"Find your purpose" written on post-it notes
By Erin Peralta Oct 28 2014

ANA Masters of Marketing: Making Connections, Finding Purpose

The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) Masters of Marketing conference is one of my favorite events of the year. Not just because it’s a great place for Centro to be, but because the ANA assembles top marketers to present their most compelling and inspiring work.

Session after session, it was all about the “why”. For me, the most memorable presentations emphasized the power of purpose to drive brand growth. These companies were connecting with their customers and capturing market share based on ideals rooted in corporate culture and that reverberated through their creative campaigns. Here are a few of my favorite moments:

  1. Mark Addicks of General Mills delivered a presentation on ‘The Brand Purpose Process’ which focused on the power of brand champions. One of its brand leaders works the register at a convenience store each month to deepen their understanding of consumer behavior. General Mills’ #HowToDad campaign nails it. Funny and engaging.
  2. Chobani focused on protecting its leadership position in what is now a crowded market. Chief marketing officer, Peter McGuinness, covered the three R’s of a purpose-driven brand: right, role and responsibility. The “How Matters” campaign showcases Chobani’s efforts to innovate an “ancient food”.
  3. JetBlue CMO, Marty St. George, captivated with candor. He flies in the last row at least once a month. The company’s mantra is: “If Delta would do it, we won’t.” Check out Election Protection and “Carmaggedon” to see how humor and a whole lot of humanity have made this challenger brand a real contender.
  4. The iconic Jim Stengel, former CMO of P&G, inspired with his POV on what drives organic brand growth: an ambitious purpose. He showcased ‘Stay Together’ from Skype, as an example of how technology can help forge the deepest of connections. (Have a tissue handy).

It’s no coincidence that the presentations with the most impact were the ones that told the most meaningful stories about their brand’s journey. Bottom line, good stories get passed on – both at ANA and across every social circle and channel out there.

Today, more than ever before, technology makes those connections happen at-scale.

Successful brands will embrace an ambitious purpose. They will cultivate brand ambassadors with deeply authentic stories that are shared across the entire digital ecosystem.

To reach and engage these advocates, brands will have to develop personas that dive far deeper into the intricate layers of desires and motivations. In fact, top marketers and visionaries at ANA talked in great detail about gaining a deeper understanding of our audiences and applying that knowledge in a more meaningful way. Most agree we’re just scratching the surface when it comes to audience insight and targeting sophistication.

Personally, I find inspiration in the idea of being more connected. It’s value-based. It’s human. And in terms of building a brand, it’s strategically on point. By the end of my time at ANA, it was abundantly clear that the practice of putting meaningful connections at the center of everything we do is a smart plan no matter what we’re trying to build — whether that’s a company, a family, a career or a brand.