On Thursday and Friday last week I participated in Forrester's Consumer Marketing Forum EMEA 2008. I found it to be a truly inspiring event.

On Thursday I attended some of the general sessions. And on Friday, I had the honor of moderating an afternoon track, focusing entirely on Customer Experience topics. It was awesome.

Here are a few of my impressions from the general sessions. Tomorrow I'll blog about the Customer Experience track.

>> Jaap Favier (Forrester – Research Director)

Kicking off the event, Jaap spoke about overcoming the challenges to marketers in the economic downturn. We (marketers) are among the least trusted people in the world – at the bottom of consumers list of trusted professions with lawyers. (If you want to get to the top, you'd better become a doctor, a teacher or a fireman). In the 1930s, P&G started to exploit new media (radio) to deliver content that customers wanted to hear – soap operas. Now we need to thrive in a world of Web2.0 media.

Since nobody loves us… we'd better stop talking at them and start facilitating conversations that they can trust.

What did he say?: Run a bar. (Be the place that your customers gather and socialize. Facilitate the community).

What should I do about it?: Buy Jaap a beer.

>> John Micklethwait (Editor In Chief – The Economist)

Our first guest speaker — I was impressed and terrified in equal measures by John Micklethwait's presentation on "The New Politics Of The World Economy". John Micklethwait is the Editor in Chief of The Economist… He paints a compelling and rather scary picture of what the future holds. I was impressed by his understanding of the challenges facing Asia (particularly China and Japan).

What did he say?: "Provocative paranoia is a good way to look at the world"

What should I do about it?: Learn Chinese.

>> James McQuivey (Forrester – Principal Analyst)

James introduced a major theme for the event – The four fundamental needs of consumers. Regardless of the progress of technology, people share four fundamental needs. They are:

– Connection

– Uniqueness

– Comfort

– Variety

Your product or service offers benefits to customers – but barriers to adoption. (Try getting an old dog to learn new tricks. Now try it with a few doggy treats at hand). Convenience = barriers – benefits.

What did he say?: People share a set of universal needs — satisfy those needs with convenience and you will win.

What should I do about it?: Buy Jaap a beer. And get ready for a new stream of research from Forrester. We’re developing Need Profiles for clients. 

We’ll report how Need Profiles vary — especially in an era of economic uncertainty. You’ll know which needs to be on the lookout for.

>> Marc Sands (Director of Marketing, The Grauniad)

Marc talked about the Guardian's strategy to move away from the old newspaper model (experts who come down from the mountain to give the news to an adoring public). These days you can expect to find little pieces of Guardian content in all kinds of places on the internet – and the readers are free to challenge and discuss the content on the Guardian site. It's a two-way street. But we're not yet at a stage where the public is fully engaged in the creation of the story. That's coming soon…

READ ALL ABOUT IT on James McQuivey's blog.

What did he say?: We media companies havee to give up control of the content

What should I do about it?: Be the facilitator for the omni-directional discussion between peers, professional journalists and niche topic experts. Be the validator and auditor for new ideas in this maelstrom.

Visit again soon – I'll be posting some highlights from the Customer Experience track.