In reimagining their curriculum for the 14th annual THE Marketing Event (TME), SMPS New York breathed fresh life into their tried-and-tested formula for the one-day professional symposium. While keeping the structure of the event the same – with opening and closing keynotes sandwiching pairs of overlapping sessions in breakout rooms – the organization’s November 2 conference opened the program up to a wider variety of speakers and attendees by embracing the overarching topic of communications and the way it impacts creative professionals throughout the AEC industries.

Three distinct topics were woven in and out of the day’s workshops: the visual narrative (communicating through photos, video, and graphics), big data (harnessing analytics created by online platforms to provide new business insights), and digital media (storytelling through the constantly evolving world of social media and websites).

Tamsen Webster kicked off the day by helping attendees identify their own and their company’s Red Thread. Webster, a 20-year marketing professional and former TEDx Executive Producer, used the story of Ancient Greece’s Theseus and The Minotaur to explain that it wasn’t enough to bring a weapon to slay the Minotaur; he also needed a Red Thread to find his way back out of the labyrinth and complete his mission.

Similarly, she explained, it’s not enough for marketing communications professionals to drive clients to take a solitary favorable action. You need to “create the conditions for them to come to the same conclusion you did in your own mind.” This is done by identifying their goal, pinpointing the problem preventing you from accomplishing it, finding a universal truth that everyone can be on board with, and finally instituting high-level change that leads to performance.

“The best keynote speaker in many years!” said Martha Huguet, director of marketing at Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers and co-chair of the chapter Mentorship Program.

The change in approach to TME 2018 was immediately evident in the first pair of breakout sessions. In one room, Maria van Vlodrop walked us through her inspiration and process of developing the successful MvVO Art | Ad Art Show. The show was curated thoughtfully to shine a light on the communicative and artistic merits of modern artists with roots in advertising similar to predecessors like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jasper Johns.

Meanwhile, in the neighboring room, Dee Schlotter of PPG Paints led a discussion on Frank Lloyd Wright’s use of design and color as a visual communication medium, catching the attention of all the architectural marketers in attendance like moths to a flame.

The balance of visual, data, and digital content continued throughout the day as Tim Asimos of Circle S Studio spoke about how analytics are wonderful, but creatives need to connect those dots and tell a story to maximize the impact of their marketing. Chris Calori and Jessica Schrader of Entro | CVEDesign established a guiding framework for proposal coordinators and visual designers by explaining, “consistent, well-designed branding, like a clean shirt, strengthens, shapes, focuses, and reinforces your firm’s narrative.” Samantha Stone of The Marketing Advisory Network introduced the wealth of opportunity and benefit that is beginning to surround us with Artificial Intelligence (AI), while also cautioning us to the perils that can come from misuse. “AI has the potential to scale authentically in a way rule-based automation cannot. [We cannot let it] simply mimic human behavior. It should elevate interactions to the BEST human behavior.” These are just some examples of the many outstanding speakers from the day’s full agenda.

“I loved it,” Taylor Arias, a marketing coordinator at Dewberry told TME Director Ingrid Sletten. “I lived for all of the graphic design talk. It was a good refresher for me coming with my graphic design background.”

If TME was a martini comprised of message, visual strategy, and stirred with personality and honesty (as Caroline Noirjean of Grimshaw explained with Tami Hausman and photographer Brad Feinknopf in their session on visual imagery), then Dean Shaw was the all-important olive. Shaw, who manages customer experience analytics for SAS, loosened an inspired – though, at this point, weary – crowd with an opening salvo of marketing-gone-wrong images. The laughter awoke the audience in time to deliver a message that reinforced an underlying but essential part of the day’s message: customers don’t, ultimately, care about your marketing goals. A great story, on the other hand, will inspire them and make a lasting impression.

Check out our photo gallery from TME 2018 here!