On Thursday March 20th, I had the opportunity to attend the fourth annual MARS Mix conference at McMaster University presented by the DeGroote Marketing Association. The conference is held annually, and draws in students and professionals from Marketing, Advertising, Retail and Sales to provide knowledge, share stories, and build connections while presenting a unique experience. The conference was "out of this world" and really played into the event theme “Defying Gravity”. From one enthusiastic speaker to the next, everyone brought unique ideas and shared how they defy gravity.

James Politeski, President of Sales and Marketing at Samsung Electronics Canada shared three important insights at the conference.

Image courtesy of  @DMAatMac

Image courtesy of @DMAatMac

The first, the world is not digital but rather, mobile. Mobiles are, and will play a key role in marketing in the years to come, especially with technology such as near field communications.

Moreover, Politeski also shared the importance of creating unique experiences. Creating an experience is paramount for the success of a company as it makes them memorable and is a great way to connect with consumers. The Sport Chek flagship store in Edmonton Mall provides itself as a great example of creating unique experiences for consumers as it blends technology and retail together. See the video below.

Lastly, image matters. Everyday, we as individuals are marketing ourselves through how we dress, what we share on social media, how we present ourselves in-person, and more. It is apparent that we give value to people, companies, and products based off of “fit, feel, and finish”.  Image is an aspect that should not be overlooked in any realm of marketing, advertising, retail, or sales, as it is a driver in pulling us in or pushing us away.

Image courtesy of  @lilybonniechao

Image courtesy of @lilybonniechao

Bobby Sahni, partner and co-founder of Ethnicity Multicultural Marketing + Advertising provided the delegates of MARS Mix with an insightful presentation on the changing landscape of Canada and how to engage ethnicity. Sahni’s first key takeaway was multicultural marketing. With Canada fuelled by immigration, it is apparent that many individuals immigrate with cultural baggage. Rather than turn a blind eye, marketers should embrace this diversity and use it to their advantage. In three short words, “multicultural is mainstream”. Sahni believes that in a few years, the wording “multicultural marketing” will eventually morph into “marketing”, as the two will combine as one.

The second takeaway from Sahni was the importance of analyzing the business environment. A statistic provided stated, “Over the next 10 years, approximately 70% of all growth in Canadian consumer spending will come from Chinese and South Asian consumers”. It is apparent that multicultural marketing is experiencing growth with immigration, and catering to all audiences will help companies stay ahead of their competition.

Furthermore, Sahni defies gravity through embracing change. Change is not something that should be considered an enemy; rather change should be embraced as a teacher, and a driver of success.

Lastly, Sahni informed us about an upcoming film “Dr. Cabbie”, which touches upon aspects of his presentation, diversity, and immigration. You can learn more about the film on Twitter, IMDB, and Facebook.

Image courtesy of  @NoiseDigital

Image courtesy of @NoiseDigital

The MARS Mix conference also presented its delegates with a diverse panel of individuals for the topic of "Marketing in 2020". The panel included Bobby Sahni, Josh Singer – President of Kognitive Marketing, Meghan Merkler-Martin – Marketing Manager at PepsiCo, and Sinthu Jeyarajah – Account Manager at Noise Digital. When asked which qualities the panel looks for in future hires, a wide range of answers were given. Collectively, the panel felt that the following aspects are important:

  • Personality
  • Understanding and interacting with people
  • Understanding numbers (analytics, basic financial equations, balance sheets, etc.)
  • Possessing problem solving skills
  • Having PASSION – as an individual and for industry learning
  • Possessing courage
  • Having creativity and being able to think “outside the box”
  • Having the ability to “wear different hats” by showing that they are adaptable to a variety of situations
  • Possessing great communication skills
  • Being able to work as a team
  • Keeping up to date on data trends
  • Able to think on their feet
  • Having the willingness to take calculated chances

Lastly, when preparing for the next big idea, the panel felt it is important that individuals give attention to themselves, to social media platforms, and have the willingness to adapt.

Image courtesy of  @GabeCheeks

Image courtesy of @GabeCheeks

The event continued with its third speaker, Matt Schnarr, founder and managing partner at AWAKE Chocolate. In this delicious presentation, Matt shared the importance of good business starting with the right people. Once you have paired good partners with complimentary experiences, the possibilities are endless.

In addition, Schnarr also stated the importance of finding a point of difference and promoting the benefits. Rather than launching an energy drink in an already saturated market, Schnarr and his partners thought outside the box in creating AWAKE. The name choice is clever, and clearly states what the product is intended to do – keep you awake! Schnarr and his partners perfected the recipe, and created the perfect new product, launching it to the Canadian market in 2012. AWAKE has had a successful venture to present day, and you can watch them as they continue to grow by following Nevil as he takes you along the AWAKE journey. To me, AWAKE is fuelled by caffeine and powered by creativity.

In his closing remarks, Schnarr stated that in regards to innovation and creating new products, we should not worry because not every good idea has been taken. So get creative! Also, be sure to check out Schnarr’s acting debut in the AWAKE commercial below.

Image courtesy of  @DMAatMac

Image courtesy of @DMAatMac

The last speaker of the night, Keith Barry, director of strategy and development at Red Urban schooled us in rules to advertising. Barry opened his presentation with the following quote by Mary Kay:

“Ideas are a dime a dozen. People who implement them are priceless.”

Setting the mood, Barry invited us to see that while many great ideas exist (in our heads, or in that moleskine on your bedside table), they may never take off unless the right individual with passion and drive puts them into action. Moreover, Barry stated that one should “root everything in real human insight”. Paying homage to Simon Sinek’s “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”, it is apparent that in order to be a successful brand, you must own the brand. In this regard, as stated by Sinek, “The goal is not to do business with everyone who needs what you have, but rather to do business with people who believe what you believe.”

Furthermore, to show us the variety of creative aspects from a dedicated team, Barry shared a small sample of work by Red Urban. Videos shown were: The Volkswagen Art Heist, Super Sexy CPR, and Alexander Keith’s Hop Series. Barry also invited us to check out this cute short documentary about a 1955 VW Beetle that drove around the world three times, and is still operational and on the road in present day! Blue punch buggy, no punch back.

Lastly, Barry left us with some parting advice:

  • "The good jobs are never posted. You'll have to network to find them."

  • In regards to asking for help, "Make it easy for people to help you [by providing direction]."

  • “It is never about what an employer can do for you, it is about what you can do for an employer.”

  • “You have the internet. There is no excuse.” – use this technology to your advantage by learning, connecting, and sharing.

Thank you DMA for hosting an amazing event and inviting awesome individuals who defy gravity everyday. A huge congratulation goes out to the dedicated DMA team as well – you delivered this conference with professionalism and expertise, and it was definitely felt throughout the night. For pictures and student insights of the event, check out the event hashtags: DefyingGravity2014 and MARSMix2014.