5 Marketing United sessions people can't stop talking about

April 28, 2017 McKenzie Gregory

It's official: Marketing United 2017 was our absolute best year yet.
Despite the sheer number of sessions attendees had to choose from, every talk continued to impress and provide tons of inspiration. Since they were all so good, it's hard to hone in on any that qualify as "the best" – so I'm deferring to popular opinion. Here are five of the sessions people simply can’t stop talking about, plus some key takeaways for each one. Enjoy!


"Everything Has Changed and Nothing Is Different"

“Whatever you think of when you see the logo… that’s branding. That’s it. That’s all that matters.” – Scott Stratten
During his opening keynote, Scott Stratten reminded us that yes, ethics matter in marketing. 

He shared the story of a Canadian company (we won't call them out here) that faked app reviews and the huge consequences that happened because of it. The point? Do what you can to get results, but maintain your integrity in the process. Your audience and your customers will remember their feeling about your brand more than any marketing campaign you produce, and if you break their trust, it’s over. 
Key takeaways:
• You don’t have to be everywhere. Only use the channels that make sense for your brand.
• The context of the content matters.
• You have to dig deeper than vanity metrics. What are you doing to actually produce results?


"Storytelling for Business"

“Whether you are a global brand or a smaller brand that’s just getting started, the rules still apply: You have to make me feel something.” – Matthew Luhn
Matthew Luhn – a writer and story branding consultant with over 20 years of experience at Pixar – followed Scott with an inspiring story of his life and deep belief in the power of storytelling. While only 5% of people remember stats or data, a whopping 65% will remember stories they’re told. Stories are most meaningful, he said, when they’re memorable, impactful, and personal. Make people feel something, and you’ll create the kind of brand impression that can’t be ignored.
Key takeaways:
• Don’t be clever. Be vulnerable and honest.
• No story will work without heart and authenticity.
• You have a very short time (think 8 seconds) to hook people in. Make an impression from the start with the unexpected or unfamiliar. 

"Challenge Your Marketing Assumptions (And Get a Free Puppy): An Intervention"

“I think we’re going to see a resurgence in long-form content. We’re hungry for more substance and value.” – Ann Handley
Ann Handley is the queen of content, and her talk this year didn’t disappoint. She opened with a startling stat: Only 32% of marketers focus their content on their audience’s wants and needs (as opposed to their brand’s). That’s a huge deal, and it’s something that needs to be fixed. Her tips?
Key takeaways:
• Start with what the audience needs, not what you want to create.
• Never create content just to fill a campaign or meet an arbitrary deadline. 
• Smart companies don’t follow conversations. They lead them.
(And no, she didn't actually give away puppies – but she DID donate $5000 to the Humane Society of Silicon Valley!)

"Find the Red Thread: Your Secret Weapon for Finding and Telling Your Story" 

“Go narrow, not broad: We have a tendency to think if I go broad, I’ll capture more people. But the more closely you define yourself, the easier it is for YOUR people to find you.”  – Tamsen Webster 
New to MU this year, Tamsen Webster’s session on branding was a huge hit with attendees. Her main message? You can’t solve a product problem with a marketing message. There is no bad brand for good companies. There is no good brand for bad companies. You have to get the basics right if you’re ever going to do successful marketing.
Key takeaways:
• Branding = the message. Brand = what manifests.
• Branding only creates branding. It doesn’t create brands.
• For your brand to make sense, you need to connect who YOU think you are, who your customers think you are, and who you actually are.


"Play@Work: What’s Your Red Rubber Ball?

“My advice for a small brand trying to chase the big boys? Don’t. Do you. Stay on message. Know you have the ability to be more intimate because you are lean and agile. Stay connected.” 
First of all, has there been a more engaging speaker to hit the MU stage? Kevin Carroll (formerly of Nike) was bursting with infectious energy, and he was the absolute best way to close out the conference. A self-proclaimed "agent of change," Kevin argued that play is serious business, and we have to sprinkle the element of play into our work if we want innovation. If you keep your imagination strong, agile, and nimble, he said, you can find the most creative solutions to your problems.
Key takeaways:
• The future of marketing is moving from transactional to transformational.
• Play is a universal language. We all speak ball.
• There are two great days in your life: The day you are born, and the day you discover why.

Did you have any favorite sessions at Marketing United I didn’t mention? Any you missed that you wish you had been there for? Share away in the comments – I’d love to hear from you! 
Marketing United 2018 is already on the books! It's happening April 9-11 in Nashville, so register now if you'd like to lock in your spot

About the Author

McKenzie Gregory

McKenzie Gregory is a content writer on Emma’s marketing team. A Nashville native, she can be found covering all things email on the Emma blog, debating hyphenation rules, and watching obscene amounts of Netflix without a trace of shame.

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