Right Brains Rising as Big Brands Meet at ANA

If there were a red thread sewn through the programming at last week’s sessions at the Association of National Advertisers, it was an exhortation to unleash the power of creativity, innovation, passion and humanity against the stasis currently holding the global economy in check. While undoubtedly all of these world-class companies have sophisticated econometric models, analytics and measurement disciplines, leaders from Wal-Mart Stores Inc., AT&T, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Kraft Foods Inc. and IBM Corporation weren’t showcasing the best rocket science from their respective way-smart divisions. The clarion call of big-brand marketers to their fellow big-brand marketers was, “We won’t grow without letting the right-brainers out of their cages.”

Stephen Quinn, CMO of Wal-Mart, told these “Masters of Marketing” that the world’s challenging economic conditions, including a growing number of people living below the poverty level, require a new imperative of real humanity to deliver products and solutions to customers who are more challenged to be able to afford, well, anything. Esther Lee, SVP, AT&T, says her company sees itself today as a “digital lifestyle” brand, delivering things like intimacy, kinship and guardianship rather than gear, networks and apps.

Dana Anderson, SVP, Kraft Foods, was day one’s show-stopper. She’s the Alaric the Goth of her company, having led the barbarian “righties” of her own company over the finance and operations walls to deliver products, marketing campaigns and results that would have been impossible had her fellow creative spirits remained restrained. IBM SVP Jon Iwata championed the pursuit of the emotional and humanly relevant “Why?” by challenging the assembled companies to ask, “Would the world be any different were your company to cease to exist tomorrow?”

Lots of PowerPoint slides, to be sure. But unlike those who have lit the conferences of the last decade, there was near unanimity among the ANA Masters of Marketing who presented that the charts, tables, formulas, matrices and models that have so long been the coin of marketing’s realm are now and necessarily very much in the rearview mirror.

It’s clear that big, new, emotional, humanly relevant ideas are the only path through the economic malaise of which we’ve all grown so weary.


by Rick Segal
President Worldwide and Chief Practice Officer

Follow Rick on Twitter @MrBtoB

Cross-posted at Ignite Something on the Forbes CMO Network