3 Days of UNLearning at the Business Marketing Association Conference

“UNLearn” was the theme for last week’s national Business Marketing Association conference (quick disclosure, I’m a board member for BMA). The theme emphasized the importance in today’s environment of challenging existing knowledge, assumptions, and beliefs to lead & grow businesses more successfully.

The conference delivered on the theme in multiple ways, and each day, I challenged myself to articulate what I had “unlearned.” Here are the top unlearnings from each of the conference’s three days:

  • Day 1 – UNLearn Control: A major conference topic focused on how new communication channels have handed control to the audience for what have traditionally been company-driven messages. Operating successfully in this environment requires authenticity and openness to being part of the conversations taking place, irrespective of whether they are flattering or hurtful. For marketing & branding control freaks, it means learning new tools and means to engage in dialogue.
  • Day2 – UNLearn “Resources Before Results” Thinking: Everybody has fewer resources. One marketing VP said his budget was 25% of what it was in 2008. If defining your ability to make a positive, business-growing impact is based solely on budget & people resources, you’ll beat your head against a wall. The alternative is to realize key success factors for today’s market dialogue aren’t resource-driven. You can’t buy authenticity, experience, or passion, yet they all correlate strongly to creating results.
  • Day 3 – UNLearn “Piecemeal” Marketing: It was fascinating to hear other marketers wrestling with the expectation of delivering programs that are close – maybe 60-70% of what might traditionally be considered as ready for “prime time.” The push now is to introduce them early to try to drive sales while additional learning and tweaking go on once in market. A balance to this approach is to make as sure as possible on the front end an effort integrates with other things being done across the business. At least then the 30-40% uncertainty can be partially mitigated through strategic ties to other efforts and investments already in place.

Easy? No. Comfortable? Absolutely not!

To me though, the big learning is nearly all business marketers are facing comparable issues, and finding dramatically new ways to deal with them is what success is all about today.

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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4 Responses to “What Did You UNLearn at the Conference?”

  1. Dave J. says:

    "You can't buy authenticity." Yep!

    And in a down economy & down budget, now is a great time to learn how to do it. I think part of the answer is in 'piecemeal marketing'. The adjustment-after-launch allows you to react to the market and adjust your voice.

  2. Amy Lillard says:

    Great summary of what we unlearned, and a great tool to help organize my thinking over the last few days. We're facing unique times with marketing, and this conference was helpful in supporting us and challenging us as we take this on. Nice post, Mike!

  3. Mike Brown says:

    Thanks Dave & Amy for the comments; great to meet you at the BMA conf.

    Yours is an interesting take Dave that introduce-learn-tweak can lead to a greater sense of authenticity since it incorporates customer POV. That’s an area where I have more unlearning to do. I’ve been steeped in the school of get it right before it’s introduced.

    Amy – Glad these unlearnings helped you reflect on the conf. I had to force myself to identify an unlearning each day to try and capture an overall theme.



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