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Well folks, it’s finally here. The event that I have been waiting for all year: The Art of Marketing Toronto. This will be my second time attending The Art of Marketing. Back in September, I made the two hour trip to Montreal to learn from some of the best of the best – Mitch Joel, Avinash Kaushik, Seth Godin, Max Lenderman, Jeffrey Gitomer and Andy Nulman. It was truly a very educational and inspirational event. But it goes far past just the speakers. What about the audience? One of the most interesting things to me in Montreal was the diversity of the crowd. They weren’t just marketers – but PR reps, managers, sales people, students and entrepreneurs. That’s the real beauty of this conference. Everyone is there for a reason. It’s not something that they are forced to attend. They are there to learn, to network, to engage, to be inspired. And, let me tell you, The Art of Marketing Toronto did just that.

This time I am joined by WebFuel’s Search Strategist, Helen Faber. We’re both quite excited for the amazing lineup of speakers which included analytics expert Avinash Kaushik, online marketing pioneer Gary Vaynerchuk, venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki, brand strategist Jeffrey Hayzlett and Columbia University Business professor Dr. Sheena Iyengar. Over 1200 eager marketers file into the magnificent Metro Toronto Convention Centre, creating a great atmosphere. You can feel the anticipation for the day’s first speaker – Avinash Kaushik.

Avinash Kaushik

To begin with, I love Avinash. He is the only man alive that can make such a boring topic (Analytics) something entertaining, interesting and even funny. His energy and enthusiasm on stage was very well received by the morning crowd. Just as he did in Montreal, Kaushik shouts and rants on stage about “Garbage” and “Puke”! He points out the mistakes that many make, while giving you realistic solutions and advice. Avinash explains that the reason that most websites “suck” is do to the HPPO’s (pronounced “Hippos”). That stands for Highest Paid Person’s Opinon. He elaborates by stating that at most large companies, the highest paid person makes decisions about things that they know nothing about – websites – and 95% of the time it is ugly, and awful. One of the most well-received acronyms in Avinash’s arsenal was HITS: How Idiots Track Success. But, the quote that hit home hardest for me was that “you can’t improve something by 1000%. But you can improve 1000 things by 1%.” Brilliant.

Gary Vaynerchuk

Next up was Gary Veynerchuk. A true entrepreneur, Vaynerchuk is enthusiatic, outgoing and…well…quite vulgar! But amidst the swearing and rants was a great, inspirational message. Gary became well known for Wine Library TV, a video blog that he created to help sell wine for his family’s business. Vaynerchuk truly understands the consumer and the social web. He expressed his hatred for companies that don’t talk to, or even about, their customers. They are the lifeblood of your business. in order to get your customers to love you, you must love them first. Building loyalty should be first and foremost, because a loyal customer is there for life. He left the crowd with an outstanding stat followed by a piece of advice. First off, the stat: There is more original content being created every 48 hours today than there was from the beginning of man kind until 2003. Wow. And finally, his advice was simple. If someone starts to gloat about how many followers they have on Twitter, punch them in the face. Thanks Gary. Needless to say, I will absolutely be reading Gary’s newest book, The Thank You Economy.

Jeffrey Hayzlett

Last up before lunch was Jeffrey Hayzlett, former Kodak CMO. Hayzlett is well known for being a crucial player in Kodak’s legendary branding turnaround in the early 2000’s. As he takes the stage, it is quite evident that Hayzlett is a natural leader and marketer. “A brand is not a logo or a picture. A brand is simply a promise to deliver” he explains. “Kodak doesn’t make a camera or film equipment. They make emotional technology.” He goes on to discuss Social Media and the common desire to create something viral. “Viral is flukey” he claims. “Yes, it may happen, but please don’t waste your time and effort trying to create it. If it happens, it happens. Spend your time building relationships. They are much more valuable.” He is enthusiastic and spontaneous. He likes to take and idea and run with it. Hayzlett’s motto throughout his speech was “Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. No one is going to die.” He explained by telling a story about a marketing campaign that Kodak had launched that encouraged consumers to text a number via their mobile phones to receive coupons. All of the ads were run in movie theatres before the show. Well, the downfall of the campaign is quite evident. What do you do with your phone when you walk into a movie theatre? Turn it off, right? “Well,” Hayzlett says “It was a mistake. My mistake. But don’t worry, no one is going to die. Let’s move on.” It’s this outlook and attitude that makes Hayzlett an amazing marketer. No one is perfect. People make mistakes. It’s how they react and learn from those mistakes that makes a difference.

Dr. Sheena Iyengar

After a much needed lunch, we returned to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to Dr. Sheena Iyengar, expert on consumer behaviour and the psychology of choice. Iyengar was definitely a change of pace. While the other presenters were jumping around from one side of the stage to the next, yelling and screaming passionately, she spoke softly while standing behind her podium for the full hour. But then again, while the others are radical, outgoing marketers, she is a University Professor. Her topic was also quite different. While the others put quite a heavy focus on the online space, Dr. Iyengar discussed the psychological side behind marketing. She examined the art of choice, and how humans make decisions when faced with a variety of different options. The conclusions drawn from her study were quite interesting. She stated that when people are given more choice, often times they take longer to make a decision, they make a worse decision and are ultimately less satisfied with their choice. They second guess themselves and think “Did I make the wrong decision?” She went on the explain that humans are born with the desire to choose, but without the innate skills to actually make a decision. In closing she provided the crowd with an interesting example. She told us that if you give someone the choice between going to an ice cream shop that only offered vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, or a shop that offered over 60 flavours, most people would choose the latter. But, interestingly enough even though they chose the shop with 60 flavours, most people would continue to buy either chocolate, vanilla or strawberry.

Guy Kawasaki
Last, but certainly not least, Guy Kawasaki took the stage to round out the day. He begins by winning over the crowd by praising hockey, Steam Whistle beer and…Justin Bieber. How Canadian, eh? Kawasaki’s message was all about how to be enchanting. A former Apple employee and author of over 10 best selling books, Kawasaki brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the stage. He stressed that trust is key – and that it is a two way street. Earn it, and maintain it. In order to enchant your employees you must give them MAP – Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose. With that they can, and will, succeed. He expressed the need to build relationships, engage, help others and, most of all, to enchant them. Kawasaki advises the crowd to not delay bad news. If something bad happens, tell people right away – don’t let it be a surprise. And always tell them with a solution in mind. Avoiding the inevitable will only make things worse. After a few more comments about how much Guy loves Canada, we move into the final Q&A session of the day. One audience member asks Kawasaki “Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are all undeniably amazing and successful entrepreneurs. Do you think that they are enchanting?” Guy laughs, takes a sip of water and responds “I hate that question. I’ll say this. You don’t need to be enchanting to be successful.”

The crowd erupts in laughter and applause. Kawasaki gives us one last wave, and the event’s host Ron Tite wraps up The Art of Marketing Toronto – a day filled with excitement, enthusiasm, passion, lessons, ideas and strategies. If you ever get the chance to hear any of these presenters speak, I highly suggest it.

The next big conference that I will be attending will be Search Marketing Expo in Toronto April 28-29th. Will I see you there?