The CMO Show:
Renee Gangemi on TEDxSydney marketing

Renee Gangemi, Head of Marketing at TEDxSydney, talks to host Mark Jones about how the idea platform approaches event and content marketing.

What does it take to market a brand that exists to “create and foster a sense of community” around an event, and “provide a cultural focus and impetus for conversation and debate”?

“Every part of the business needs to understand storytelling,” says Renee Gangemi, Head of Marketing at TEDxSydney.

Renee leads the event and content marketing efforts of “the leading platform and pipeline for the propagation of Australian ideas, creativity, innovation and culture to the rest of the world”.

With over 9 years’ experience in consumer and B2B marketing working for brands including Marie Claire and Vogue, Renee understands the importance of being able to articulate ideas effectively in order to bring them to life.

“Tapping into the heart and tapping into the head,” she says. “We’ve got people that come [to TEDxSydney] from a personal perspective, and people that come from a work and career and further education perspective”.

“So our marketing almost needs to talk to both of those things. Either at the same time or separate parts of creative and campaign.”

Renee’s role requires her to take an audience on a journey by curating a just right line-up of speakers who aim to motivate and inspire.

“Every part of the business needs to understand storytelling and how to bring someone along that journey in order to be able to help them see the end point because you can’t just say the end point and hope somebody understands where you’ve come from,” she says.

How does Renee ensure that she fosters relationships within the TEDxSydney customer community? By rewarding brand loyalty.

“Marketing starts with communications about the brand at any point in time throughout every day and month,” she says. “We want to ensure that we’ve got a positioning, that we’ve got a connection with our audience, that we’re getting that engagement, and so then when it comes to ticket sales and main event we’re not just asking for that dollar. They’ve bought in the whole way through.”

“When it comes to a flagship event we go out with an earlybird release for closed members and we offer it as a bonus to those who have been loyal.”

Tune in to this episode of The CMO Show to find out how TEDxSydney approaches event and content marketing, and why Renee likens storytelling to mathematics.

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The CMO Show production team

Producer – Charlotte Goodwin & Natalie Cupac

Audio Engineers – Daniel Marr & Tom Henderson

Got an idea for an upcoming episode or want to be a guest on The CMO Show? We’d love to hear from you: cmoshow@filteredmedia.com.au.

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Transcript

Host: Mark Jones

Guest: Renee Gangemi

Mark Jones: Arguably one of the most popular dictum’s in marketing is Simon Sinek’s why, what and how. my question today is have you interrogated your why? Why do you exist? What’s the purpose of your work? Why does your brand and company do the things it does? How well and how deeply have you interrogated your why?

Mark Jones: Thanks for joining us on the CMO Show. Mark Jones is my name and I am really excited to introduce to you Renee Gangemi,  Head of Marketing at TEDxSydney. 

Mark Jones: If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to market an event that markets ideas well then you’re in the right place because we cover a lot of ground in this interview. We talk about B2B, B2C, competition. Did you know that TEDx has competition?

Mark Jones: Hold onto your seats or your steering wheel or the dishes or whatever you’re doing right now and have a listen to my interview with Renee. 

Mark Jones: So Renee thank you so much for being our guest on the show today.

Mark Jones: Now I have a lot of questions as many people do about TED and TEDx but before we get to that let’s understand a bit about youself. Now, you’ve got an interesting background in marketing and agency life and actually Vogue and InStyle and mostly I’m interested in what makes you tick? What’s been your interest?

Renee Gangemi: Hugely driven by passion. Was in Uni, completely obsessed with magazines, publication and non for profits. In university they were what my assignments was on. I then emailed and wrote letters to all the publishing houses about getting an internship. Finally, Marie Claire answered and I had an internship in my last year of university and they actually asked me to then stay on. And I had one more semester and they asked me to stay on for a full time role and I declined it and said “Look I’m sorry, I’ve got one semester left. I can’t not see it out.” And they said “We’ll work around you.” And so for my last semester of Uni did full time work and full time Uni and then started my career at Marie Claire. Moved into InStyle magazine and Men’s Health and Women’s Health at Seven West Media Group, went over to News, took on Vogue, GQ Lifestyle portfolio which was an awesome playground to learn in. And then I was always just looking at new technology, new things.

