You might have read my blog post last month about why you should attend this year’s MARKETING Forum in New York. The event is just around the corner, and I’m looking forward to all the sessions we have in store that will help marketers learn to deliver brand promise in every customer touchpoint.

I recently caught up with a few of our guest speakers to chat about their sessions, their brand strategies when it comes to innovation and personalization, and how leading their organizations with a customer-obsessed mindset has brought them success.

Be sure to check out The Next Wave: Age of the Customer sessions that will close out the event on Wednesday afternoon, which will feature talks from Anna Fieler, EVP of marketing at POPSUGAR Inc. and Michael Medenhall, CMO at Flex.  

I hope to see you at the Hilton Midtown next week – register here! In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek of what to expect at the Forum.

Q: Personalization is one of POPSUGAR’s core strategic pillars. Can you explain how you create personalized experiences for your customer base? Some make a distinction between "personalization" and "individualization" — what do those terms mean to you?

Anna Fieler, POPSUGAR: At POPSUGAR we don’t make a distinction terminology-wise, butyou could say that we practice both “personalization” and “individualization.” On the content side of our media business, we create and serve content that is personalized to our customers’ passion point(s) and identities, so you might call that “personalization.” But with our commerce business ShopStyle, we take it a step further and serve up individualized messages and offers based on behavioral and transactional data we have gathered about our customers. For example, we may serve up a sale alert of an item that the customer is interested in when an item the customer has favorite has gone on sale, or we might go a step further to serve up offers on similar items based on brand preferences that we think our customers would be interested in based on both explicit and implicit data so that the messages are truly individualized to the customer.

Q: Fostering and managing innovation would seem to be a key strategic imperative for Flex. In the relationship with your clients and partners, who drives the direction and pace of innovation? How does Flex organize to both foster its own innovation while simultaneously responding to the innovative ideas of your clients?

Michael Medenhall, Flex: Most customers and partners come to us because they want help with innovation and want to improve their speed to market. We have 23 design and engineering centers around the world where we collaborate with our customers and partners, providing innovation services at any stage of the product lifecycle and, ultimately, providing a competitive advantage. In addition to fostering our own internal innovation processes, we collaborate with our customers, research and academic institutions, suppliers, and others. 

Q: Marketers are increasingly being told that they are in a war for "attention." If that's true, what metrics should marketers use to tell whether they are winning or losing? Is the war for attention a zero-sum game? 

Anna Fieler, POPSUGAR: It’s true that we are in a war for “attention,” and the battle will get more fierce with the rising generation. Gen Z’s have an average attention span of eight seconds, down from 12 seconds — but the war chest of how we get their attention has also dramatically changed. People are increasingly spending more time on their mobile devices, and we know that traditional interruptive marketing such as banner ads isn’t effective there. That said, I don’t believe that it’s a zero-sum game; I actually believe that there are more opportunities for brands to engage via content marketing, as that’s what consumers are doing on their phones: consuming content. In this framework, I think top funnel metrics such as “impressions” and “reach” are less relevant than mid/bottom funnel metrics such as engagement and actual transactions.   

Q: How do you keep your core business/programs going while you're trying new things?

Michael Medenhall, Flex: I think that's not just a question for marketers, but a question for businesses in general, in a world of shorter product life cycles and compressed innovation cycles. As velocity becomes more important in competing, visibility into the process becomes more challenging — even as it becomes more critical. At Flex, one of the tools we use is Elementum’s software-based real-time mobile collaboration tool for managing global supply chains. It can be accessed through any computer, tablet or smart phone, and serves as a platform for collaboration between multiple users. This helps greatly in addressing the visibility-into-velocity issue. I would add that I think any marketer would agree that agility is critical. Without agility, you cannot be opportunistic, or pivot on an idea or engagement that presents itself in real time.

Check back soon for my next post of this guest Q&A series, where I’ll share insight from EVP/CMO of Nestlé Waters.