D2 Cincinnati event takes consumer-focused marketing to the next level

“The times they are a-changin’,” Bob Dylan sang, back in 1964. Here in 2013, the changes show no signs of slowing down. Rather, everything seems to be moving faster as we look ahead.
In Cincinnati, we are fortunate to have many leaders in the community who not only are aware of this trend, but are intent on being ahead of the curve. For a prime example, look no further than this week’s D2 Cincinnati (Digital Dialogue) conference, September 11–12 at the Horseshoe Casino.
The event is the first marketing conference focusing specifically on customer centricity, the concept of putting an organization’s customers at the center ofi ts business and marketing decisions.
“The significance of that focus really keys in on how marketing has changed,” explains Krista Neher, CEO of Boot Camp Digital, author of the bestselling social media field guide "Visual Social Media Marketing," and one of several speakers at the conference.
“With the rise of digital technology, people now have more control over media they watch versus media they ignore,” Neher adds. “As a result, brands have to reach a higher standard and provide value or people will filter them out. With all of the marketing powerhouses we have here, this conference provides a unique opportunity for attendees to understand how to add that value.”
Cincinnati has long been touted as hub for marketing, branding and consumer-based research, and has the highest per-capita concentration of branding professionals in the country. Much of this has to do with the concentration of industry-leading companies like Procter & Gamble (largest U.S. consumer goods manufacturer), The Kroger Co. (largest U.S. supermarket retailer), LPK and Nielsen, to name a few.
D2 Cincinnati is a partnership between AAF Cincinnati, the non-profit advertising organization that spearheaded Cincinnati’s Digital Non Conference for five years, and dunnhumbyUSA, a joint venture of The Kroger Co. and London-based dunnhumby ltd. with U.S. headquarters in Cincinnati.
D2 Cincinnati focuses on the intersection where brands, retailers and technology companies digitally connect with the consumer.
“Technology and consumer control have made more impacts in the past five years than there had been in the recent history of advertising 50 years before it,” says Ryan Derrow, Vice President of Online Media at Empower MediaMarketing and also a speaker at the conference. “We got involved (with D2 Cincinnati) because, as a media agency, we are literally the connective tissue between a consumer and a brand. Our job is to bring the two together, and there has never been a more exciting time to be doing it.”
Keynote speakers at the event include Dave Knox, Chief Marketing Officer at Rockfish, Erin Hunter, Global Head of CPG Marketing at Facebook and Julie Bernard, Senior Vice President of Customer Strategy, Marketing & Advertising at Macy’s. In addition to all of the speakers, D2 Cincinnati will also include time for networking, a panel discussion and a Q&A session. In this sense, the event promises to be an important one for current and aspiring professionals alike. Derrow hopes that in particular, university students attend the conference.
“One of our biggest struggles right now is working with the universities in the region to create the coursework, partnerships and experiences that this rapidly evolving industry demands in order to prepare the workers of tomorrow,” he says. “Today’s ad landscape needs more analysts, data scientists and programmers than there are in the pipeline right now.”
One of the other speakers at the event, Drew Boyd, a 30-year industry veteran with Johnson & Johnson who now teaches at the University of Cincinnati, is working on just that.
“Everything for me starts with skills and research,” he says of how Cincinnati can retain its reputation as a marketing and branding mecca and train the next generation. “We have to continue to do consumer insight research around the digital domain, and we must continue to train the top graduate students in the world, put them at companies like dunnhumby, at P&G and LPK, and they become the cycle. They continue that tradition.”
With panelists and speakers from companies as disparate as Kellogs, Pandora, Adidas, Powerhouse Factories and more, there are certain to be many takeaways from this conference. Boyd, Derrow and Neher all have distinct thoughts on what they want attendees to walk away thinking.
“I want people to be stimulated and go back and innovate at their current jobs,” Boyd says. “There needs to be a healthy mix of excitement and anxiety that provides a mandate for change. We can’t just work harder and faster; we’ve got to be more sophisticated.”
“If people simply walk away with the idea that our Cincinnati experts truly are world-class,” Darrow adds, “that will say something in and of itself.”
“I think people will be inspired, and not just in an intangible sense,” Neher says. “People will be inspired by real, replicable ideas being presented by the business owners who practiced them. I also hope people will walk away with a stronger understanding of the newer trends in digital marketing. This way, they can be ahead of the competition and start implementing these ideas better and faster than competitors.”
Ultimately, D2 is all about the customer and how to add value to their lives in the digital era. “It is exciting that Cincinnati is the first community to embrace this, given how much we put consumers in the middle of all of our product, marketing and advertising innovations,” Darrow says.
“I was involved in choosing panelists, and the entire lineup blew my mind,” Neher says. “This is probably the strongest lineup I’ve seen for a conference here in Cincinnati, and what makes it special is that we have an opportunity to share and really capitalize on new insights based on this customer drive model. I’m excited to be a part of it.”  
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