Connecting Ideas to Drive Results: A Brandsmart Recap

By Jessica Schaeffer, Director of Marketing, LaSalle Network

A clear theme emerged at 22 West Washington Street on April 28th as some of the biggest minds in marketing gathered to share insights around the brands they manage. The theme: the new wave of marketing: the power of storytelling to build relationships and trust with your consumers and clients.

Chicago American Marketing Associaton’s BrandSmart offered a smattering of perspectives from not-for-profits, ad agencies, big brands and up and coming brands.

Here’s a peek at the day in case you missed it, or just want to compare notes.

Session 1: Marketing for Tomorrow Starting Today – First Session

The day kicked off with a tag team effort by Ron Bess of Havas Worldwide and Zain Raj of Shapiro + Raj. Their message? Great brands (both your personal brand and an organization’s brand) build enduring bonds by fulfilling relationship expectations and sharing brand control.

Raj highlighted eight actionable relationships a consumer has with a brand – the best being a devoted relationship and the worst being a passable relationship. While every brand should strive to achieve devoted relationships with their customers, a mere 12% of customers say they have a devoted relationship with a brand.

So how do you deepen attachment and improve the experience? Raj shared five tips:

  1. Create a new focus: Begin with your most devoted customers to convert your most attractive prospects. Stop going after customers who don’t LOVE your brand.
  2. Try a new approach: Treat customers with respect, trust and loyalty
  3. Adopt a new mindset: Brands need to be perpetually evolving and try to improve
  4. Build a new model: Every company needs to be focused on cutting costs and producing faster
  5. Solve a new equation: Values x Authenticity: The strongest brands know they have to have commendable values, and LIVE those values

Bess closed out the session by drawing parallels between Raj’s presentation and personal branding. Just like a company’s brand, your personal brand is tied to the results you produce and the relationships you build. As a professional, you need to be focused on building trust, respect and loyalty.

Session 2: Transforming the Cubs Brand

Director of Marketing at the Chicago Cubs, Allison Miller, gave attendees a glimpse into the challenges the Cubs’ brand has faced during her tenure. Chief among them understanding and honing in on their target market.

Miller joined the Cubs and realized quickly they were selling a bad product. The Cubs had an aging team, the third highest payroll in the league and amenities that were deteriorating. They had a large, diverse fan base, and yet they knew nothing about them. They were marketing to everyone, without a clear focus of who would really move the needle for the brand.

Miller began the process by segmenting their customers and creating a fan and brand promise. The Cubs took time to understand the different brand personas and talk with these customers. Then, they worked to develop a brand message, campaigns and experiences they wanted these customers to have.

The findings helped the Cubs narrow their marketing, target their messaging around changes within the organization and bridge what the community wanted to do with the stadium with what the Cubs needed to do to advance the organization.

Session 3: Redefining a brand through a cause partnership

Chuck Gitkin, SVP of Brand Marketing at Smithfield Foods gave attendees a glimpse into a strategic partnership with Operation Homefront. Operation Homefront assists military families during difficult financial times by providing food assistance, moving assistance and financial assistance among other things.

If you aren’t familiar with Smithfield Foods, Gitkin says you probably aren’t alone….packaged meats isn’t the sexiest or most well-known industry, and that’s one of the primary reasons behind partnering with Operation Homefront. Not only does Smithfield Foods believe in giving back and supporting those and their families who protect our country, but the partnership helps bring visibility to both organizations.

Gitkin explained that cause marketing has allowed the company, which has a limited marketing budget, to create more exposure for less. They’ve brought in spokespeople to help champion Operation Homefront, and by default, Smithfield Foods. They’ve also created special packaging that a portion of the proceeds is donated directly to Operation Homefront.

Session 4: Panel Discussion: Getting Creative with the B2C agency of the future

Maybe you’ve seen this commercial. What you may not know is that Wrigley and ad agency, Energy BBDO worked collaboratively to create it. The two companies, which have been working together for years, gave us a glimpse into their relationship with John Starkey, VP, Gum, Mints and Media at Wrigley talking with Lianne Sinclair and Andres Ordonez of Energy BBDO.

