was the big idea of this year’s Marketing Society conference. It proved an inspirational platform. A great conference theme- credit must go to new CEO Gemma Greaves and her team.
This being an individualistic culture (and age) stories were often told as personal triumphs over fear, especially in extreme sports (a big theme of the conference which I suspect made most of us feel distinctively queasy and meek.)
Bravery is enabled by encouragement
Yet , for me, a sub text kept surfacing: brave people (often) could not have acted without both support and encouragement. (Encouragement literally means being given courage by others)
Syl Saller refused to be drawn into the “I” word and insisted on “we”- on the collective corporate bravery that built by internal champions and consensus builders ( like her) Extreme Surfer Garrett McNamarra said he could not have recovered from injury and found the monster wave that broke the record without his wife. Raha Moharrak, the first Saudi woman to scale Everest, was initially told “no” by her father, when she announced her climbing ambitions, yet received his blessing shortly after. Hassan Akkad, a refugee from war torn Syria, had bravery forced on him by circumstances and has subsequently received support from (amongst others) The BBC in telling his story. His bravery was the most humbling – causing me to reflect on how very fortunate and selfish we are.
Bravery as solidarity
Francis O’Grady, general secretary of TUC, framed bravery as sticking up for others rather than individual triumph. TUC as a brand has been stuck with dated associations of the “big men” of trades unionism. They seemed to be in denial about the opportunities of a globalised, technologically driven, individualistic world. That’s why Thatcher set out to weaken them. Yet that promise has turned sour. Economic growth did not “float all boats” but has resulted in gross inequality. So Francis’s call for solidarity, mutuality is timely. She even suggested that a union for the gig economy should be launched – now that would be “a big idea” and perhaps “a symbol re-evaluation” (in Adam Morgan’s phrase) for TUC
There was another theme that kept surfacing. Not a new one. A theme of many a conference of old. But always valuable to companies. It is the stuff that actually builds brands and businesses ( not chasing people round the internet with programmatic ads). It was:-
The power of big ideas.
To galvanise everyone, especially your own people
To make teams braver and more focussed
To inspire designers and agency creatives to do their best work
Here are my three favourites from the day:
NEW YORK TIMES. THE TRUTH IS HARD: a clarion call for investigative journalism in the face of mendacious attacks from Donald Trump.
BABYLON APP. Brilliant new AI powered app that enables more accurate self diagnosis of illness and triages people in the right direction. Sure to be a hit with hypochondriacs everywhere – and (hopefully) save time and labour
Pedigree’s insight that it is the innocence of dogs that breaks down barriers and brings people together. This inspired a great social experiment in getting Trump and Clinton supporters to be nice to be each other.
As for my act of bravery from the day:
I think I am off to join a union and buy a dog