Observations from Brand Innovators’ Sports & Culture Marketing Summit, hosted by New Balance.

What inspires anyone to buy anything?

It isn’t just products, ads, experiences or influencers that drive growth; it’s faith. Customers buy more from you when they believe in you and trust in your purposes and promises. Authenticity inspires brand affinity. 86% of consumers agree; brand authenticity plays a major role in purchasing decisions. Yet, 57% believe that most brands are NOT authentic.

This insight was a commonly touched theme throughout the Fireside Chats at Brand Innovators’ recent Sports & Culture Marketing Summit, held at “The Track” on New Balance’s Boston campus. The day was full of engaging discussions with brand marketing leaders from companies like Panera Bread, New Balance, Boston Beer Co., MassMutual, Liberty Mutual, Wayfair and many more.

Every speaker, topic and perspective was different. However, their views on the challenges and importance of authenticity tied them all together. Authentic creativity consistently evokes genuine emotions, spreads your brand’s truths, and highlights the common ground that you share with your customers. It isn’t easy to achieve, but it is the most powerful form of human expression for brand marketers seeking to establish meaningful connections with audiences.

 

The Role of CMOs in Unlocking Authentic Expression 

At the Summit—Senior Vice President of Onward Imagine, Brendon Derr, was joined by in-house agency leaders, Warren Marenco Chase (Liberty Mutual) and John Wall (Wayfair), for a discussion titled ‘Mastering the Creative Mix.’ It was one of many sessions that defined authentic creativity as a storytelling superpower that sets brands apart.

As this impressive group of marketing executives explored strategies, ideas and examples of achievement, it became clear that the larger the organization behind the brand, the more challenging it can be to execute creativity consistently.

Today’s large enterprises require strong marketing leadership, close collaboration across functions, and a shared mission that people can rally around. Authentic brands crumble when their ideas and enthusiasm get stuck in organizational silos. You can’t establish and maintain a powerful presence when team members hold conflicting beliefs or have constantly competing priorities.

Marketing executives at the Summit routinely described their roles in leadership and relationship-building (internally and externally) as key drivers of brand authenticity, creativity and marketing innovation. Successful CMOs at brands like New Balance and MassMutual displayed a level of passion, purpose and clarity that you can envision yourself getting behind.

These accomplished leaders ensure the buy-in and understanding of employees at all levels while fostering the empathy and cultural safety necessary to unlock new ideas from inside their organizations.

 

The Future of Human Connection in a Digital World

As challenging and fast-changing as their roles may be, marketing leaders’ purpose in building authentic brand expression has long been clear. Yet, newly emerging technologies are challenging CMOs and their teams to redefine themselves and their strategies at a pace never seen before.

It is no surprise that many of the Summit’s Fireside Chats explored what tomorrow’s techno-trends could mean for today’s brands. AI was the megatrend asked about the most, and leaders routinely explained that their teams are still focused on learning about the opportunities that lie ahead with these technologies.

Emerging tech opens up new ways for brands to engage. AI can enable marketers to improve go-to-market operations, more deeply understand customers, and more effectively connect with audiences. At the same time, these new marketing powers only magnify the potential value that human-generated creativity and authentic storytelling can bring to a brand.

We see an increasing emphasis on creativity as brands strive to differentiate themselves and establish human connections in a sea of digital chaos. To win today and tomorrow, organizations must master and leverage new technologies to tell authentic, engaging stories.

 

An Exciting Path Forward for Brand Marketers

Times are changing, but human nature is not. Our inner workings are far more consistent than the artificial worlds we have created. And our need for brand authenticity is as strong as ever.

As another wave of technological disruption washes over us, authentic relationships continue to drive customer engagement, brand affinity, and business growth. In this new era of creativity, marketers have much to learn, many critical decisions to make, and more opportunities to explore than ever before.

Count us among many who came away from Brand Innovators’ Summit in Boston feeling inspired and enthusiastic about what lies ahead.


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Onward Imagine equips brands with the advisory and managed solutions to make authentic creativity a reality. We act as extensions of your team to improve performance, accelerate innovation, and energize customer engagement.