Having just got back to Austin and pretending that it’s really 7:30 PT and not 9:20 CT, I’m slowly recovering from what was an exhilarating week of marketing geekdom at Marketo’s Marketing Nation Summit in San Francisco.

Headed into the conference this week, I have to say I was a bit numb to the not-so-recent news of Facebook’s data woes, the now closing of Cambridge Analytica and the suspicious looks I’ve been getting from my friends and family knowing I’m in the marketing and advertising business. It had me thinking, is the soul of data-based marketing dying… or did it just never have a soul to begin with?

The full-on purple party that Marketo just put on makes it clear to me that Marketo just might be the spark our industry needs to save us. Click To Tweet Between appearances from Jamie Foxx, Flo Rida and Bill McDermott, here’s why…

Data and .AI for Good

I had the chance to sit in on a few sessions that focused on Marketo’s (and their ecosystem’s) responsible use of analytics and artificial intelligence to better serve business prospects and customers. Marketo’s new platform allows marketers to analyze what content visitors are engaging with the most based on segment and then presents to them the most relevant content in real-time. Steve Lucas, Marketo CEO states that “Our Content AI will modify content in real time, seeking peak efficiency for marketers”.

Also at the conference I learned that Bombora and Marketo have formed a partnership using Bombora’s Company Surge solution, allowing Marketo users to monitor a company’s interest in specific topics online (using engagement data from hundreds of B2B media outlets) and therefore only marketing to those that are truly interested in a product or service.

There were several other sessions (including those on GDPR) focused on helping marketers better laser in on the people who might have interest and therefore avoiding non-relevant and annoying marketing impressions.

Brand and Creative even in B2B

In a conference where I’d figure you’d get a standing ovation showing a nicely figured attribution dashboard, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many sessions talking about creative and brand as a core discussion. I sat in on a great session with Nick Westergaard where he asked the question, “does branding still matter?” and then went on to explain to a packed room the importance of creating authentic and honest brands.

Another strong theme throughout was including brand and creative in our marketing plans as ways to create more engaging experiences for customers and drive conversion.A strong theme throughout was including brand and creative in marketing plans as a way to create more engaging experiences for customers and drive conversion Click To Tweet Matthew Wellschlager, VP Marketing at Ceros said it best in his session when he chided the audience that “marketers have lost sight of having creative at the table.” At this point, I had to remind myself where I was.

Fearlessness as More Than a Tagline

I was a bit skeptical of the conference theme when I heard it. The Fearless Marketer. Really? The Fearless B2B Marketer? But after spending the week there, I have to say… Marketo did a great job challenging us all to be more fearless in how we approach our day-to-day. Marketo did a great job challenging us all to be more fearless in how we approach our day-to-day. Click To TweetThe experience itself was quite clever in the way it drove home the message, and I believe that they really mean to push change. I have to believe that the theme will get people thinking. Some creative ways this played out were…

Pre-conference, hundreds of Marketo users nominated co-workers, partners and customers as fearless marketers by posting a short video on social media telling Marketo why they thought their friends deserved the Fearless title. At the conference, Marketo featured the first 25 #Fearless50 winners on huge posters inside and outside of Moscone Center and had a keynote session where they interviewed a few of the fearless folks about their take on what it means to be fearless marketers.


The conference featured a number of other experiences that drove home the fearless theme in creative ways.

Along with an indoor zip line, and upside down photobooth, Marketo featured a variety of flavored insects to sample outside the conference rooms. Here’s Vince Warnock of Cigna (a #Fearless50 Marketer) sampling a salt and vinegar cricket. He’s a better man than me.

Eating a cricket

Marketo Nation Community

Clearly, the most encouraging sign of life for the resurgence of the soul in marketing was the Marketo community itself.  The most encouraging sign of life for the resurgence of the soul in marketing was the Marketo community itself. Click To Tweet A self-professed group of marketing geeks; the community itself was as active and vibrant as any I’ve ever seen. I had the chance to talk to a few Marketo Champions and User Group leaders and the sense of real community that exists almost transcends the Marketo brand.

marketo champions

Hell…Marketo champions even got the chance to create their own custom Marketo Nike kicks.

And the life of the community doesn’t begin and end at their conference. There are over 31,000 active conversations on the Marketo Marketing Nation Site and I know from the 200+ Austin Marketo User Group members that the sense of community is strong and growing.

Can it continue?

Clearly, the honeymoon period for post-conference attendees is short. At the end of the day, all this stuff needs to work and it’s a big lift to bring some energy, creativity and fearlessness into B2B marketing. But from what I saw this week, there are more than a few disruptors out there now… and it looks like more to come. Time will tell.

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