trade event

Institute for International Research's Business of Branding Forum, + + + +

The week of October 4th, was a packed week. There must have been at least 5 different conferences worth attending. This conference was unfortunately one of them, but I was at least able to attend the last day for half the day. Formatted more like a class with 30 or so executive students, the Branding Forum presented case studies on this day and offered valuable insights on what's worked and hasn't worked for competitors. Although much of what was presented wasn't new, it was nice to hear that there are companies out there using these tried-and-true marketing tactics to achieve some kind of result.

Although Krispy Kreme, Humana, Tyco (no, not the toy company, the evil conglomerate), and British Airways presented, the most interesting story was Fresh Direct. It didn't employ any innovative tricks and its marketing budget was small compared to these other firms. What made it interesting was that it built, and is continuing to build, a business from scratch using local marketing and huge cojones. Since it didn't have historic figures to beat, its success and growth were even more exciting. It's vp of marketing, John Boris, was young and exuberant, clearly unaffected by the bored, lack-of-innovation, clone-every-idea-to-death mentality prevalent amongst marketers today.

It took Webvan $1 billion to prep and launch its business (including hiring the former CEO Anderson Consulting to run it all). Using insights learned from their subsequent bankruptcy, it's taking Fresh Direct about $10 million total. Why? 80% of consumers' food shopping habits are the same, making fulfillment extremely easy and cheap for Fresh Direct. This isn't a secret, but clearly overlooked during the crazy fulfillment-facilities expansion that killed Webvan.

Hosted at the Marriott East Side in New York from Oct 5-8, it was intimate enough to meet cool people, and packed full of info, though not new, worth a listen. Overall, this event merits 4 pluses.

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