Renee Gangemi: I have husband who was very excited about all tech start ups and we were always talking about them and always wanting to push the envelope a little bit. With publishing, how it was, it was a bit of risky time. They were trying new things but not as much and so I went to a tech start up after that and that was not quite my jam, the exact start up, and didn’t love it as much as I thought I would and took some-

Mark Jones: But it’s a start up.

Renee Gangemi: I know but it was-

Mark Jones: It’s supposed to be vibey.

Renee Gangemi: It was not vibey.

Mark Jones: Okay.

Renee Gangemi: It was not the vibiest of vibes.

Mark Jones: Okay. Turns out they’re engineers.

Renee Gangemi: Yeah. Just not quite as creative as I’d kind of come from background.

Renee Gangemi: And then went into starting my own consulting and then fell into TED and have loved that and been consulting on the side as well.

Mark Jones: And just to clarify these have all been marketing roles?

Renee Gangemi: All marketing roles.

Mark Jones: Yeah okay.

Renee Gangemi: So yeah, started off as junior burger in marketing and sat on the fence of marketing and ads and then went way more into the marketing side of things and studied marketing and PR.

Mark Jones: So what have you learnt about brands from the Vogues and the InSyles? What have you learnt about what makes a good brand? 

Renee Gangemi: I think it’s been really interesting for me. I think if you look at the career of… the roles and brands that I’ve been… I’ve worked on brands that have got a real heritage behind them or they’ve got a large international influence that drives the brand. And I think I’ve learnt a lot about building a brand and what makes a brand really strong and I learnt that from early days at Marie Claire. It was and still is a very well oiled machine that really knows what it stands for. Then the same with InStyle and I think then as I went on in my career and the industries were changing it was interesting to see how those brands were being perceived and what needed to be done to re-inject life into it… reasserts that brand authority but also come up with innovative or new ways to connect with audiences and essentially how to have that product offering slightly change in order with what the audience wanted and how the market was going.

Renee Gangemi: So I think I’ve always been quite strong on the brand side of things and then it’s been really interesting to see this new wave of how digital has evolved. And how digital roles have evolved. And I always find it quite interesting when someone just has a digital marketing role opposed to not a brand team as well because I think very much they play into each other.

Renee Gangemi: I think that you need an overarching brand to then run a strategy and they all need to feed into the higher brand piece to ensure they all work together.

Renee Gangemi: Because if you’re just one pillar and you’re just one part of it they just don’t all work in as well together and the strength isn’t there.

Mark Jones: Sound like you’re of the view that digital marketing per se will just become marketing?

Renee Gangemi: I think it feeds into a marketing role. I just don’t think as a stand alone, the brand can just survive on just a digital marketer.

Mark Jones: Yeah.

Renee Gangemi: But again it comes back to a holistic approach and understanding all aspects of it and then how they all work in together.

Mark Jones: So then let’s go to TEDx.

Mark Jones: And TEDxSydney in particular. What’s unique about your flavour of the TED brand. Give people a sense of…

Renee Gangemi: I’ll start off by saying it’s not Tooheys Extra Dry which some people think it’s what it stands for.

Mark Jones: Ooh I did not know that!

Renee Gangemi: No it’s not.

Mark Jones: Tooheys Extra Dry. That’s such a-

Renee Gangemi: TED talks.

Mark Jones: Right.

Renee Gangemi: And it stands for technology, entertainment and design TED exists globally and TEDx denotes it’s a TED in your local city around the world. So many exist all around the world, thousands in fact. But we’re one of the biggest five TEDxs in the world. Our events have evolved over ten years. We were one of the first locations around the world to start a TEDx due to the relationship with our founder and the international branch and therefore I think we had really strong values from the very beginning of how to build a TED to be what it is today because there were the links from the international one and there was that aspiration to be able to provide that ideas platform to specifically a Sydney audience.