The trio shared how their relationship has evolved over the years – emphasizing the fact that Energy BBDO is an extension of the Wrigley team, and explaining that now Energy BBDO is brought in earlier in Wrigley’s process. Wrigley is also exposed to Energy BBDO’s “unfinished product” to gauge their temperature and get their input on a project before it’s nearly complete.

Session 5: Hear the Brand: The Rise of Audio Branding: How to get the Most from Your Sound

Colleen Fahey sang, hummed and tapped her way to her main message on Thursday: leave an earprint with every piece of brand communication.

Fahey runs Sixieme Son, an audio branding company that strives to express brand values through sound. The audio brand of a company, Fahey explained, is everything from its on-hold music, to its app sounds, TV and radio spots and sales presentations.

Fahey argued a few key reasons why every company needs to consider its audio DNA.

  1. Music is a language that is universally understood
  2. Music moves behavior
  3. Sounds lead to sales
  4. Sounds speeds search
  5. Audio branding builds brand value

Not convinced? Check out these great examples of audio branding successes Fahey shared: Samsung, Tropicana, and Michelin.

Session 6: Insurance Agents are Rock Stars

Assurance Agency has been recognized by Fortune Magazine as one of the Top 100 Places to Work in the Country. This is one of dozens of awards the company has won throughout its tenure, and VP of Marketing, Steve Handmaker argues it’s been good for business, too….but it hasn’t always been this way.

Assurance wasn’t always a great place to work. In fact, staff was disengaged and profits were suffering as a result. In 1998, Assurance brought on new leadership to right the ship. They decided to focus on people.

Their philosophy was simple. Happy employees = happy clients. Handmaker borrowed from fellow marketer Seth Godin’s theory of purple cows, explaining that Assurance’s culture was their purple cow, the one thing that makes them truly remarkable and sets them apart from competitors in the insurance industry.

Since that decision, not only has Assurance invested in staff to build an incredible culture, they’ve also effectively marketed employee engagement programs to ensure the country knows they are a purple cow.

“Our culture doesn’t automatically mean we win, but its’ getting us to the finish line and helping make us a part of the conversation.” – Steve Handmaker

Session 7: Brand Building and Data Driven Demand Generation

Data paralysis.

Ad resistant.

Craig Greenfield, COO of Performics explained that in today’s world, marketers are overwhelmed by data, and consumers are resistant to our messages and skeptical of our ads.

How do we overcome this? We have to better understand our customers and what they want. We have to identify customer intent before they want express it. As marketers, we can do this by measuring time on site, bounce rates, coupon downloads, the list goes on and on….any piece of content that captures data about our audience.

If you don’t have the data you want, Greenfield says to identify needed data, then create audiences, design experiences and then plan, launch, test and learn.

Session 8: The Impact of Content Creativity with Always on Brands

In typical Leo Burnett fashion, Vincent Geraghty, EVP and Head of Production at Leo Burnett, wowed us showing some incredible campaigns, with one of the most poignant being the Runlikeagirl campaign created for Always.

This was about as conventional as it got though, as Geraghty discussed how his greenhouse team is changing the way Leo Burnett does business. The greenhouse content team is run like a newroom. They’ve adopted a “maker mentality,” where concepting is no longer good enough. They are executers, doers, creators.

This team has allowed Leo Burnett to streamline the approval process, execute on trending ideas quickly and efficiently.

The Greenhouse team is focused on telling great stories that are finely crafted full of human insights. Their goal is to deliver content that entertains, resonates, and weaves the brand into the insight and story.

Session 9: Panel: Getting Creative with the B2B Agency of the Future

According to Linda McGovern, SVP Global Marketing at USG, and Mike Hensley, President at Gyro, the B2B agency of the future is one that understands how to curate brand touchpoints, one that is able to expand and shrink based on the needs of its client, and one that is insanely focused on user experience and content creation.

Like speakers before them, McGovern and Hensley echoed the need to create experiences, not just compelling messages. They touched on the importance emotion plays in the decision making process, and how marketing today needs to connect with the customer.

