5 important Marketing lessons we’ve learned at the Marketing Congress 2017

Last week, we’ve attended the Marketing Congress, organized by BAM. A two-day conference we’ve been looking forward to for a long time. And yes, the conference and its international speakers have fulfilled our expectations. Here’s what we’ve learned. 

1. Once we know how the human brain works, we can make shit work - Rory Sutherland

Consumers often think they have themselves perfectly figured out. According to Rory Sutherland, they don’t and discovering the true reasons behind human behavior would be game-changing in marketing.

Will we ever entirely be able to predict human behavior? Probably not. But this is what we do know:

  • Actions are driven by instinctive feelings, not by ratio. We only use reason in discussions.
  • Human beings make decisions aiming to minimize regret rather than to maximize joy. We are intrinsically motivated by fear.
  • We are strongly uncertainty avoidant. We would rather know that our train would arrive within 9 minutes than wait for 3 minutes in uncertainty.

Now what should marketers do with that info?

Solve problems by psychology

Example: In a certain building, there had been complaints regarding the elevators. The tenants asked for faster ones. But was slowness the actual problem? No. They solved the real problem with mirrors. Result? No more complaints. Time seemed to go faster for the elevator users. They stopped being bored as they could now look at themselves in the mirror.


Satisficing is aimed at taking decisions that suffice to tackle a situation. This opens up the idea that something which seems to be completely irrational or irrelevant at first glance, may in fact be a useful and highly effective non-catastrophic approach. So as a marketer you should always ask yourself: what’s the average outcome and what’s the worst outcome?


Signal you’re playing the long term, because that’s what consumers seem to consider as trustworthy. It may not always be efficient, but it definitely will be valuable. For example, the more that is invested in your communication, the more weight that communication carries.

2. Conversation and voice interaction will be the norm - Susan Weinschenk

Machine learning, advanced robots and virtual reality are here to stay. And that seems perfectly fine with us.

People anthropomorphize all the time - treating non-human things as human. This means that we will allow for AI and machines to take over many things, even our jobs. Think about the Eliza effect, which is the tendency to unconsciously assume computer behaviors are comparable to human behaviors. The video below confirms that and you’ll see that cuteness triggers many effects on the brain.

The next thing we should ask ourselves is, what will be the role of machines and what will be the role of humans? One thing’s sure: use technology to collaborate. Example: Stardust for Bowie

3. The era of average is over - Kristof De Wulf

Marketing seems to still be holding on to the same old principles and values of the past. We’ve always copied best practices from the domain experts. But that doesn’t seem to work anymore, not like they did before.

So how do we create new value for consumers?

Envision the bigger picture

Marketing needs to encourage more long-term strategic thinking, because we have grown a bad habit of jumping on any hype train (think of Pokemon Go).


The next big thing will be a lot of small things. Basically, it means marketers need to step away from conventional marketing plans and embrace a constant learning mindset. Instead of thinking big, it is about integrating a more adaptive and experimental approach. Facebook for example has a 10-year-plan, but is reviewing it every 6 months.

Make it blend

Generate connected wisdom by gluing data and people. By bringing things together, we create value.

Earn the attention

It is a true challenge for brands to stand out and break through the clutter. Yelling doesn’t work, so you need to earn the attention by leaving the path of the average and move from marketing to consumers.

4. Brand building is so important for the long term - Peter Field

Short-termism is rising because marketers these days have to meet their short term targets, which results in disinvesting in brands. But we can’t ignore the importance of long-term strategies, even for online brands.

  • If you want to build and drive growth, you need to focus on the long term by using brand building campaigns. Sales activation campaigns are perfect for the short-term because they are rational, not emotional.
  • Emotional campaigns are 2 times more effective and 5 times more efficient than rational campaigns, which drive effect on the short term.
  • Also Mass marketing is essential to long-term growth and generating new customers. Only use tight targeting and Big Data for short term effects.

5. Turn a setback into an opportunity - Marc Herremans

In this session, Marc told his story and believe us, there wasn’t a dry eye in the cartel during his talk. In 2002, Marc wanted to be the next IRONMAN, but during a training he fell heavily resulting in paralysis from the chest down. He was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. But all he could think about, is how lucky he was to be alive.

He decided to finish the bucket list he made before the accident. He started training harder than ever before and reached his goal.

The life lesson he wanted to share is that we can reach our goal if we work had. If he can, we definitely can. And even if we fail, we should embrace and celebrate this. Because it gives us the opportunity to learn, innovate, grow and do better. It’s a step closer to reaching our goal.



The Marketing Congress 2017 was filled with diverse thoughts and stories, but for those paying close attention, a red thread became apparent. It seems that marketers focus on staying on top of all new technologies and tools, while ignoring the greater paradigm shift we’re being faced with. We’re having difficulties letting go of outdated principles and strategies and force all new types of marketing efforts into those models. Rather than adding the new technologies and tools to existing strategies, they should be an incentive to rethink the strategy altogether. Let’s reassess the bigger picture, reconsider human behavior on a deeper level and be strongly aware of the upcoming role-transition between machines and human beings. Acknowledging the new paradigm might just be game-changing.



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