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Highlights From the Account Planning Workshop 

On September 22, 2009, the 4A's Marge Morris and Rebecca Samson attended the Account Planning Workshop at B.B. King's Blues Club and Grill in New York City. Here are some of their observations and highlights from the event.

How has planning changed in the last five years?

  • Planners used to represent the consumer, whereas now a planner’s job is centered on strategic thinking within a company. They are tasked with solving problems through ideas.
  • Strategy isn’t the full scope anymore. There’s more of an evolution towards solving problems through ideas.
  • Great strategic thinking creates an idea we can all galvanize around.
  • An idea has to be strong enough to represent itself with or without an execution.

Jennifer Cottineau, VP, Brand, Virgin USA offered the following advice for planners:

  • Be more commercially savvy: think operationally and think practicalities—more of your ideas will get through and you’ll have more credibility.
  • Be a good storyteller—be provocative and engaging.
  • Go out and use/experience the product the way it is actually used by consumers.

This last point was reinforced by Catherine Mayone, SVP Strategic Services, MRM Worldwide, when she gave the back story on the Army Strong Campaign. MRM’s employees went through a week of army basic training. They “lived” and experienced the product literally in the trenches.

Carol Cone, Chairman, Cone, on Social Strategy:

“Cause lite” is just slapping a pink ribbon on something—it doesn’t work and can actually have a negative impact on your brand. You must go deep to find the strategic idea. Cause marketing should not be just about creating awareness, but about changing behavior. There must be a real commitment and connection. The #1 driver is genuineness or authenticity of the program.

For a social strategy to really work it needs to have a champion—hopefully in the C-suite. You can start by asking the employees about the causes that they would like supported. You should launch your program internally first. Employees become the foot soldiers in a cause marketing campaign. The company’s behavior must be aligned with its social strategy. A good CSR program attracts a core group and creates an armor that deflects criticism.

Best practices for experiential marketing campaigns. A good brand experience ideally does the following:

  • compensates for what advertising can’t do;
  • is not interruptive;
  • is invitational;
  • people should want to seek it out;
  • people have to participate;
  • tells a brand story that people want to stay with;
  • should be multi-sensory. The more senses activated the better;
  • pulls people out of their daily life for anywhere from a minute to a few days;
  • is so powerful that people are compelled to share it with someone else;
  • should keep coming back to the brand story. It must be so tightly tied to what the brand is about so that the core brand promise is realized in the experience.
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