Session 10: Think Differently: Opportunity Identification or Breakthrough Ideas

After Lindsay Avner stepped off the stage, there may not have been a dry eye in the house. Avner, who founded BrightPink, shared her story of undergoing a risk reducing double mastectomy at the age of 22 to help prevent a future seemingly inevitable diagnosis of breast and ovarian cancer.

As Avner shared her passion for education and getting one step ahead of cancer, it was clear that her powerful message was reaching the right audience because of unique marketing tactics.

Avner explained that she borrows the equity and brand recognition of powerful partners like Arie and Paul Mitchell to communicate BrightPink’s message. The not-for-profit has created highly visible campaigns around Mother’s Day, with the most recent being the #goaskyourmother campaign which urged young women to talk about family history of breast and ovarian cancer.

BrightPink created an online assessment that allows women to assess their risk of breast and ovarian cancer quickly and easily.

Avner’s philosophy is: awareness doesn’t save lives, action does…and all of BrightPink’s marketing efforts are judged based on that simple premise. Has our content, our partnerships caused people to make a change?

Session 11: LUV Lessons: Building a Brand from the Inside Out

He may be retired, but Dave Ridley definitely still has it….the former head of marketing at Southwest Airlines reminded the audience of our biggest brand advocates, our employees.

A few key quotes from his speech sum up his message:

  • “The business of business is people” –Herb Kelleher
  • To develop a great brand, start from the inside out.
  • “I still bleed canyon blue” – as marketers we need more of that diehard marketing. That commitment and dedication to our brands
  • It is a privilege to lead people – you get to invest in the hearts and minds of people
  • Everyone is a CEO…a chief encouragement officer, that’s the number one way to make a difference in people’s lives

The best marketing conferences are…

By Chuck Kent, Director of Brand Content, Avenue

So, what are the qualities of the best marketing conferences — or any conference? What makes it worthwhile for those 225 million US attendees to spend of $115 billion annually to attend 1.83 million industry confabs (as of 2012, according to PwC; those figures, of course, including far more than just marketing conferences).

Conference-choosing criteria will obviously vary according to attendee, but allow me to offer a basic five-point guide that should apply to almost any conference. And, this being the Chicago AMA blog, I’ll use one example close to my brand marketers heart (yes, we do have hearts) to illustrate my points:  BrandSmart 2016, coming up April 28 in Chicago.

Five keys to choosing a great marketing conference

  1. Is it relevant?

Relevance should be judged on two dimensions, and the first is content.  Is the theme of the content relevant to you, specifically, and not just on trend with the industry at large? Are there enough streams within the theme to hit your individual needs?

Consider how BrandSmart 2016 is being structured. The overall theme is “Creativity: Connecting Ideas to Drive Results.” OK, so far so good: creativity is fairly well the heart of our business, from developing brand strategies (don’t get me going on how the strategy is really the big idea) to creating communications capable of breaking through to customers.

And that notion of connecting is huge; in a marketing world that still struggles with breaking down organizational silos and and bridging ever-expanding customer touchpoints, learning to connect internally and externally is more important than ever.

The conference also takes the big theme and channels it into three main content streams:

  • Built to win – for those in, or aspiring to leadership, looking for insights for succeeding in an uncertain future
  • Think differently —for those looking to inspire employees and the brand experiences they drive
  • Secrets of success — for those who need to turn data and the hardcore nitty gritty of marketing into actionable insights and bottom line results
  1. Is it challenging?

You don’t need predictive analytics to know that the typically predictable conference presentations get you nowhere.   Are the thoughts truly provoking?
Do they shake up your preconceived notions?  BrandSmart aims to do exactly that with, for instance, a session on how to take one of the deadliest-dull categories and inspire it to life in sometimes wild, always very human ways.

  1. Is it involving?
    Brand marketing is a business that loves to blather on about engagement—so make sure the conference you’re going to offers real engagement, not just “you sit, we talk” presentations. Two elements are critical here: scope and the quality of Q&A.  Some conferences have multiple thousands of attendees; there’s no way you’re going to get up close and personal.  They can even get too large to accommodate any audience questions at all.

