Want to get into the Marketing Hall of Fame? It takes purpose, customer-centricity and belief.

Last night I spent a fun evening at the New York AMA Marketing Hall of Fame event. Honorees Trevor Edwards, Yvon Chouinard, Shelly Lazarus (Ogilvy) and David Aaker, who were chosen from more than 100 nominees, spoke inspiringly about their lifelong approaches to marketing. Customer-centricity was a key theme - but the standout learning came from Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard who reminded the audience of the power of brand purpose.

Each of the honorees laid out their own key principles for success in 21st century marketing covering the usual themes of category disruption, storytelling & continuous learning. They also reinforced the timeless principles of creativity, the "gorgeous idea" and "sweating the details." (No prizes for guessing who was focusing on the sweat vs. the gorgeous idea).

It was of course great to see that putting the consumer first was a central pillar in all of their thinking. Trevor Edwards (Nike) told us how his journey into marketing started in a passion for people and cultures. He reminded marketers to "bring the consumer into the room every day" and spoke of Nike’s history of "serving consumers - one at a time". UCL Professor Emeritus David Aaker shared the terrible truth that our consumers are "not really interested in our offerings, our brands or our firms" urging us instead to build our brand against consumer interests or "sweet spots", and to deliver to consumer needs so well as to make competitors irrelevant.

But the show was really stolen by Patagonia Founder Yvon Chionard. Yvon started his career as a blacksmith, making those little metal things that mountaineers use, and is an accidental marketer. "I don’t deserve to be here", he said, "because for Patagonia marketing is easy - we just tell people who we are." And so he did just that. Patagonia imposes a 1% earth tax on itself and has founded a national park. They have figured out that it’s more environmentally friendly to make clothes that last forever. If you get tired of it, they will resell it. If it breaks they will repair it. At the end of its life they will recycle it. They will even try to persuade you not to buy their stuff. "Do you really need it?" Chionard asks, "or are you just bored?" It’s a great question.

Many of us are talking about sustainability and brand purpose these days. The Patagonia story is a great reminder that this is not a communications or product proposition, but something that employees, customers and consumers need to live passionately - everyday.

It was great to be part of this unique New York event that celebrates brilliant marketing thinkers and leaders. Brand Learning offers our congratulations to all the honorees who have demonstrated innovative marketing that works, have raised the overall profile of marketing and who are inspiring the next generation of marketers.


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