Three Key Takeaways from the National AMA Conference

Last week, the Toucan team attended the national American Marketing Association (AMA) conference in Las Vegas. We heard from a host of world-class marketers, leaders, salespeople, technologists and creatives about the future of the industry and how we as marketers can prepare ourselves and our clients for that future. We made some wonderful connections with some wonderful people along the way.

We won’t dive into specifics here or recount details from the presentations, but we will share some learnings and touch on some themes that were addressed by presenters and panels as well as discussions in networking conversations.

View marketing as a growth engine

It’s easy to get caught up in marketing as promotion and forget that the whole point of what we do is to move the needle in some way, and 90% of the time that means one thing: making money for our company or organization. As Mayur Gupta, VP, Growth & Marketing at Spotify pointed out, many times a company asks itself “should we focus on marketing? Sales? Growth?” The answer is that nothing matters if it isn’t working toward growth. As you go about your planning and problem-solving, sometimes it helps to back up and try to examine the situation beyond the popular definition of “marketing.” Make sure to keep growth at the forefront of your marketing mindset as you promote your products and services.

Focus on changing high-yield purchase behaviors  

Co-authors Bernard J. Jaworski and Robert S. Lurie gave a presentation on their latest book entitled “The Organic Growth Playbook: Activate High-Yield Behaviors to Achieve Extraordinary Results - Every Time.” This book, which is the first in the AMA Leadership Series, preaches one basic tenet: the conventional marketing model fails to solve the whole problem and oftentimes results in slow, or even the absence of, growth. The authors go on to outline a practical approach that focuses on changing customer behavior in their buying process as opposed to solely focusing on positioning and differentiation in the market.

This new approach calls for focusing on changing customer behavior based on key behaviors in the consumer buying process, segmenting those customers based on their likelihood to engage in those key behaviors, developing customer profiles that reveal critical drivers and barriers of and to the key behavior, promoting using a value proposition focused on changing behavior (not product messaging) and then investing disproportionately on just a few segments until change occurs.

It may sound like a simple concept, but when examined closely and put into practice, this can be a refreshing way to look at your marketing efforts and determine how much value you’re truly bringing to your organization outside of the basic promotion.

Stand for something

A major theme throughout much of this conference was that brands must take a stand on issues that matter to them and the consumers they serve. Peter McGuinness, Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer/Chief Demand Officer at Chobani, painted a beautiful picture of the Chobani philosophy that “business can be a force for good” and they are guided by a mission of providing “better food for more people” all while being completely transparent in every facet of the company. Caring about societal, cultural and political issues not only resonates with consumers, but it is also just good for business. An increasing number of millennials and Gen Zers care deeply about authenticity in marketing, and to many, staying silent in important conversations causes their trust to erode and engagement to decrease.

However, not every brand has to be as outspoken as Nike, Chobani or others. Brands should not feel like they have to weigh in on every issue. Find your non-negotiable mission and plant your flag in its soil, but only if it comes from a place of truth and transparency, not pandering for profit.

We chose these three key takeaways because they are very high level and digestible for the modern marketer to consider and implement. There were many, many topics covered at this year’s AMA conference, and we wouldn’t be able to cover them all even if we wanted to. If you’re interested to learn more or would like to connect with us to discuss where you stand in your marketing efforts, shoot us an email at, leave a comment on social or tweet at us @toucanads.

Toucan is a New Orleans advertising agency.

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