The Marketing Executives Group, one of 10 study groups organized by the National Restaurant Association, held its 2012 spring meeting in Chicago earlier this month with the purpose of challenging the status quo.
More than 250 restaurant industry marketing leaders gathered to learn and share insights on branding, consumer behavior, social media, and strategies and tactics for gaining a marketing edge.
The Chicago 2012 Spring Marketing Executives Group conference was one of the best in recent years. We were provided a unique opportunity for marketing professionals in the restaurant industry to hear from a collection of speakers with topics relevant to challenges we are all facing from consumers in the marketplace. Topics and discussions were well positioned to answer concerns faced in today’s environment and provided a great format for learning.
Throughout the meeting, attendees were able to develop new connections with their industry peers and rekindle old friendships while enjoying the opportunity to learn, challenge, inspire and network across the industry. MEG exists to raise the level of excellence in restaurant marketing by providing leadership and training, as well as encouraging the exchange of ideas among marketing professionals for the betterment of the industry and its member companies.
“The MEG conference is a great opportunity to increase the awareness of the marketing function and its contribution and importance in the foodservice industry,” said Lane Cardwell, president of P.F. Chang’s.
Participants left Chicago armed with actionable strategies and tactics that are sure to transform and enhance their brands in the months and years ahead. Virtually every restaurant professional in attendance expressed their satisfaction with the meeting’s agenda and speakers and indicated their enthusiasm for returning in 2013.
“MEG is a must attend for anyone in the restaurant industry responsible for driving traffic,” said Jennifer Weerheim, vice president of marketing at Yard House Restaurant. She even noted that the October conference is set to be better than the May gathering.
To give you a sense of what MEG produced:
Keynote speaker Shawn Achor, psychologist and author of “The Happiness Advantage,” shared his strategies for achieving the level of optimism necessary to effect positive change in our personal lives and with our brands. Backed by extensive research, Achor showed attendees how happiness fuels success in business. Those who learn to be happier go on to reap the benefits of a more positive mind-set and achieve the extraordinary at work, with related spill-over benefits at home.
Two speakers from American Express covered several macroeconomic insights and restaurant-specific spend trends. Kathy Benning, executive vice president of marketing for Buffalo Wild Wings, then shared what makes her concept resonate with customers and enables it to cut through the media clutter with a strong and relevant brand voice.
Erik Qualman, professor and best-selling author of “Socialnomics,” described how social media is transforming the way we live and do business. He offered valuable insights into how restaurant marketers can regain control in the perplexing world of modern communications and explained how brands can be strengthened by the proper use of social media.
The first day’s events concluded with an expert social media panel that featured real-life examples and success stories designed to assist attendees in developing compelling social media strategies.
A dinner and after-party at Rockit Bar & Grill was followed the next morning by the first annual MEG “Morning After” 10K and 5K runs. Friday’s sessions kicked off with a “never before seen” special presentation by Red Bull vice president of marketing Amy Taylor, who shared the brand’s unorthodox approach to story-telling in the modern media world. This special behind-the-scenes look at how the Red Bull brand was built over the past 13 years was a crowd favorite and left the room buzzing.
Following a networking lunch, Taco Cabana’s chief marketing officer, Todd Coerver, walked the audience through a case study demonstrating how traditional media, social media and operations can be fully integrated into a successful, long-term marketing campaign. Jon Taffer, chairman of Taffer Dynamics and host of SPIKE TV’s “Bar Rescue,” then wrapped up the formal conference agenda by sharing the nuts and bolts of neighborhood marketing to create a powerful brand makeover for a restaurant.
The MEG tradition continued at a closing reception highlighted by delicious food arrays showcasing menu trends from across the nation along with samplings of craft beers, fine wines and other amped-up beverages.
I invite questions and suggestions, whether about MEG or the topics and goals we set.