Thank you MAD//Fest for getting us off our sofas, out of our tracksuits and into our first real life marketing event in over a year. It was an incredible day, centered around the future of marketing, advertising and technology - featuring speakers from across the globe, from the biggest brands to the freshest start-ups.

We heard from the likes of Martin Sorrell, KFC, Bloom & Wild, and more, with each speaker engaging on the theme of the event, ‘Where do we go from here?’

After the year and a half we’ve just had, with brands forced to re-evaluate priorities and work out new ways of working, there are bound to be some killer learnings coming out of these experiences.

The speakers that stood out

Gymshark: Noel Mack

Chief Brand Officer of Gymshark, Noel Mack, dominated MAD//Fest’s Hexagon stage. His dynamic energy, enthusiasm and passion for the role were evident. And he had the audience in fits of laughter. Noel explored Gymshark’s journey, from creation (claiming the brand itself was built in Nando’s, on a foundation of lemon and herb chicken) to execution (their influencer strategy, approach to TikTok, and more).

Noel asks marketers not to copy what they do but to copy ‘how we think’. Gymshark provide a fresh perspective on marketing - always hot on the latest trends and totally unafraid to try new things. Both of which have contributed to their success.

KFC: Jack Hinchliffe

Marketing Director (and soon to be CMO) of KFC spoke about reactive marketing and the need for brands to ‘live in the moment’. 

To guarantee their ads suit the nuances of their audience, KFC use ‘cheap media to inform expensive media’. Automation and Artificial Intelligence are at the helm of what they do, helping the brand to see how people speak about them online. The AI detects common themes, and these are then incorporated into the messaging of KFC’s campaigns to ensure they’re rooted in key consumer wants and needs.

As Jack describes it, ‘we’re using machines to help us become more human’.

Tony’s Chocolonely: Nicola Matthews

Tony’s - one of our customers - spoke about the importance of product, as far too many marketers underestimate the value of their products. Marketing Manager, Nicola, thinks this needs to change. She explains ‘our product is our number one marketing tool’, as it contains information on the company’s mission, values, and purpose.

Even the format of the Tony’s chocolate bars supports the cause the brand stands for. The world of cocoa and chocolate is an unequal space, where farmers aren’t paid fairly, and slavery is widespread. That’s why the Tony’s bar isn’t straight, like its competitors. It’s jagged and messy, with the squares positioned at an angle. When shared, the pieces are unequal. Nicola explains, ‘it’s a physical representation of the problems within chocolate, which aren’t equal or straightforward.’

Tenzing: Huib van Bockel

 The Founder of Tenzing – another of our customers - spoke about the difficulties of starting your own business in a congested market. He admitted it’s ‘like your own Everest’. And perseverance is necessary if you want to get to the peak of the mountain. Tenzing’s secret to success is ‘a great team and a purpose that everyone in the company really believes in.’

Tenzing’s internal goal is to become the most sustainable brand in this space. They’ve just achieved B Corporation status and are taking on their competitors in the market, day by day. Huib pointed towards real-time intelligence as a source of their success, as with daily brand monitoring, they’ve been able to overtake their biggest competitor, Red Bull.

ProQuo AI: Nadim Sadek 

Nadim Sadek, founder of ProQuo AI, spoke about democratizing marketing. Nadim explained how current Brand Management platforms are skewed towards those with large financial resources. But in today’s world, smaller companies are now better equipped to compete, and that’s all thanks to Artificial Intelligence.

Nadim spoke about AI Brand Management platforms, which will soon become a necessity for marketers. They will run through the millions of combinations of actions marketers face every day and regurgitate the one action for the marketer to take, which is guaranteed to drive growth for their business.

Common themes at MAD//Fest

Growth is at an all-time high

Naturally, the pandemic was mentioned, with Martin Sorrell demonstrating the huge impact it’s had on the market. Martin claims it has “accelerated existing trends and made them more apparent.” And he even goes so far as to say that the sector is currently in a better position than he’s seen it in all his 45 years working in advertising.

Cookies are on consumers’ minds

With Google due to bring in tighter regulations on cookies, marketers are anxiously looking for new ways to personalize their messaging. At MAD//Fest, marketers expressed anxiety that their engagement levels would rapidly drop once cookies were regulated, as there would be fewer ways to test user experience. There’s clearly a gap in the market for more ways to create personalized marketing.

Diversity is a top priority

More and more companies are focused on diversity and inclusion. Shivvy Jervis, an award-winning trends forecaster spoke about the importance of purpose within companies. She explained how the ‘Moral Economy’ is growing in importance and organisations that are invested in their communities are now seen as more attractive and will be more likely to draw people in.

Marketers want new ways to measure their impact

From KFC to Tenzing, the hot topic on everyone’s minds was how to measure success. It was a question that recurred frequently throughout each talk we attended, but it was one that many marketers danced around. Some companies over-emphasized the importance of vanity metrics, like impressions and engagement rates, whereas others dismissed the topic of measurement entirely, claiming there was no concrete way to measure brand sentiment.

We can say for a fact, there is. Find out how to correlate brand sentiment with brand performance and commercial value today, so you can better understand your marketing impact.