Man speaking to an audience.

Co-Creating with the Market Can Lead to Sustained Customer Engagement: Interview with “The Gathering”

Even if “content marketing is the only marketing we have left”, we still have opportunities to identify and implement best practices. That’s the focus of “The Gathering”, a new and growing event scheduled to hold its second conference in February. Its agenda offers lessons for both content marketers and publishers, particularly those looking to manage relationships with dominant retail platforms.

Benchmarking Cult Brands

Chris Kneeland, CEO of Cult Collective, the event’s organizer, described its purpose plainly: “Everyone knows there’s a marketing problem, but what’s the solution?” To find out, Cult Collective benchmarked a core set of “cult brands”, interviewing their CEOs to better understand what differentiates these brands from their less effective peers.

In Kneeland’s telling, successful firms find ways to “co-create with the market”, fostering and benefiting from sustained customer engagement. As an example, he talked about one of the 2015 participants, Dana White, who is president of UFC, perhaps the fastest-growing sport in North America.

An Executive With 3 Million Followers

A UFC executive, not one of its athletes, White is followed by more than 3 million fans on Twitter. He uses the platform to remain closely connected to his audience. That commitment is paying off: UFC’s “Fight Night” is seen as a primary driver in the growth of FOX Sports 1, a new competitor in sports broadcasting.

Kneeland also pointed to Nintendo, whose competitive strength starts with the enduring popularity of game character Super Mario. Kneeland noted Mario is now the second-most popular fictional character in the world. That brand strength has helped Nintendo negotiate effectively with dominant platform providers like Sony’s Playstation and Microsoft’s Xbox. 

The Canadian Rockies

“The Gathering” takes place February 18 – 20 in Banff, Alberta, a couple of hours outside Calgary in the Canadian Rockies. Kneeland noted that the absence of distractions in mid-winter Banff is certainly a plus, as it helps promote the kind of engagement and “co-creation” they feel the best brands foster.

As was the case in 2014, the meeting will feature nine honorees and a comparable number of featured brands. The full list includes senior executives from (American) football’s Dallas Cowboys, Disney Channel, Canadian restaurant chain Tim Horton’s and retailer Old Navy.

According to Kneeland, tickets are available at a discount through January 9. After that date, a higher rate applies, with attendance this year limited to the first 500 participants. The agenda continues to be developed, with new speakers expected to be named shortly.

Both publishing and content marketing can at times feel fairly insular. The success of a brand like Nintendo, competing in a world dominated by Sony and Microsoft, might be instructive for content producers struggling to make sense of a world in which Amazon, Apple and Google fill the room.

A bit of disclosure: I was made aware of this event by a member of the staff at Cult Collective. The company was helpful in arranging a time for me to speak with Chris Kneeland to obtain the information presented here. I have no commercial relationship with Cult Collective or “The Gathering”.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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