“Brave Marketers” at the 2018 ANA Brand Activation Conference Part I

May 1 2018
Industry conferences are a great chance to step away from the day-to-day office routine and gain a different perspective. I recently attended the ANA Brand Activation Conference in Chicago, and I found inspiration after listening to the amazing speakers who shared their stories.

The one word I heard–unexpectedly–from several speakers was “brave.” Many presenters encouraged fellow marketers to be brave in the way they approached opportunities, shunning the safety of copy-cat activities and being willing to try new things based on customer insights. Although many of the speakers gave impressive presentations, there were six that realty stood out. I’m going to cover two of them in this post, and the remaining four in the next two blog posts. Stay tuned!


“Brand Activations Taking Off in the Travel & Leisure Sector”

Penny Truttmann, VP, Brand Alliances, Caesar’s Entertainment

When I hit “send” on my reservation for this conference, I must confess that I did not completely understand what is meant by “brand activation.” I quickly understood, as Penny Truttmann, VP, Brand Alliances at Caesar’s Entertainment, shared insight into the way Caesar’s partners with other brands to bring unique value to their Total Rewards members and other key guests.

Ms. Truttmann gave many examples of Caesar’s bringing in relevant brands to enhance the experience of their guests. My favorite example was online shoe retailer and cult brand favorite Zappos, which agreed to a sponsorship deal with the theater at Caesar’s Planet Hollywood property in Las Vegas. She explained that the Zappos relationship is so much more than a naming sponsorship. In addition to the standard types of brand awareness and promotions, Zappos is piloting same-day delivery of shoes to your room when you’re a guest at Planet Hollywood! It’s not hard to imagine how this partnership can create a unique experience for Planet Hollywood guests. The Zappos sponsorship at Planet Hollywood includes many out-of-the-box ideas to create a unique experience for guests.



The last example she shared is the Fender VIP Experience at the Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena. Caesar’s owns the venue, and they hold shows and festivals that appeal to their older, more affluent guests (this summer’s shows include Robert Plant, Keith Urban, Phish and Dave Matthews Band). Based on this profile, Caesar’s partnered with Fender to provide a special VIP experience for their high-value guests. VIPs were allowed to play on a variety of Fender guitars and jam with members of the bands playing that evening. It’s another great example of getting the right brand to partner with, based on what they know about their guests.

Ms. Truttmann made sure attendees knew that what drives these great executions–in addition to hard work by her team–is the customer data and insights that originate with the Total Rewards Program and other guest data capture efforts. Knowing this information about her guests allows her to find the right partnerships and convince potential partners of the opportunity of aligning in efforts targeted to Caesar’s guests.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Use your data to understand your best customers well, find other brands they love and bring them to the table in unique ways.


“World-Record Activation Success for a Beloved Century-Old Brand”

Josh Croo, VP, Marketing Communications, Crayola

Mr. Croo walked us through an amazing brand activation story–the story of retiring a color from Crayola’s iconic 24-pack and replacing it with a new color. This is something that Crayola has done before, taking colors such as green-blue, orange-yellow, blue-gray and raw umber out and replacing them with new colors. But as they prepared to retire the orange-yellow color Dandelion, the marketing team saw an opportunity. Mr. Croo thought they could create a major brand activation story, and he set a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) of getting one billion media impressions from this event.

The 24-count crayon box–their iconic product was in year-over-year decline. The Crayola team saw the opportunity to create an engaging event around the retirement of Dandelion and addition of the new color. Mr. Croo and the team focused on finding stories within the process of replacing a crayon. They created a personality around Dandelion, launching the event by announcing his “retirement.” Then Crayola shifted the focus to naming the new color, a shade of blue recently discovered by scientists. Crayola used social media and PR to engage customers in naming the color, with over 400,000 votes finally cast to decide the winner, the color “Bluetiful.” The new color was announced on Good Morning America, which included a new world’s record certified by Guinness for the “world’s largest crayon.”

Good Morning America coverage of the new color launch

KEY TAKEAWAY: Marketing is storytelling. Focus on finding stories within your brand. Engage your customers in determining how this story ends.


Let’s talk

If you’d like to learn more about how YA can help you acquire new customers, retain the ones you have, and build lifelong loyalty, then I’d love to begin a conversation with you. Contact me to learn more.

Dan Ribolzi is the Vice President of Sales, Manufacturing Vertical at YA

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