At Sundance, Casually Unpacking the State of Brand Marketing

Like a mini-retreat or a veeeery short semester abroad for marketers, the Brand Innovators Sundance VIP experience brought some terrific people together for five days in the heart of Utah’s gorgeous Wasatch Mountains.

Like a mini-retreat or a veeeery short semester abroad for marketers, the Brand Innovators Sundance VIP experience brought some terrific people together for five days in the heart of Utah’s gorgeous Wasatch Mountains.

A dressed-down version of what many of you have seen at our more citified tentpole events, we aptly dubbed it “Freestyle Marketing.” Participating marketers chatted candidly at the breakfast table, over cocktails and games of pool and in front of the fireplace on topics ranging from the future of media and content marketing to retail, e-commerce and building a 21st-century brand.

As you might guess, this particular BI event was about a lot more than conferencing. It was about community members getting to know each other on a deeper level in a casual environment. Marketers from Hulu, Hilton, Mastercard, Avis Budget, Patrón, Kellogg’s and other brands were quite literally in the house, or rather a couple of houses we’d secured for the week.

L-R: Michael Leen, SVP of Growth, MediaMonks; Kendra Upham, Head of Media, Hulu; Alex Sutton, Director, Digital Acquisition, Avis Budget; and Traci Spiegelman, Director Global Media, Mastercard

There were skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling outings. There was Poker Night with lessons and a tournament run by our friends from the World Poker Tour. There were hands-on experiences as a personal chef helped attendees make pasta, sushi and cheese. (Not all at once.) There were special cocktails prepared by a proper mixologist. There were huge breakfast spreads, delicious lunches and over-the-top dinners with Wagyu beef, salmon, steaks–OK, I’ll stop.

Poker Night at Sundance

Make-Your-Own-Sushi Night

Making pasta from scratch (L-R):  Brittney Williams, Director, Global Omni-Shopper Marketing Strategy, Kellogg’s; Traci Spiegelman, Director Global Media, Mastercard; Jamie Holder and James Slezak, CEO and Co-Founder, Swayable

Of course, we still had some of that classic Brand Innovators summit programming. We traded in the usual stage and virtual fireplace for couches, comfy chairs and a real chalet fireplace. As the snow fell outside, marketers opened up in intimate, open conversations about their craft and their lives.

We’ll keep some of those words in the “cone of silence” but we thought we’d pull together some general themes and thoughts that arose throughout the week.

  • Regardless of industry or target market, reducing customer friction is front and center for many marketers right now
  • Another big key of the moment: connecting with consumers, personalizing content for them and providing meaningful experiences that create loyalty
  • Influencer marketing is still in marketers’ plans so long as it it is right-sized to the business, aligns with brand identity and utilizes relevant content
  • In an effort to appeal to younger consumers, some marketers are successfully emphasizing brand storytelling campaigns over pure in-your-face brand advertising
  • E-commerce is ripe for disruption, possibly through the use of AR/VR technologies that create immersive experiences
  • Privacy concerns and the recently announced “cookie-pocalypse” will remain a focus during 2020 as new rules go into effect and brands navigate compliance

The talk got deep in spots but the overall vibe was far more personal than that. “I thought the intimate panels were extremely productive from a networking and conversation perspective,” said Brandon Levine, Head of Innovation + Payments for Dollar General. “Although we all come from different industries, we’re all trying to solve similar problems, and the private setting made it extremely easy to share strategies without the risk of them getting out into the wild.”

Ash Duvernois, Director of eCommerce Operations, Honey Baked Ham

“What an exciting experience at Brand Innovators Sundance VIP Retreat,” said Ash Duvernois, Director of eCommerce Operations for Honey Baked Ham. “I enjoyed many of the panel discussions. And in the mix were so many fun activities and adventures. It was inspiring to be out in the snow surrounded by like-minded people. I feel like I connected with many of the attendees personally and professionally.”

Brody O’Harran, EVP-Global Business Strategy for Goodway Group, added: “It’s rare that you get to spend quality time networking with key brand decision-makers. I arrived at Sundance knowing no one and left with new business leads and 20+ new friends. I loved the intimate setting and the opportunity to hear directly from brands. With only 15-20 people in the room, it allowed for everyone to participate in the conversation and to really dig into the topics.”

Lockie Andrews, Chief Digital Officer, Untuckit with Brand Innovators’ Stephen Strauss

Mike Nascimento, Sr. Brand Manager-Global Nutrition & Supplements, Young Living

Find more images from Sundance here in our Google Photos collection:

Opening Night Cocktail Reception and VIP Dinner

Day 2 Freestyle Marketing

Day 2 Sushi Dinner

Day 3 Freestyle Marketing

Day 3 Pasta Making Night

Day 4 Poker Night + VIP Concert

For more information about this and other Brand Innovators events, go here.

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