BrandSmart limits itself to a few hundred attendees, and builds in plenty of Q&A time for each session. For instance, two sessions will feature agency/client teams detailing how they’re successfully bridging the divide between traditional yesterday and forever-changing tomorrow… and as much as a third of each session will be devoted to discussion with the audience, giving you the opportunity to both explore what’s worked for them and ask how they would handle challenges you’re facing in the client-agency relationship.

Networking, of course, is it’s own kind of involvement, and the most common benefit to attending any conference. Again, unless you’re all about passing out the greatest quantity of cards possible, a smaller conference gives you a better shot at making quality connections.

  1. Is it teaching rather than selling?
    Then there’s the sales-meeting-disguised-as-an-industry-conference syndrome. BrandSmart, for one, is a conference “built on a foundation of takeaways,” that is, all sessions are selected based first on their ability to deliver useful learning.
  2. Is it a good value?
    Believe it or not, expense isn’t the main issue here (although some conferences are entering the cost stratosphere). The question is, will the combination of time spent, plus money laid out, multiplied by the people you meet tally as a net plus… one you couldn’t get just staying home and, say, reading the presenters books or blog posts? With its more-affordable-than-most pricing and more-interesting-than-most content, BrandSmart is a great example of a good value.

So those are my top five criteria for choosing a conference… and I hope you’ll use them to choose  BrandSmart 2016, which delivers on all key points of what “The best marketing conferences are…”

About the author
Chuck Kent is a volunteer member of the Chicago AMA Programming Committee, and the Director of Brand Content for Avenue, the B2B marketing strategy and activation firm.




Social Media Rules! How Can Higher Ed Marketers Reach Prospective Students?

When trying to reach Generation Z or Millennials, SnapChat, Instagram and Twitter are the “it” social media platforms. Print still serves a purpose — mainly driving the recipient to your digital presence – but social media is the place where engagement and conversion happens. That was the message Michael Mullarkey, chief executive officer of Chicago-based Brickfish, delivered at the Higher Ed SIG gathering that took place April 6.

The SIG meeting, which was held at Troquet North, was a discussion about how to optimize social media for colleges and universities. In keeping with our new format for these gatherings, the meeting was more of a moderated conversation as opposed to a presentation.  It was a huge success!

Brickfish, whose slogan is “Engagement is Everything,” manages the content and social media of large brands like Neiman Marcus and Hertz.  Relevant, fresh content along with a quick response to visitors’ queries is essential to the success of any enterprise. Generation Z and Millennials expect instance responses. Mullarkey believes Facebook is still important, but these cohorts spend most of their time exchanging rapid-fire communiqués with their friends on SnapChat and WhatsApp. Marketers need to become a relevant part of these exchanges.

Mullarkey also spoke about the shrinking reach of Facebook and Instagram. Once brands established their presence on these platforms, these firms monetized their sites.  You now have to boost your post to expand your reach and that requires paying for it. He offered some advice about how to get around having to pay, which includes unique, relevant content, engagement and short video.

Bottom line: For us higher education communicators, it’s new a world. We just need to fasten our seat belts and enjoy the ride.

Betsy Butterworth Dean Petrulakis

Betsy Butterworth and Dean Petrulakis

Co-Chairs, Chicago AMA Higher Education Special Interest Group

Fred Richards, Chief Creative Officer & Partner, Kaleidoscope to Speak at BrandSmart 2016



Kaleidoscope_Logo_RegularAs Kaleidoscope CCO, Fred plays an integral role in the growth and evolution of the firm’s strategic creative vision, client service processes and business development efforts. He ensures that Kaleidoscope leverages its diverse creative talent from all offices in Chicago, New York and Europe to generate fresh, strategic packaging design solutions for clients.

Fred joined Kaleidoscope in 2014 and has worked in the international design industry for more than 20 years, specifically in the “Fast Moving Consumer Goods” category. Having worked for some of the world’s leading branding and design companies in Britain, USA, Switzerland, Fred brings a multifaceted perspective and rich design philosophy to Kaleidoscope’s design.

