Festivals and Events
LBS inaugural ‘Think Ahead’ Event
This series got off to a flying start in May 2023 with a focus on the challenge of achieving breakthrough growth. Led by Times enterprise editor James Hurley, the expert panel comprised economist Linda Yueh, LBS professor and Vice Dean Julian Birkinshaw, Johnson & Johnson MedTech Chief of Staff Chris McCarthy and Passionbrand’s Helen Edwards, who talked about the potential power of consumer-led disruption. As Helen memorably put it, ‘This is a tidal wave that starts as a ripple. You need to spot that ripple’.
FESTIVAL OF MARKETING 2021
The title for Helen’s 2021 talk was ‘The curse of convergence’ – the tendency for contemporary brands to cluster around sector points of parity. And it is a curse, blighting growth, depressing innovation and robbing the category – and the consumer – of meaningful distinction. There are economic, structural and marketing specific reasons why it happens, so it’s a trend that’s set to continue. But, for the determined and the brave, there are ways to fight back and ‘unconverge’. In an inspiring, example-rich session, Helen showed how it is done.
Festival of Marketing 2020
The 2020 conference went online and was a bigger event than ever, attracting a stellar line-up of 84 speakers and an attendance of over 5,000. Helen’s talk, ‘Signs, not science’, took aim at marketers’ yearning for certainty in a fluid world, and their enthusiasm for the fashionable discipline of behavioural science. What they ignore, she argued, were simpler observations, often in plain sight. As for the vaunted concept of ‘nudging’, she had this to say: ‘It’s time we dropped the hubris of trying to nudge consumers, and started paying attention when they nudge us.’ Her session achieved the highest overall score of the conference.
Festival of Marketing 2019
The conference was all about looking to the future, under the general theme of ‘What’s next?’ In her packed, 40-minute session, Helen Edwards argued that it was a question marketers should not be asking, but answering. She went on to explore the ‘habits to break’ and ‘techniques to embrace’, for marketers determined to stay ahead of both competitors and consumers in their brave new innovation programmes.
Festival of Marketing 2018
Loyalty sharply divides opinion in marketing. Kevin Roberts promulgated the concept of ‘Loyalty beyond reason’, in his bestselling book ‘Lovemarks’. The evidence-based crowd, led by Bryon Sharp, were having none of it: for them, brand loyalty is a chimera, not worth pursuing. In her first FOM talk, Helen Edwards introduced a new concept – ‘Loyalty at parity’ – and showed why it can give marketers an edge, and how it is achieved. Her session was one of the highest rated of the conference.
APG ‘Battle of Big Thinking’
The APG’s ‘Battle of Big Thinking’ format isn’t like your average industry talk. For each marketing sub-discipline, three speakers are given 15 minutes each to impress a super-smart audience of agency planners and marketers with voting machines in their hands. At the end of the three presentations, with the speakers still on stage, the audience winner for that round is declared. In the inaugural BoBT, in 2006, Passionbrand prevailed in its ‘branding’ round against presentations from M&C Saatchi and Interbrand, with a talk entitled ‘Infrequently Asked Questions’. Five years on, the APG, along with their event partner Campaign, raised the stakes and pitted previous winners against one another in the so-called ‘Clash of the Titans.’ Flanked this time by BBH and WCRS, Passionbrand again prevailed with ‘Dirty lessons learned the hard way.’
These are quarterly ‘provocations’ for an audience of planners and strategists, curated by best-selling business author Neil Perkin and hosted in London by Google. In an evening devoted to ‘insights’, Helen did her fair share of provoking: they are overrated, under-defined and by no means the only way to cut through. ‘Outsights’ – themes, motifs and revelations from the category, culture and beyond – are just as valuable, if you know how to look.
Helen joined Neil on the Firestarters podcast to chat about her book ‘From Marginal to Mainstream’, and why brands need to look to the fringes for growth. Watch the full episode here.
An authoritative outside speaker can be a great way to raise sights and drive commitment in those brand team awayday sessions. Dr Helen Edwards has delivered inspiring, bespoke, example-rich talks for businesses and NGOs on a wide range of topics: insights, emotional engagement, positioning, targeting, consumer psychology, marketing best practice, purpose. And it doesn’t have to be one-way: Helen and her team have developed interactive tools and techniques to engage, involve and sharpen the skills of everyone there.