Renee Gangemi: I think we’ve evolved the financial model of how ticketing has worked, the types of locations that we’ve held the events in, the types of people that we’ve got, the types of reach we’ve then received and it was at a time where there weren’t a lot of things like that on the market on offer.

Mark Jones: So how long ago was this that TEDx started in Sydney?

Renee Gangemi: This year’s ten years for TEDxSydney.

Mark Jones: Okay.

Renee Gangemi: So we’ve hit the big decade.

Mark Jones: Yeah.

Renee Gangemi: And it’s been really interesting this last year especially really looking back on a retrospective of where we’ve come from and how we’ve got to where we have today. Often when we meet up with other TEDxs around the world we’re asked to give more insights into how we’ve grown because we are much larger than some of the others and a lot of them are that local community, 100 or so people I think it was the Opera House location really built that up because it was iconic and then it drew many more eyes to it and I think part of that’s been timing and people.

Mark Jones: So that’s your main location, the Opera House?

Renee Gangemi: That was. We’re now at the ICC Sydney.

Mark Jones: Okay so you’ve outgrown-

Renee Gangemi: We’ve outgrown.

Mark Jones: …the Opera House.

Renee Gangemi: And it was really interesting. It-

Mark Jones: Mic drop, walk off.

Renee Gangemi: It was really interesting because it was a very different model when we were at the Opera House.

Renee Gangemi: The model was an application process. So it was a very… and it was a smaller venue. About two and half thousand people.

Renee Gangemi: But you needed to apply to attend and it was reviewed and then you were accepted or not based on your application.

Mark Jones: To come and…

Renee Gangemi: Attend.

Mark Jones: Attend.

Mark Jones: So okay I didn’t know that and one of my questions here was actually about is TED elitist?

Renee Gangemi: Well-

Mark Jones: You know this is one of the myths about TED.

Renee Gangemi: Yes.

Mark Jones: Because it’s such an incredibly powerful brand and a platform for sharing ideas. The question’s always about how do you get to be on the main stage? Says he who is a public speaker by the way.

Renee Gangemi: I’ll let curation know.

Mark Jones: Right. Wow I didn’t know the audience was curated.

Renee Gangemi: The audience was curated.

Mark Jones: Now how and why?

Renee Gangemi: It was little bit before my time but it was an application process to connect like minded people and there was such an influx of how many people wanted to come versus how many seats there were. And it was about insuring that they were in line with what the brand represented. And I think to move away from that elitist or any of those kind of words of being exclusive and being more community focused and accessible we moved to bigger venue where we could accommodate more attendees and people.

Renee Gangemi: It gave us the ability to have a bigger community network and remove that barrier and I think that really changed the game.

Mark Jones: But I’m still stuck on how you would filter people. I don’t want to get to hung up on it but what was the filter? Because the reason I ask is that you’re talking about this alignment with a brand.

Mark Jones: Are you expecting the audience to participate in some way. You know the way they share content, the types of questions they ask hypothetically. 

Renee Gangemi: The questions… and again it was a little bit before my time at TEDxSydney.

Mark Jones: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Renee Gangemi: And so the questions were very much about the individual. And it was about… when you said did you want them to engage, we wanted them to engage really deeply with one another and have a curated audience that were extremely connected and I don’t want to say like minded because it’s not about getting everyone that had the same view or thought.

Mark Jones: Yeah world view yeah.

Renee Gangemi: It was almost actually the opposite of that and ensuring that we had a diverse range of attendees based on how they would answer the questions, how their train of thought worked and that style.

Mark Jones: Yeah okay. So I’m very happy to hear about the all in… I’m an inclusive personality so I see a seat, perfect, buy a ticket, come on in.