Chicago Cubs Senior Director of Marketing, Alison Miller to Speak at BrandSmart 2016

BrandSmart 2016: Creativity: Connecting Ideas to Drive Results, takes place Thursday, April 28, 2016.


Transforming the Cubs Brand



Alison joined the Chicago Cubs in 2012 as senior director of marketing.  At the Cubs, Alison is responsible for branding, marketing, fan research, advertising, broadcasting and game entertainment at Wrigley Field.  Prior to joining the Cubs, Alison spent over a decade in marketing at General Mills where she was tasked with brand management of products including Cheerios, Chex, Pillsbury, Betty Crocker.  Alison earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business in 2000 and her MBA from Harvard Business School in 2005. She was a starter on the women’s basketball team at Michigan, helping lead the Wolverines to two NCAA appearances in both 1998 and 2000.   Alison resides in Lincoln Park.

A 140 year old brand with the longest championship drought in all of sports (yes, it’s been 107 years).  An unfortunate  ‘loveable losers’ nickname.   A historic but dilapidated ballpark.  Behind new ownership and investment from the Ricketts family, a major reboot has happened on the north side.  Both on and off of the field, the Chicago Cubs are the ultimate turn around brand in the making.  Cubs Senior Director of Marketing Alison Miller will give us a behind-the-scenes look at how the organization is crafting a transformation of one of sport’s most iconic brands.



Craig Greenfield, COO, Performics Worldwide to Speak At BrandSmart 2016

BrandSmart 2016: Creativity: Connecting Ideas to Drive Results, takes place Thursday, April 28, 2016.


Brand-Building and Data-Driven Demand Generation


Today, consumers move seamlessly and simultaneously across channels and devices in the path-to-purchase. Every brand touchpoint is part of a holistic, omni-channel shopping journey. The lines between physical and virtual shopping have blurred, with mobile as the key integrator. No matter where, each and every moment could be “shoppable.” Throughout this journey, consumers have come to expect highly personalized experiences, aligned with their wants and needs, in specific moments. Yet, many advertisers still treat every customer and moment the same. Intent is the largest marketing variable. It shapes how people discover content, dictates paths-to-purchase and mediates meaningful interactions with brands, regardless of media type. In today’s landscape, successful advertisers are identifying intent at each consumer decision point, matching that intent and turning it into conversions.
  •  Move from mass marketing to moment marketing, and pull strategy to predictive strategy
  • Build a process to understanding consumer intent, extracting meaning from data: consumer journeys, search keywords, device, geo, demographics, CRM etc.
  • Create an intent hypothesis, a vision of experiences that you think will best engage each of your audiences by moment
  • Leverage in-market data (clicks, leads, conversions)–powered by advanced analytics–to continually validate and refine your intent hypothesis


Performics logoSince 2005, Craig’s interest in scaling large client programs and developing company-wide processes has helped Performics successfully transition into the first truly global performance marketing agency. In his current position, Craig leads global technology and innovation, a dynamic network of change agents focused on identifying, evaluating and developing new products, services and systems to ensure competitiveness and improved operational efficiency. Craig works in tandem with Performics’s worldwide leadership, client teams and external partners to help clients identify and capture new business opportunities, negotiate strategic partnerships and enhance operational efficiency. To deliver more comprehensive solutions, the team cultivates the organization’s innovation capacity by building processes or systems. This allows them to share learning, knowledge, and the tools needed to execute effective strategy.
Craig earned a Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications from Northwestern University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Iowa. Prior to Performics, Craig worked at Jacobs & Clevenger and J. Walter Thompson serving clients in Automotive, Financial Services, Retail/eCommerce and Deregulated Industries.
Social links: and Twitter @craiggreenfield

Hear the Brand: Sound Branding Gurus Sixième Son, to Speak at BrandSmart 2016

Globalization, audio-enabled devices, content marketing and «continuous partial attention» all contribute to the rise of audio branding. Sixième Son’s US Managing Director, Colleen Fahey and Michaël Boumendil President and Creative Director of Sixième Son, join forces to demonstrate the importance and power of audio branding at BrandSmart 2016. BrandSmart 2016: Creativity: Connecting Ideas to Drive Results, takes place Thursday, April 28, 2016.


