#REACH2014 – REACHtalks


The second day of REACH saw the much-awaited series of REACHtalks,  a set of TED-talk style presentations by five of our speakers.


Our first REACHtalk was by Thomas Butta, CMO of Appnexus. The topic of his presentation was ‘Noise – how to rise above it’.  He spoke of his experience at AppNexus, a technology company that seeks to create software, and enable buyers and sellers of advertising to find each other, and focus in on their target audience. He then zoned in on five ways for people to rise above the noise that surrounds the marketing industry today in order to key in on their goals – Give, surprise, truth, clarity, and invest. By amalgamating all of these, it is possible to reach the place where all marketers dream of being – acting as a trusted guide, and cancelling out the noise that surrounds us today.


Next up was Albe Zakes, Global VP of Communications for TerraCycle. He introduced TerraCycle, a company that engages in ‘upcycling’ – how to reuse materials and products that are not usually recycled. TerraCycle is founded on the motto that garbage does not exist in nature, and that it “exists on earth because we humans exist on earth”. The company was founded by Tom Szaky, who dropped out of Princeton in his freshman year to pursue his idea of recycling using vermicompost. Less than 15 years later, TerraCycle is functioning in over 20 countries, reusing billions of pieces of garbage that would otherwise go to landfills, and donating millions of dollars to the schools and non-profits that help them in their endeavors. Mr. Zakes shared a few aspects of his hugely successful PR campaign at TerraCycle, which reaches millions of people, without having ever paid for a single advertisement. Through strategic partnerships, and results generated through grassroots efforts, Mr. Zakes elucidated how companies can impact vast audiences with the story they tell.

The third talk was by Jane Manfred, Associate Vice President of Software Engineering and Operations at Marketing Evolution. Her talk was full of catchy buzzwords. These words and phrases: “real time”, “agile”, “one-to-one” carried with them all of the vivacity of advertising. Manfred then went on to talk about uncomplex strategies that can be employed in order to improve advertising strategy. “You don’t need big changes to make a difference in the final product.” You have to be able to effectively use your data and technology outlets to make sure you know what’s going and how your media performs. You also need to make sure that you’re flexible, to adapt with the market. Manfred also reminded us that it’s too late to “check your food after it’s cooked”. By this she meant to beware of set it and forget it marketing. It is crucial to align your impact profile with the correct target audience and to constantly adapt your media to this dynamic demographic. Furthermore, while software and algorithms are useful in defining success, there remains a human element that cannot be separated from marketing.

David Levit, founder of RunwayStop, came next . David graduated from Princeton in 2010 and worked a short stint in investment banking, before hitting upon the problem he wanted to solve through his startup – how to help people dress better at an affordable rate, and also navigate the shopping process better in general. He raised three basic questions that every entrepreneur needs to answer for their startup . First, what real-life problem does your startup solve, and why do people need this problem solved? Second, who is your target audience, and among this, who are your early adopters (people who really need the solution you offer)? Finally, how are you going to make sure your solution reaches your audience, and how do you achieve this with minimal marketing resources. Mr. Levit then presented how RunwayStop addressed each of these issues.

“What are you doing at Princeton?” David Dunne, founder and CEO of Velocidi asked as he began his presentation, and the final REACHtalk. There were jitters as the answer flickered up on the board. “Turns out you’re studying,” he said with a smile. This was just one example of the pitfalls that come form depending solely on machines for answers. There is only so much a machine can do. Dunne, the founder of Velocidi, hails from Dublin, Ireland, but his life journey took him to NY, where he became involved in the restaurant business. Dunne found that he loved the restaurant business, because unlike the retail trade in which any interaction was limited to dealing with customer problems, the restaurant business thrived on interaction. After discovering his passion, Dunne went on to open twenty-seven restaurants in the UK for two different companies. His own love for the restaurant business, was just one of many examples Dunne gave that stressed the importance of connecting and collaborating with the consumer- a skill which without a doubt is absolutely invaluable in the marketing industry.

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