Marketing Lessons from TEDx Midwest

Last month the TEDx Midwest conference was held here in Chicago. For those of you unfamiliar with this organization and its TED Talks, TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. The central theme across these topics is “Ideas Worth Spreading”. TED Talks, the cornerstone of the organization, are typically 18-minute presentations by notable experts in different fields that include science, business, the arts, and global issues. You can learn more about TED and see over 900 TED Talk videos absolutely free on their website:

TEDx Midwest was an affiliated day and a half long event that featured 24 speakers as well as performances by the likes of Redmoon Theatre Company and the band ZZAJE. As a small business owner, attending events like TED can help you stay fresh and innovative because it provides exposure to new ideas and new ways of thinking.

If you’re interested, you can see the event’s complete agenda here. It included speakers like Wes Craven talking about the nature of fear and Dean Kamen on innovation.

While the event itself was not marketing-related, many of the speakers’ insights had applications to marketing-related topics like planning, cultivating creativity, and fostering consumer behaviors. Here are some speaker highlights and my related marketing takeaways:

  • Alison Levine is an extreme mountaineer who climbed the Seven Summits and completed the Adventure Grand Slam (Seven Summits plus skiing to both poles). She led the first American successful women’s Mt. Everest expedition. Her featured talk was: Lessons From The Ledge.
    • Key Insight: Always have a plan, including your go/no go criteria
    • Marketing Lesson: While marketing is a far cry from summiting the world’s most dangerous
      peak, marketing spending is typically a big deal for any brand/company and no
      one wants to waste that money. When it comes to spending your marketing dollars,
      having a plan that includes key success criteria/metrics is critical for
      ensuring that you spend your budget as wisely as possible
    • You can see some of Allison’s wisdom and get a sense of her energy by watching this video
  • Tony Schwartz is the Founder/CEO of The Energy Project, a Human Potential Coach and the author of What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America, as well as other books. His featured talk was: The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working
    • Key Insight: It is a myth that Creativity is a magical and unattainable genetic trait.
      The reality is that Creativity can be learned and it emerges from whole brain
    • Marketing Lesson: Enhancing a team’s creativity can increase problem solving abilities
    • Learn more about unlocking creativity from a terrific recent article in the Wall Street Journal about how IDEO unleashes creativity in people who don’t consider themselves to be creative. Read the article here
  • Deb Fallows is the author of Dreaming in Chinese. Her talk was The Linguistic Genius of Adults and focused on the importance of understanding your customer in order to accomplish your goals.
    • Key Insight: The Fun Theory: Creating fun can change behavior
    • Marketing
      Lesson: If you want people to do something different, align it with something
      they like to do, like having fun
    • See her great example of The Fun Theory and using fun to change consumer behavior with the Bottle Bank Arcade here
    • Learn more about Deb and hear her speak in an NPR interview about her book here