CMA summit shifts focus from technology to customer

While last year's Canadian Marketing Association summit may have been more about technology - or more particularly how the Internet is changing everything - this year's event, designed to cover all areas of integration and convergence, took up orbit around those...

While last year’s Canadian Marketing Association summit may have been more about technology – or more particularly how the Internet is changing everything – this year’s event, designed to cover all areas of integration and convergence, took up orbit around those increasingly empowered by technology – the customer.

Messages about managing customer relationships and providing an integrated experience took front and center this year at the CMA’s annual national conference and trade show, which concluded earlier this month in Ottawa, attracting roughly 1,250 delegates and exhibitors.

‘Convergence isn’t just about technology; it’s about how real people interact with technology,’ said Chris Staples, creative director of Vancouver-based Rethink, who went on to encourage delegates to break through the clutter with ‘entertaining advertising.’

Keynote speaker Polly LaBarre, senior editor for Fast Company, informed the marketing masses that, ‘customers are in control – they have more information, automation and greater speed and interactivity than ever before. We are competing in what I call the age of the customer. It is really about more than new features, tactics and technology. It’s much deeper than that.’

‘It’s the sum total of all the interactions with a customer – the look and feel of an ad should map the experience the customer has on the Web site, and the Web site should map the experience the customer has when they call the call center, and so on. You’re competing on the battleground of customer experience.’

And even in these times of economic, dot-com and tech-related uncertainty, attendees were told that now is precisely the time to press forward, albeit a tad cautiously.

‘Historically, what we see is companies that don’t back down and that work harder to understand their customers – that spend time on innovation – are the ones who come out winners,’ says LaBarre.

Hot topics – covered by representatives of several large Canadian companies, including Kraft Canada, Canada Post and Hudson’s Bay Company – included building a values-based organization, and customer relationship management. Brand building, marketing online and DR creative also attracted a lot of interest.

Indicative of the broader marketing scope now in the CMA’s remit, the diverse array of speakers included the likes of: Nina MacLaverty, VP retail advertising for Sears Canada; Dr. G.C. Rapaille, CEO, Archetype Discoveries Worldwide; Chris Rudge, EVP marketing communications and international development at Quebecor World; Robin Sharma, author (The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari); and media commentators Deirdre McMurdy and Tony Wilson-Smith. Richard McLaughlin, VP, CRM and information management at the Royal Bank, served as this year’s convention chair.

The CMA also used the forum to announce the possibility of a national accreditation program for Canadian marketers. According to CMA president John Gustavson, an initial survey showed two-thirds of members would support a national accreditation, and 70 per cent believe the task would be best handled by the CMA.