American Marketing Association: The Future of Branding Panel

This morning's session hosted by the AMA Toronto Chapter and Brand Matters was a great deal of fun.

As the first question rolled through the panel, I was concerned, at first, that we were going to have another one of those unsatisfying mutual-reinforcement sessions; one where all the panelists basically agree with each other on everything, and simply echo each others' thoughts and opinions using slightly different words and examples. As I've remarked in the past: mild consensus doth not an inspiring panel make.

The good news is that we soon got warmed up and got into some healthy and, I hope, valuable debate. As a panelist, I'm afraid I wasn't able to take very good notes during the session - I was focused on listening to comments from my fellow participants and watching the audience to gauge their engagement. This is a bit of a shame, as there were some truly interesting points made by members of the wise and august group I was invited to be part of. I felt a little like the odd man out, surrounded by so much remarkable marketing knowledge.

There were some entertaining examples brought out by the other panelists to illustrate their thoughts on the direction of brand marketing. As I expected, we touched, at various points, on some of the well-known case studies of buzz-generating online marketing - the good, the bad, and the plain stoopid (Subservient Chicken, LonelyGirl15, the Tahoe Apprentice, Bridezilla, etc.). But it was also great to learn of some newer, home-grown examples such as the Toronto Zoo's hilarious Hissing Cockroaches.

The only thing that's been niggling at me since this morning's panel was a couple of points I threw out in my own comments that could have used a gloss. I tossed out a stat I'd heard Tony Perkins refer to a couple of times, that "62% of the content the average 21-year-old views online was created by someone they know."

Tony has attributed this to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, but now that I've dug around, I can't find the specific reference. There's a chance it's a misquotation of this report (PDF), which includes the far less juicy sound bite: "About 62% of blog-reading teens say they only read the blogs of people they know." Still interesting, but not quite as startling a thought.

The other thing I feel a little guilty about is that I shamelessly stole a joke cracked by one of my all-time tech heroes, Dan Bricklin, in reference to the acceptable failure rates of direct mail. The original citation, on David Weinberger's blog, is here. My belated thanks and acknowledgment to Dan for helping me get one of the biggest laughs of the morning.

Overall (my blatant plagiarism notwithstanding) this was a solid and interesting event. Excellent, sold-out attendance too - and the venue (the utterly lovely Verity club) couldn't have been nicer.

Good work by the AMA's Toronto Chapter and the other organizers in pulling off an exceptionally well-run session. Particular thanks to Patricia McQuillan and Maggie Fairs for hooking me in to participate - I'm glad they did.