Renee Gangemi: Yes absolutely.

Mark Jones: Now let’s go to this concept of marketing an event that ostensibly markets ideas. It’s quite meta if you think about it right?

Renee Gangemi: It is.

Mark Jones: And I think of marketers in the entertainment and story businesses, the meta marketers right? We’re marketing marketing or we’re telling stories about stories.

Renee Gangemi: Yes.

Mark Jones: So give me a sense of your strategy, how you think about extending the brand, making sure that you protect the brand. What’s the approach you bring to this?

Renee Gangemi: It is really interesting because I think traditionally TED was a smaller niche offering that not a lot of people were familiar with and I think over time it has become more mass due to that they teach it in schools now and the brand internationally has become bigger therefore there’s a flow on affect. We have become much more well known. And I think… like I said back when it started it was one of a kind and now we’re in a much more competitive market place. And I am constantly asking myself and the team how are we going to market… that taps into on of two things. Tapping into the heart and tapping into the head. And I think we’ve got people that come from personal perspective and people that come from a work and career and further education perspective.

Mark Jones: Got it.

Renee Gangemi: So our marketing almost needs to talk to both of those things. Either at the same time or separate parts of creative and campaign, talking to different parts of those things. The tricky part is always you’re serving the right piece of content or the right piece of the campaign to the right person at the right time.

Mark Jones: Well isn’t that where you want to grow.

Renee Gangemi: Yes absolutely.

Mark Jones: So where’s the great untapped audience?

Renee Gangemi: Well the great untapped audience is both.

Mark Jones: Okay.

Renee Gangemi: They’re both. We want to grow both. We still want to be in ideas for general interest and creativity.

Renee Gangemi: But also showcase how that kind of learning can be applied to work and career.

Mark Jones: Yeah okay.

Renee Gangemi: The storytelling element is a really interesting one I think whether you’re having a discussion between two friends, colleagues, a boss, you need to bring someone on that journey that’s the storytelling piece. So by teaching that in workshops to employees, at conferences and at corporates, that’s for whole divisions and whole departments. We’re not just talking about marketing and advertising.

Renee Gangemi: Every part of the business needs to understand storytelling and how to bring someone along that journey in order to be able to help them see the end point because you can’t just say the end point and hope somebody understands where you’ve come from.

Renee Gangemi: I guess if you go back to basic maths when you were at school you had to show the working out and again that’s the kind of storytelling. They want to know how you got there 

Mark Jones: Before we go to much further down that path you mentioned competition. Who’s your competition?

Renee Gangemi: TED falls in two buckets. It’s either people that are from like a personal perspective or a work perspective. So if there’s a range of concerts on that month and it could be anything from Vivid ideas to Beyonce when you’re looking at share of pocket you’re actually vying for-

Mark Jones: So it’s entertainment in some regards?

Renee Gangemi: It can be yeah. Or it could be that they are going to do a yoga course that might… it’s share of pocket of what that interest and passion is.

Mark Jones: Right. Personal development.

Renee Gangemi: Yes absolutely. There are other kind of conferences on that do kind of broach on that ideas aspect as well. And then in the corporate space it could be that… say you want to go from an employee rewards and you’re saying “This is the course I’d like to do this year. Or this is the event I’d like to go to.” The story that they then need to tell is back to their team, their manager to get approved to get that budget approved.

Mark Jones: Okay.

Renee Gangemi: And if you’re up against a finance conference and you’ve got TED and you’ve got a networking event with other people in industry-

Mark Jones: Yep.

Renee Gangemi: …the other ones have a more immediate, natural kind of fit direct to that ROI. And it’s about really understanding what they’re going to get from TED and fighting for that share of pocket or share of budget.

Mark Jones: Got it. Let’s get tactical.

Renee Gangemi: Mm-hmm. (affirmative)

Mark Jones: What execution activity is going on and what can we learn from you?

