A sell-out crowd of senior marketers gathered this past month to hear insights on the future of marketing from three high-level executives representing the Washington Redskins, The Ritz-Carlton, and USA Today. The exclusive AMADC event was held at the recently renovated office space of global architecture firm, Gensler. Following networking, attendees listened to the all-star panel as they praised the integration of technology and marketing, reinforced the power of brand, and cautioned attendees about the limits of data.

A panel of high-level executives from the Washington Redskins, The Ritz-Carlton, and USA Today talked about the future of marketing at a recent event hosted by the American Marketing Association’s D.C. chapter (AMADC). They praised the integration of technology and marketing, reinforced the power of brand, and cautioned attendees about the limits of data.

Technology and Analytics
There’s no question that marketing and technology departments have become inseparable. Nancy Hubacher, vice president of marketing and sales at the Washington Redskins, noted that digital marketing was a small part of proposals not-so-long ago. A “throw-in,” she said, but now it’s a critical component of the team’s revenue generation, especially with strategic partners. So much relies on the team’s databases that the head of the IT department participates regularly in sales calls.

Likewise, at The Ritz-Carlton, the marketing and technology divisions work hand-in-hand. Clayton Ruebensaal, vice president of global marketing, said that the company’s affluent customer base lives on their mobile devices. “For The Ritz Carlton, engaging in mobile is critical,” he said, which meant creating apps focused on utility. “Marketing the brand is going to mean being useful to consumers,” he said.

While technology creates new ways to reach consumers, measuring the effectiveness of new channels is a challenge. As Ruebensaal put it, “Things you can’t measure as directly with ROI can be valuable marketing tools,” he said.

Jill Engle, vice president of marketing for USA Today, reinforced the difficulty of tying ROI to marketing initiatives. At USA Today, technology used by the company allows decision-makers to follow in real time what stories are being read, to see how consumers behave and how they consume content across devices. “Data is very much being used across the brand,” she said. At the same time, those metrics can be influenced by factors beyond the marketing department’s control. For example, “Breaking news can dramatically impact traffic, and it’s something I don’t have any control over,” she said.

In the Future
The need to build a strong brand will only grow in the future, said Ruebensaal. He described the current environment as one where consumers are in control. They lead and brands follow. That will change, he said, as organizations improve at moderating conversations about their brand. The relationship between consumer and brand will be shared. Instead of following consumers on every social channel available because it’s free, for instance, brands will pick-and-choose where and how they engage with customers. The future of communications will mean “more interesting things, less often,” he said.

Engle agreed that successful brands in the future will be more selective. “Sometimes it’s a matter of making decisions on what not to do,” she said. They’ll test and learn to discover their true value to consumers.

As the event came to a close, attendees left with countless insights, inspiration to think big and new connections to fellow senior marketers. Looking ahead, AMADC members can expect more exciting, high-caliber events just like this one as the new board year officially kicks off its 2014-2015 term this month (July 1).

By: Andy Brown, andy@methodicalwriting.com

Andy Brown is a full-time writer. He’s an active member of the American Marketing Association, serving on the Board of the Washington, D.C. chapter in 2013-2014.