By Scott Sargent

Three days at The Gathering summit in February were jam-packed with leaders who shared their secrets to successful brands.

In part one, we heard from Airbnb, Marvel, and Yeti who preached the importance of a strong purpose and clear values as the driving force of an organization. Let’s continue to grow our mindset and focus on the people who can make or break a company.

IABC member Scott Sargent attended The Gathering Feb. 20-22 at the Fairmont Banff Springs.

LA Lakers: It’s About People.

Tim Harris is a big guy with a big presence and a big voice. As the CEO of the world-famous Los Angeles Lakers, he must stand tall amongst giants, after all. If you know anything about the Lakers, you also know that they are consistently one of the most successful sports franchises in the NBA, and arguably professional sports.

“Culture kicks strategy’s ass every day.”

The Lakers built their franchise over many years, recruiting some of the greatest ‘showtime’ players the league has ever known. A key to this success over time has been that they always remember their history and the legacy from the days of owner Jerry Buss: they are in the “people business.” With this in mind, the Lakers brand continues to find ways to connect with fans all over the world.

“Evolve with the times,” says Harris, “But always be honest and transparent with your fans.”

Cheetos: Listen to Your Customers, Then Invite Their Ideas.

While I was a bit late to the Inner Sanctum registration, the staff of The Gathering were very accommodating in slotting me in to see at least one – Cheetos (because who doesn’t like snacks), with Jennifer Saenz, senior VP and chief marketing officer for Cheetos, Frito-Lay North America.

The Inner Sanctum sessions are much smaller and intimate. There are rules, including no phones, which was refreshing, as was the discussion with Jennifer Saenz. Interestingly, she spoke to the fact that through research, Frito Lay has gathered a deep understanding of their different ‘repertoires’ of customers, and even segment their product on store shelves that way.

Kind and gracious, I had a chance to ask Jennifer a question of my own about a previous “Do us a Flavour” campaign. It started with a conversation that originated from a one-on-one chat between two strangers on a plane and turned into one of the most successful campaigns ever. Lasting four years, they received over 2 million entries and some ‘interesting’ flavours.

Cult Collective, Ltd.: ‘Capablism

Chris Kneeland
Cult Collective’s CEO Chris Kneeland discusses ‘Capablism’ as our ability to thrive by exploiting our unique talents and ambitions.

Chris Kneeland, CEO of Cult Collective gave a highly insightful talk about cult companies. He mentioned that these types of successful companies have an above average brand connection. Speaking about potential, in order to achieve this, brands should maximize their capability or ‘Capablism.’

Chris made a number of excellent points, but a great takeaway from his keynote was, “It’s not about ads. Create advocates.” Both internally and externally, “people crave connection.” He said, “You are doing your customers a huge disservice if all you offer is a transaction.” As marketers, we are in the engagement business, not entertainment.

Tony Hawk

Tony Hawk was a cool, refreshing contrast to the battery of big-name brands we had listened to. Here was someone who started doing what they love at age 10 (skateboarding), and never looked back. As a result, Tony Hawk became his own iconic brand. Tony’s history as his brand evolved was an interesting one, and I would encourage anyone to learn more about his brand story.

A HUGE thank you goes out to Sharon Lee and the IABC/Calgary chapter for allowing me to take part in this fantastic experience. From registration to the gala dinner right down to the tunes from DJ Joanna Magik, I felt it was run remarkably well. Also, a big shout out to Ryan Gill, speaker and co-founder of this amazing event and of course, the volunteers and support staff of The Gathering, who were always accommodating and responsive to my questions. Well done!

If I had one regret, it is that I couldn’t clone myself in order to join several other sessions that ran simultaneously with those I attended. Still, my mind is full of new ideas, threads and connections to explore new business and marketing practices.

In summary, authenticity and honesty are must-haves for a brand to develop its cult-like following. Live the values that you express, both inside your company and externally. Give back more than expected and develop authentic partnerships so that it becomes about “relationships, not transactions.”

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