The DQ Dunk & Other Lessons From BI Minneapolis

The DQ Dunk & Other Lessons From BI Minneapolis

The Brand Innovators team returned last week to one of our favorite places--the Twin Cities--for a lively marketing summit inside the sweet environs of the Dairy Queen world headquarters. The audience was soft-served (sorry) a bowlful of thoughtful discussion on topics ranging from digital transformation tactics and customer loyalty to the state of women in marketing.

(Those will be the only bad ice cream puns in this article.)
Here are eight takeaways from a great day in Minneapolis.

Brands that spread light create customers for life.

Chobani covers the cost of school lunches for kids who can’t otherwise afford it. Dairy Queen gets involved in youth sports at a local (franchise) level. Jack Link’s Protein Snacks brings big smiles with its unique brand of Sasquatch humor. And Lorissa’s Kitchen delivers healthy snacks based on direct feedback from moms and dads. The end result of all these things is the same: a growing, passionate customer base.

Brand Loyalty Panel (L-R): Moderator Ellen Green, Director of Loyalty and Engagement, Hathway; Brian Thompson, Associate Brand Manager - Freschetta Pizza, Schwan's Company; Heather Arntson, Senior Shopper Marketing Manager, Chobani; John Ostman, Senior Director eCommerce & Digital Strategy, Jack Link’s Protein Snacks; and Susie Moschkau, Director of Digital Marketing, Dairy Queen

Before long, every company will be a tech company.

It’s a trend we’ve noticed for awhile: more brands are identifying themselves (at least nominally) as tech companies. Sleep Number, which debuted new products at this year’s CES tech expo, is no exception. VP-Brand Experience Angela Gearhart says that, while it may have started as a mattress company, Sleep Number has evolved into being a full health and wellness company. And yeah, beds can now monitor and analyze your sleep health so the tech part isn’t a stretch. Their next to-do, she says? Educating consumers about the technology that lives inside their mattresses.

Angela Gearhart from Sleep Number

The DQ Dunk lives.

Serious Dairy Queen people do a thing when they get their picture taken. It mimics the way DQ employees turn your Blizzard drink upside-down to illustrate its frozen-ness. Just had to share that.

Brand Building & Digital Transformation Panelists do the DQ Dunk (L-R): Whitney McChane, Vice President of Marketing Communications, Dairy Queen; Naomi Alford, Senior Director, Media Strategy, Sleep Number; Mona Askalani, AVP, Digital Marketing, Regis Corporation; and Chris Crichton, Vice President, Client Solutions, Hathway

There’s no substitute for being useful.

Brands often spend time and energy being clever but sometimes giving people something they need can leave a big lasting impression. Julie Robey, Marketing Leader-North American Edible Oils for Cargill, reminded us of this simple fact. The massive 150-year-old agricultural brand is building a B2B digital platform that will give people access to products, invoices and order histories; answers to questions; and information on futures markets. Cargill is rolling out the tool now and is offering different features to different customers based on their pain points and needs.


Julie Robey of Cargill (at left) with Chris Crichton, VP-Client Solutions for Hathway

Dairy Queen makes people happy.

We know this because they told us, and because a recent survey had them beating all other major fast food chains on that count. So what did they do? According to Maria Hokanson, Executive VP-U.S. Marketing, they built their external marketing and internal employee morale campaigns around it. Smart.

Dairy Queen’s Maria Hokanson delivered a keynote on how DQ modernized its brand

The Minnesota Vikings are all in on brand partnerships and integrations.

As it happened, quite a few were in the room to hear speaker Scott Kegley, the Vikings’ Executive Director of Digital Media & Innovation. There’s Vikings karaoke with Hyundai. There’s online player videos and an augmented reality tie-in with Pepsi. And much more. If it’s good for the team, Kegley says, and if fans want it--key in this age of unprecedented access--the team tries to make it happen.

Scott Kegley (at right) with BI co-founder Marc Sternberg

Glocal is still a thing.

Remember that term, a convenient mashup of global and local? It hasn’t been a buzzphrase in some time but the concept can still drive good marketing, according to Katie Woodard, Marketing Director for Regis Corporation. For example, big brands are wise to help local teams set KPIs tailored to their region. And brands can (should) leverage local data to help get the right media mix for national campaigns. Content that is created at HQ and then localized can kill it in the marketplace.

Katie Woodard (at left) with Maggie Conroy, Industry Director-Retail & Restaurant of GroundTruth

Getting terrific advice from women in marketing leadership is always a smart move. 

The high point of BI Minneapolis may well have been the Women in Marketing Leadership panel that ended the day. From the moment it kicked off, the wisdom flowed. We leave you with some insights from our panelists.

Angela Gearhart, Vice President Brand Experience, Sleep Number: Find mentors and sponsors so you have champions to help you. Build your own “Board of Directors”--two superiors, two people who work under you and two people outside of your organization. 

Julie Robey, Marketing Leader, North American Edible Oils, Cargill: If you encourage people to be their most authentic self at work, you’ll create a more productive workplace.  

Women in Marketing Leadership Panel (L-R):

Moderator Ellen Green, Director of Loyalty and Engagement, Hathway
Maria Hokanson, Executive Vice President, U.S. Marketing, Dairy Queen
Julie Robey, Marketing Leader, North American Edible Oils, Cargill
Angela Gearhart, Vice President Brand Experience, Sleep Number

Tracy Fleischhacker Quigley, Brand Director, Lorissa’s Kitchen
Wendy Wiesman, Founder, Wiesman Experiences

Maria Hokanson, Executive Vice President, U.S. Marketing, Dairy Queen: It’s OK to be vulnerable. If you don’t come in thinking you know everything, it will help. But definitely speak up when you have something to say.

Tracy Fleischhacker Quigley, Brand Director, Lorissa’s Kitchen: When it comes to finding balance between being a mom and being an employee, there are going to be good and bad days for both. You need to be OK with that.

Wendy Wiesman, Founder, Wiesman Experiences: Pay attention to what failure can teach you. Don’t assume that leaders know what you have accomplished. Sing about your accomplishments.

To learn more about this and other Brand Innovators events, go here.

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