Thousands of marketers descended upon London’s coolest conference venue last week, for the annual Festival of Marketing event at Tobacco Dock. A modernised industrial building across two floors, the perfect setting for ideas generation and learning. The upper floor was dedicated to seminar sessions on content, AI, Customer Experience, Insight, Data & Analytics, Programmatic and Social, to name just some of the themes. The lower floor ‘Festival City’ was home to experience rooms, recharge, breakout zones and innovative tech companies. Amongst the nooks and crannies of this unique industrial venue, some serious conversations were shaping the future of the entire marketing industry as we know it.

Once again, the calibre of the speakers at this year’s event was first class, all sharing their unique experiences, insights and in-depth knowledge. These included many leading marketers, experts and specialists drawn from some of the biggest brands and leading solution providers from across the world.

Opening the festival was author, TV personality and National Treasure, Stephen Fry. He was interviewed by Econsultancy founder Ashley Friedlein and offered his analysis on a wide range of digital topics. Fry urged society to wake up to the potential of AI before it’s too late. “AI is the great tsunami facing us all that we seem to be so unprepared for. We sleepwalked into the internet age and virtually woke up when it had already happened.” He also touched on the ambitions of technology versus the way it ends up being used, saying, “Nothing is idea-shaped, everything is human shaped.”

Jo Malone closed the first day and what an inspiring lady she is. She had very little marketing experience when she started her notorious brand, but her advice to the audience when building a brand is to remember the 5 I’s – inspiration, innovation, integrity, ignition and instinct.

Reggie Yates, Rochelle Humes and Tom Daley kicked off day two discussing the power of celebrity/brand partnerships. Reggie Yates referenced his friend, Simon Sinek, “Everyone is looking for a ‘why’, even if they don’t articulate it like that. If audiences don’t get the why, they don’t engage.”

The event closed with a head-to-head debate between Byron Sharp and Mark Ritson on some of marketing’s biggest issues. To kick off the debate, Ritson was given 10 minutes to criticise, question and mock some of Sharp’s most well-known theories as presented in his book ‘How Brands Grow’. With the debate over, the audience asked the questions and surprisingly, there were three points they agreed on – brand purpose, the marketing profession and strategy.

Other FoM highlights included an interesting presentation from Vue Entertainment on how they are looking to personalise their customer journey, pre-empting customer needs before the customer knows they want it and delivering an experience accordingly.

There were several standout themes at this year’s Festival, unsurprisingly, GDPR, although most of the conversation revolved around the uncertainty. Customer centricity was still at the centre of everything and whilst on the surface it’s nothing new, it was encouraging and inspiring to hear industry leaders reiterate the importance of customer centricity. It also was reassuring to hear that as well as content and consistency, creativity is still key.

In summary…

A lot was learnt. There were some fascinating and inspirational speakers, I was challenged, inspired and encouraged, and will be blogging in more detail with summaries of some of the best presentations, insights and key themes over the coming weeks.