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Inspirational Speakers at the 2013 YCCI "Engaging Consumers in a Complex World" Conference

An open embrace of business complexity, of the connection between corporate and social sectors, is what drew me to Yale SOM. The 2013 YCCI Conference brought together students, professors, and marketing professionals to address a flattening global market and innovations in consumer engagement – key subjects for those of us interested in marketing. With complexity at the forefront of the conversation, I wondered how exactly to activate on this:

  1. Global Scale & Local Impact Is Possible: SOM Dean Edward A. Snyder kicked off the conference with acknowledgment that marketing is at an “inflection point” where “technology and sophisticated frameworks now allow us to study the granular [consumer] segments” and forge stronger connections than ever before. For me, connecting with consumers around the globe on their terms emerged as one critical means to success. Beth Hirschhorn of MetLife spoke about the need to also set a global brand strategy and modify it region by region — a strategy that has brought big and early wins for her company. In contrast, Anil Menon of Cisco Systems spoke about the novel challenges rapid urbanization pose to Cisco and its clients. The message was clear: the most successful organizations globally are those facing complexities head-on — listening, learning, and innovating again and again at both global and local levels.
  2. “Everything Has a Number”: Kevin Ryan of Gilt Groupe provided some of the most immediate insights from the day. Kevin grounded the audience in tactical examples of how Gilt has carved a path by leveraging the power of data. For example, Gilt has mastered micro-targeting, a marketing technique that draws on granular databases of shoppers’ online behavior to create highly customized messaging and product offerings for each user. Kevin’s philosophy that “everything has a number – quantify everything, learn from it, and incorporate it into your strategy” has allowed for a deep connection with consumers that evolves as quickly as they do. His system uses over 2,000 unique customer segments, each receiving customized offers and products. This results in high conversion rates, user satisfaction, and word-of-mouth consumer growth.
  3. Success Is Replicable & There’s More to Learn: Kevin concluded with sage advice: Gilt’s success is replicable and the sea of companies that sit on tons of consumer data need to start using it effectively. For my classmates and me, whether aspiring to join iconic institutional companies like L’Oreal USA or starting our own ventures like Facebook (thinking big), rethinking how to use the data readily available at our fingertips to connect with consumers will be a critical theme in our careers. Data will enable marketers to forge endless new connections and even envision new products.

After hearing all of the presentations, the most powerful takeaway was the universal emanation of positive energy and optimism towards the state of marketing today and tomorrow. The “inflection point” where businesses find themselves today is an opportunity to bring together customer and supplier like never before.