chicken, fish, pork, and finally turkey, with a mission of completely replacing animals in the food system by 2035.
Stephen also praised Pat’s keen marketing insight, saying that he innately knew telling meat eaters they are bad and destroying the environment was not a great brand strategy. Instead, Pat, a long-time vegan, knew he would be more successful telling people people not to worry, and that they should just continue doing what they want to do. As marketers, we should all have the wisdom to meet people where they are and appeal to them on their terms, recognizing others’ preferences may not be the same as our own.
Bonus insight: Find your niche—the stranger the better.
We couldn’t limit Stephen and his Freakonomics coauthor, Steven Levitt, to just one insight. Both opened with origin stories of how they became a writer and an economist, respectively.
Stephen found his niche as a writer fascinated with the bizarre, relating to us, as only a masterful storyteller can, the tragicomic tale of why turkeys don’t have as much sex as chickens. Steven followed up with the story of how he became an economist. After what sounded like years of terrible academic results, he spoke with his father about what he should do. A famed intestinal gas researcher, he encouraged his son to embrace, just as he did, topics that no one else has. In other words, the strange.
If these two can get famous for researching and writing about the “hidden side of everything,” then any out-of-the-box ideas you have certainly deserve to be heard and considered. (It’s how we came up with #RampPups.)
Next stop, London. Register here for our first RampUp on the Road London, featuring speakers from Carrefour, Sainsbury’s, The Telegraph, and many others.