Colleen Fahey, US Managing Director, Sixième Son

Michaël Boumendil, President and Creative Director, Sixième Son


Hear the Brand: The Rise of Audio Branding: How to Get the Most from Your Sound

sixieme_sonGlobalization, audio-enabled devices, content marketing and «continuous partial attention» all contribute to the rise of audio branding.Today a brand needs an audio identity as powerful as its logo, colors and packaging.

Taking a look at Peugoet and Atlanta’s global efforts, we’ll see how audio branding takes advantage of the fact that music is a language that’s universally understood.  We’ll share the process a global packaged goods brand used to create the distinct audio identity that expresses the brand’s values and personality with both structure and flexibility.

We’ll look at best practices in implementing an audio brand through multiple audience touch points. Our experience suggests that there are key times in a brand’s life when a brand must re-examine its audio landscape :  launches, re-positioning, new target audience, merger/acquisition, intensified competitive environment.

Key Take-Aways:

  1. How to powerfully emphasize your brand’s points of differentiation
  2. How to unify your brand and raise brand recognition
  3. How to turn every customer touch point into a relationship builder
  4. How music moves behavior and influences sales

CMO of Assurance, Steven Handmaker to Present at BrandSmart 2016

BrandSmart 2016: Creativity: Connecting Ideas to Drive Results, takes place Thursday, April 28, 2016.

Insurance Brokers Are Sexy Rock Stars

Speaker: Steven Handmaker, Assurance Agency


Assurance_logoAssurance is not your average insurance broker. In fact, Assurance is the Purple Cow of insurance brokers. Currently ranked #1 Best Place to Work by the Chicago Tribune and #4 best workplace in the United States by Fortune Magazine, Assurance has actually made insurance cool. Assurance created and marketed a corporate culture built on over-the-top employee engagement that has resulted in increased productivity, improved employee health and wellness and off the charts customer loyalty.
Assurance’s success story is one of creating and marketing a competitive differential. The company discovered being a great place to work was one of the few opportunities left to distinguish itself in a highly commoditized marketplace. Once it made its own already great workplace its primary brand message, a flood of new talent and new clients began pouring in. The media took notice as well and has showered Assurance with an endless number of local and national workplace awards.
Steven Handmaker is the Chief Marketing Officer of Assurance, one of
the largest, independent insurance brokerages in the U.S. He serves as a member of Assurance’s executive management team and is responsible for the company’s marketing, communications, branding and digital media efforts. With more than 20 years of successful marketing experience, including his current tenure with Assurance, Steven’s become a sought after public speaker on a variety of topics related to marketing corporate culture and building a “Best Place to Work.”

Zain Raj, President & CEO, Shapiro + Raj to Speak at BrandSmart 2016

BrandSmart 2016

PRESENTATION: Marketing for Tomorrow, Starting Today

BIO: A visionary leader, business accelerator, investor, philanthropist and industry futurist, Zain Raj is combining innovation and creativity to create new business models for the future. Zain is the President & CEO of Shapiro+Raj, a top-ten independent insights and inspiration company in North America. Zain is also the founder and CEO of zednext, an ideas incubator that takes an objective and disruptive look at trends to help marketers and business leaders realize their full potential in data-driven, digitally led and insights-driven world.

Most recently he was CEO of Epsilon Agency Services (EAS), the largest global CRM and Digital agency. He was previously CEO of Euro RSCG Discovery, as well as the agency’s global practice leader of retail brands. He has also held senior leadership roles at FCB Worldwide, JWT and Grey.

