Magazine article Marketing

Action Stations

Magazine article Marketing

Action Stations

Article excerpt

This year's Marketing Forum promises delegates a high degree of hands-on involvement.

The 1997 Marketing Forum is a marked departure from the previous four. And an appropriate one in an age of interactivity: rather than have a number of keynote speeches, the emphasis is on interactive workshops, briefings, seminars and think-tanks.

The 550 delegates on the Oriana will have a chance to share thoughts and experiences on topics ranging from media issues, communications strategies and relationship marketing through to leadership skills and how marketing can win friends and influence enemies.

There will be only two keynote addresses to open and conclude the programme and even they have an unusual twist. The opening talk will be by an American futurist Watts Wacker, who aims to offer some thought-provoking ideas on why marketing needs to renew its vision. He believes that marketers will come to occupy the most important position in their companies over the next 50 years.

"As we have moved through the era of financial mavens and knowledge employees, it will be the storyteller who will become the critical link to consumers in the future. The marketer of the future will be that storyteller," he says.

The final keynote speech on how marketing should be marketing itself will be based on three pieces of original research carried out by organiser Richmond Events among consumers, colleagues in other company functions and the City (see box).

According to Deborah Parkes, project and conference manager at Richmond Events, the idea for the new format arose from an extensive review of last year's Forum.

"We had always known that the most popular sessions were the ones like think-tanks where people were able to get more involved. Delegates, particularly at the senior level, are not really interested in sitting for an hour being talked at. They are much more interested in sharing issues and exploring ideas, which you can't do with between 200 and 400 people in a room," she says.

The number of think-tanks, typically consisting of eight people, have been doubled to 40, something Parkes believes will help deal with high demand. "We have always had 70% of delegates requesting think-tanks but were only able to satisfy about a third. We will now be able to accommodate 300 rather than 150 with the new format."

Credibility at the core

One of the main themes running through the Forum will be how marketers can boost their credibility. For instance, the workshop on how to increase influence and make a difference will unveil some original research on views of marketing by others in the company. The results will be discussed with the participants, followed by a debate about possible routes of action.

According to one of the workshop speakers, Cranfield School of Management's Robert Shaw: "There are some very good tools which could give marketing more influence and which general managers would probably welcome. The problem is that too often marketing people can be busy being what I call 'imaginative marketers' and don't look at what tools are available and how to use them well."

Personal development will be the theme of the workshop that will be run by Clive Digby-Jones and Eileen Watkins-Seymour from The Leadership Group. "The aim is to help marketing directors stand back and look at themselves and their role as leader. If they can get the most from themselves, then they will start to do the right things with the rest of their people and lead the new growth in the company," says Digby-Jones.

Not surprisingly, new technology is a major preoccupation. For instance, the briefing on 'Webvertising' will address some of the business issues surrounding the World Wide Web. One of the speakers, Scott McDonald, director of research at Time-Warner in the US, will not only try to make the technology less esoteric but will look at what marketers should and should not be doing. …

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