ICYMI, the Marketing Association's Marketing South conference took place in Christchurch yesterday featuring a whole host of excellent speakers. I took one for the team on behalf of the Southern Regional Committee and put together some quotes and takeaways for the day.

Dan West of FCB New Zealand took us through what customers are looking for in 2019, including comparing Millennials with their younger counterparts, Centennials. He eschews the term "purpose-driven marketing" in favour of "progressive marketing" - and says that every brand should have a purpose. He encouraged us to be bold and take a stance in our advertising - especially since this is reaping dividends for big names overseas. Dan also suggested that in doing this, we can't just hold a mirror up to the negative parts - we need to show an aspirational view of what we want to be as a society.

Some of my favourite quotes? "In New Zealand, we're quite fond of adblockers, we want to protect our data, but we'll give away our email address for a chocolate bar." "If you just go down the same track, you're not going to create the change you want to see. Be bold." And of course, the comparison of Millennial Disney princesses with their newer Centennial counterparts, who reject the idea of needing a prince to rescue them.

Susanne Stevenson talked us through IAG NZ's customer-centric design thinking journey. She told us that "customer experience is the new battleground", and how important it was to get buy-in from everyone throughout the change process. She stressed that "CX isn't fluffy, it's about increasing share of wallet", and says that "Brand is the promise we make; CX is the promise we keep." Susanne's top tips were to:

1. Get the basics right,
2. Be consistent, and
3. Listen, learn and act.

Matt Bain of Spark NZ and Nathalie Morris of Qrious teamed up to talk through improving customer journeys with data. Nathalie pointed out that in this day and age, everyone has enough data, and urged us "don't swim in the data lake." Matt suggested that "Disruption can be a scary word, or it can be fun." He thinks we're on the verge of making market research obsolete; "If you're connected to your customers in real time, you don't have to do research - you already know." They warned of the dangers of spending too long getting something perfect rather than getting it out into the market sooner, and that the amount of data we'll have in the future is exponential.

The MA's Southern Regional Committee were proud to launch Chair Michael Durie's "Marketing For Good" initiative. This preview of the quarterly lunch series encouraging marketing practitioners to give back to the community saw us working on suggestions for the City Mission.

Jason Buckley of Hell Pizza shared Hell's origin story (and pizza vouchers - thanks Jason!), and that some of their biggest marketing investments of recent years have actually been getting certified free-range, vegetarian, gluten-free, and so on. He backs his product 100% and all of his marketing activity rests on knowing they're the best. He inspired us to "innovate - go the opposite way to your competitors." Some of their other marketing work has involved relationship-building and partnerships, but he stresses the importance of supporting causes for the right reasons and becoming leaders.

Greig Brebner of Madeblunt Blunt Umbrellas told us about "being struck in the face with inspiration - literally" as he was inspired to improve the design of an everyday object. He suggests new products aim for 80% familiarity and 20% innovation. His recipe for success? A good idea, clear vision, and high standards. He focused on details, quality, and innovation throughout his journey, and says the most difficult thing to know was how to bring in the right people at the right time.

A panel discussion saw traditional and digital experts Danny Schroder, Jake Shelton, Chris Stephens, and Kintilla Du Boucher-Ryan busting some common myths, including; print is dead, digital is easier and cheaper, TV is dead, and that digital should be left to the experts. Jake warned against the unrealistic expectations that come with the accessibility of digital platforms, and the risks of putting all your budget into a single platform if you're too focused on ROI. My favourite pieces of advice included partnering with agencies or digital experts (you're the expert on your own brand, after all) for maximum effect, and being wary that even 'free' marketing activity costs time - thanks Kintilla for those words. And a great one-liner from Chris - "TV isn't dead, it's having babies!" 

[Picture credit: Stuff]

The afternoon session saw Brydon Heller of Heller's NZ discuss their journey from local Christchurch butcher to national success story. Like Hell Pizza, Brydon explained the family's focus on quality and innovation as key. He talked about the importance of their brand personality and willingness to push the boat out with new packaging and flavours.

Tim Loftus from Christchurch NZ reprised his appearance from 2018 with an update on the Christchurch narrative and how their journey is going. He talked about turning residents into loyal brand advocates for the city. He encouraged us to explore, give people permission to be proud of our city, and to adopt the Christchurch story as our own.

MC Melissa Davies closed with a great summary in keeping with her fantastic hosting throughout the day. 5pm greeted us with closing drinks and nibbles to soothe our racing brains. Thanks to the Marketing Association for facilitating a much-appreciated day of learning and networking and I'm looking forward to the line-up for next year.

The Southern Regional Committee holds regular Off-The-Clock networking drinks. This free event is the third Wednesday of every month and includes a complimentary drink, nibbles, and a short presentation to pique your interest in between meeting like-minded marketing professionals. Keep an eye out on our events page for the next one!