Moving From Cool To Critical: What We Learned At The Forrester Marketing Leadership Forum

Last week, Forrester got about 700 of our friends together (ok, conference attendees) to figure out what is cool and what is critical in marketing today as well as what is likely to cross from the former to the latter. We had amazing presentations from major consumer goods, retail, insurance, and technology brands tackling these different issues.

Below, I have included the graphic illustrations of these presentations (courtesy of Kate Dwyer at Collective Next), highlighting the key takeaways from each. In them, you can see the stories and concepts that our speakers revealed to help the audience progress in this complex marketing world we now live in.

What's cool?

  • Branding is cool again, according to Chris Stutzman. He studied the relationship expressed by consumers between things like brand pride and brand uniqueness and how they influence premium prices and willingness to recommend. His insight: 21st century brands will be built on different foundations than 20th century brands, especially as they  relate to what leads the marketing effort. Product-led brands will suffer as experience-led brands thrive (Note: His report will be coming out soon, but here is preview from Advertising Age). 

  • A strong brand platform is sustainable throughout the decades. Coke's brand is now 125 years old, recognized consistently as the No. 1 global brand throughout recent decades. Cristina Bondolowski explored how Coke has stayed on top, showing that the positive, happy images that led to its current campaign, "Open Happiness," are fundamentally based on the same tenets of "I'd like to teach the world to sing" and other long-standing tag lines. But, the difference today is that these images are expressed in cool media, like Facebook and on mobile devices, the way print and TV led in the 20th century.

What's critical?

  • Julie Bernard was very clear about the strategies that are working at Macy's. It made the move to become a truly customer-centric company, top to bottom, and managed through all of the decisions that needed to be made technologically, organizationally, and promotionally to deliver unique value to each customer it serves — and all in a way that has increased consumer insight and helped manage inventory costs better, while growing the average basket size of its loyal and repeat customers. 

  • Dave Frankland urged brands to recognize your customer is never the same twice. He showed the audience why customer data is not a once and done thing, but rather needs to be put into the context of that day, that interaction, and that channel that a customer chooses to engage with. And when brands fail to adapt here, customers see it and walk away. 

What ties them together?

  • Adobe's Ann Lewnes offered her "Confessions of a Digital Marketer," in which she illustrated the three main challenges of marketing today: 1) Brand still matters; 2) creativity comes first; and 3) marketing is the new finance. By tying these three themes together, she made the cool things critical and highlighted how critical can be cool. 

Thank you to everyone who came to the see the content as it unfolded and to our sponsors for helping people at the event turn cool ideas into business critical successes. Enjoy the art and put next year's event on your calendar: April 18th to 19th at LA Live in Los Angeles. See you there!


Cool to critical...

If social is headed from cool to critical, why aren't more CEOs engaged with social? Perhaps it's critical, but they are too out of the loop to realize that? Or are they so omniscient that they don't think it's critical.

Thanks for having me at the Forum.

Hi George I haven't done the

Hi George

I haven't done the research on this from the CEOs perspective, but I tend to look to the marketers as being the social folks, participating personally in the social environment to understand how it works and impacts the business. The CEO, especially public company CEOs, seem to have "their people" creating social content, to make sure it connects with the company's constituents in a brand-relevant way. By critical, we meant that it is a core part of the marketing effort going forward, and as a result needs to be tied into the customer data and intelligence, insight, and experience efforts at a company, in way that is more than just casual or cool.

We have seen legal, HR, tech, and marketing (and in many cases sales) work closely together to understand the implications of social and other cool communications tools out there. What do you see from your fellow CEOs?


As always clear and direct!

Appreciate your blog, very useful hints that really works even when trying to promote a professional translation service online!


Are you sure that Coca Cola

Are you sure that Coca Cola is the most important brand in the world? I heard that Google took its place a couple of years ago...

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