Now in its fourth year, Brand Innovators has created a unique and effective strategy to reach and teach brand marketing professionals in cities around the country. The company, created by Brandon Gutman and Mark Sternberg in 2011, produces about 50 one-day “Brand Innovators Summits” each year focused on topics such as content marketing, luxury brands, mobile and millennials, and big data. But rather than hold the events in conference centers or hotel meeting rooms, the company partners with big brands like Wells Fargo, Arby’s, Facebook, Williams-Sonoma, Salesforce, and Western Union to host the summits at their corporate offices.
“It’s a major brand wrapping its arms around this thought leadership. They bring their name and their brand cache to it, and the host brand tends to lend a lot of their senior executives to the event,” said Ted Rubin, acting chief marketing officer for Brand Innovators. “Brand marketers tend to love to visit other brands. It’s a great learning experience.” In addition to speakers from the host brand, other brands provide presenters for each summit. For example, a content marketing event in July at Arby’s also included speakers from InterContinental hotels, Carnival Cruise Lines, Porsche Cars North America, and the Coca-Cola Company.
Brand marketers attend the events for free and are considered “members” of the Brand Innovators community. The vibe at the summits is intentionally casual—attendees are free to step in and out as needed to get work done—and focused on relationship building as much as education. “To know people from other industries and other companies, that’s really important these days,” Rubin said. “It’s nice to have your LinkedIn connections, but then you can take it to the next level to meet these people face-to-face on a regular basis. You wouldn’t believe the amount of hugging that goes on at these events.”