Zain is author of Brand Rituals™: How Successful Brands Bond with Customers for Life and Marketing For Tomorrow, Not Yesterday, both Amazon marketing and sales bestsellers, that posit new approaches for building brands in today’s hyper-complex environment. He is a sought-after speaker on how marketers can build their businesses and improve their brand value in this evolving landscape of big-data, mobility, digitization and commoditization. He passionately espouses the view that marketing needs to change people’s behavior not just attitudes. And, brands need to forge strong relationships with their core customers by solving real problems in a meaningful yet distinct way.

An evangelist for innovation and strong believer in empowering others, Zain has contributed his insights to The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Fast Company, Forbes, Crain’s and publications of the nation’s top business schools.  Zain is a member of the Executive’s Club of Chicago. He currently sits on the Board of Directors for a number of technology companies, Junior Achievement and TiE Midwest.


All Attendees Receive a Copy of:

Marketing for Tomorrow, Not Yesterday – Surviving and Thriving in the Insight Economy™, by Zain Raj.
From Midwest Book Review:

“Impressively well written, exceptionally well organized and presented, “Marketing for Tomorrow, Not Yesterday” is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. As practical as it is ‘reader friendly’ from beginning to end, “Marketing for Tomorrow, Not Yesterday” is very highly and very useful reading for entrepreneurs and business managers alike. Indeed, “Marketing for Tomorrow, Not Yesterday” is strongly recommended for corporate, community, and academic library Business Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.”

Ron Bess, Former President North America, Havas Worldwide to Speak at BrandSmart 2016

BrandSmart 2016

PRESENTATION: Marketing for Tomorrow, Starting Today

BIO: Leadership.  Innovation.  Collaboration.  Growth.

Ron Bess built his career on these four pillars, resulting in notable success for his clients and his agencies.

Ron is a brand builder and an agency builder.  He has turned around ailing agencies, made good agencies better, led record growth on well-known brands and introduced new products that became category leaders.

He is an innovative agency architect who believes in the power of collaboration. He consistently finds a way to bring together top talent from across disciplines to form cohesive teams.  He has moved beyond the “integrated” model of the past to a more cohesive and collaborative “unified” approach, which he has shown can be the model for the future.

Ron got his start at Foote Cone & Belding in Chicago working on CPG brands. He then joined what is now DDB Chicago and, at a very young age, led clients like McDonalds, Anheuser-Busch and General Mills during a time of the best share growth in their histories.  He then started his own agency, Bayer Bess Vanderwarker, which became the fastest growing new agency in Chicago and AdWeek’s Agency of the Year. Bayer Bess attracted clients including Quaker, Campbell’s, AT&T, and Motorola. It built the Gatorade brand from its infancy into a multi-billion new category with advertising that had athletes of every age wanting to
“Be Like Mike”.

Ron sold his agency to FCB and soon became President of FCB Worldwide.  He quickly led the Chicago office to the best growth year in its history and AdWeek’s Agency of the Year. Then he led FCB into new growth opportunities with acquisitions in digital, promotion and PR. Next he moved to New York as Global CEO of the Y&R Group of Diversified Agencies which included category-leading companies Burson-Marstellar (PR), Landor (Brand Consulting), Sudler & Hennessey (Healthcare Strategy) among others.

Ron returned to Chicago to be CEO of Havas Chicago and President of North America for the Havas Global Network.  Ron led Chicago from the brink of extinction to dramatic growth using his unified business model that put advertising, digital, direct, media and data under one management team and one culture. His unified model led to a series of significant new business wins vs. competitors who were pure play vertical leaders. Havas Chicago became the Havas Agency of the Year and the Havas Network’s model for the future. As President of North America he reorganized the region for the digital age and consolidated 20+ operating units into 6 more unified and collaborative companies. Double-digit growth closely followed that change.

Today Ron is a Consultant to several young agencies where his experience helps CEOs with their strategic planning. He is known for his problem-solving philosophy: “Face it. Figure It Out. Fix It”.

In addition, Ron is Chairman of the Chicago Agency Community Board of the 4As, a group he created by bringing together a cross section of 25 advertising, media, digital, public relations and marketing services agencies. The goal of the organization is to make Chicago a preferred destination for top young talent.

Ron has undergraduate and Master’s degrees in Business from the University of Illinois, where he was also captain of the football team.