On Sunday November 6, over 350 people flocked to the Harvard Business School campus to attend the Marketing Innovation Conference. This year’s theme, “Marketing Reimagined”, drew a wide range of attendees from top marketing professionals to students from 15+ MBA programs, and as far away as California. The conference was hosted by HBS’s Marketing Club and was sponsored by Procter & Gamble, The Boston Consulting Group, H-E-B, ABInBev, American Express, General Mills, Ibotta, and Samsung.

“The energy on campus was remarkable. Everyone who came had a positive reaction to not only to the content provided, but also the people they met. With a fantastic line-up of speakers and students and professionals in attendance from across the nation, our conference continues to be a great platform for aspiring and established marketers,” said Aparajita Kapoor ’17, one of the conference’s two co-chairs.

The day kicked off with a unique keynote. Five executives from successful startups took the stage to answer questions like “How do you acquire new customers & scale a brand while operating without a physical footprint?” or “How do you build an organization from the ground up?” Many memorable take-a-ways came out of the session. For example, Matt Taylor, CEO of Tracksmith and Becca Freeman of LOLA shared the power of earned media for early-stage startups. Several of the panelists also addressed paid media; efforts can be successful but close monitoring of acquisition costs is crucial.

A highlight of the conference was the wide range of panels available. Each featured up to five industry experts speaking on a wide range of topics. A common theme across the panels was the rise of digital marketing and its impact on the industry. In one popular panel, Spotlight on Digital Marketing: Decoding the Buzz Word, panelists argued that the discipline cannot be separated out as “digital marketing” anymore, rather all marketing must succeed in an increasingly digital world. Digital consideration spans across everything marketers do. This concept was reiterated in several other panels, including those focused on health care, consumer packaged goods, media and advertising.

During the afternoon keynote, Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer of P&G discussed the future of advertising. Brands, he said, have the power to affect meaningful social change. P&G’s #LikeAGirl campaign by Always, promotes girls’ confidence, which is shown to drop during puberty. He also stressed the importance of focus – it’s better, he said, to create fewer, highly-effective campaigns instead of trying to do too much, and not doing it well.

On Saturday, the conference featured a brand new case competition. Twenty-two teams from over 15 MBA programs competed for a grand prize of $2,500 plus bragging rights. The top two teams, Michigan’s Ross School of Business and Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, presented in front of an audience of over 200 people on Sunday. A panel of experts, including HBS Marketing Professor Ayelet Israeli, judged the finalists. In the end, Ross came out on top. They provided a thoughtful recommendation for Chateau Margaux, the wine manufacturer featured in the case, to open pop-up shops in major cities.

“We are so excited that our first Marketing case competition drew so much interest from other MBA schools. The Marketing Club is looking forward to building upon this momentum and making this an annual event in future years,” said Vicky Au, the other conference co-chair.

The conference ended with a prize distribution for the case competition winners and runners-up, followed by a short closing note thanking the organizing team and the attendees for the resounding success of the conference. Everyone left with a bag full of goodies & a positive feeling about opportunities for innovation in marketing.

Emily Scofield is the Director of Social Media and Outreach for the Marketing Club. Partner with the Marketing Club directly or connect with over 50 career-related student clubs.