Renee Gangemi: Yeah, so with TEDxSydney we are operating all year round. I think a big mistake that brands and marketers make is they only talk to their audience when they want something. And I think when I came on board I wanted to ensure that we were talking to all of our community all year round. So, we run around 5 to 7 events a year. The big flagship one is the one we’re most well known for at ICC but we do do smaller pitch nights which is like an open night karaoke kind of thing where the community can say their ideas in between 30 seconds and three minutes.

Renee Gangemi: we have the smaller community events. We have our salons which is kind of 3 to 4 hundred people and then we have our flagship events and then we do these corporate workshops throughout the year as well.

Mark Jones: You’re marketing in the sense of ticket sales right?

Renee Gangemi: We are.

Mark Jones: So bums on seats. All of that destination marketing as well.

Renee Gangemi: I think for me yeah marketing starts with communications about the brand at any point in time throughout every day and month.

Mark Jones: Yeah.

Renee Gangemi: Because we want to ensure that we’ve got a positioning, that we’ve got a connection with our audience, that we’re getting that engagement and so then when it comes to ticket sales and main event we’re not just asking for that dollar.

Mark Jones: Yes.

Renee Gangemi: We’re they’ve bought in the whole way through.

Mark Jones: Yep.

Renee Gangemi: So when it comes to a flagship event we go out with an earlybird release for closed members and we offer it as a bonus to those who have been loyal.

Mark Jones: Okay.

Renee Gangemi: We look at doing that maybe six months out and then our marketing comms is very much based around our digital audiences and our out of home partnership.

Mark Jones: Okay.

Renee Gangemi: So we look at going the brand awareness piece and this year just been we went to a partnership with Nova and we looked at that influence from a radio/audio perspective and looking at that awareness piece. But then driving the conversion through the digital. And with that we saw incredible increase in search-

Mark Jones: Yep.

Renee Gangemi: …from our radio campaign and then we look at the digital piece with how can we do the dynamic, content ads, how can we reach the people who are… when we can hear when their listening and talking about events and sharing things with their friends, serving them that content and ads. And not just graphic content, not just campaign creative but article content as well and relevant news, ideas and information. 

Mark Jones: The big brand marketing piece versus not only just this event but the speakers and what’s the difference between the two in terms of effectiveness?

Renee Gangemi: Yeah we try go to very much on a localised campaign up with our individual speakers. So something really tactical that we do is we look at the speaker, we look at their university, we look at their workplace and look at their local hometown. And we look at how we can infiltrate the message through all of those avenues. And when you’ve got 18 speakers and those three avenues, for each speaker, it opens up a whole range. We then go quite deep with the PR aspect down those ones as well.

Renee Gangemi: And then the marketing campaigns on each of the… bringing the faces to those campaigns.

Mark Jones: Yes.

Renee Gangemi: So across social, it’s a lot of art work and it’s a lot of iterations of the campaign but looking at how we can bring that personalised face and without giving away what their speaking about which is the really tricky bit because that’s the secret sauce of TED. We hold back on what their actual idea is until event day.

Mark Jones: Well you might say this person is talking about storytelling-

Renee Gangemi: Yes.

Mark Jones: …but not the secret sauce.

Renee Gangemi: No.

Mark Jones: Right.

Renee Gangemi: So sometimes the individual, it’s obvious what they’re going to talk about but sometimes it isn’t and that’s when it’s harder to market exactly what the individual is going to get from that speaker because we again go very brand heavy on that and that it’s the ideas and what you’re going to get from the day. That thought provoking, inspire, educate, learn

Renee Gangemi: …verse just the individual speaker.

Mark Jones: So you’re at the point now where you don’t need to go to heavy on the brand marketing it’s more about the speaker marketing right?

Renee Gangemi: Yeah so it depends at different times of the campaign.

Mark Jones: Okay.

Renee Gangemi: Because I need to know ahead of time… sometimes their not all locked in an ideal world-

Mark Jones: Yep.

Renee Gangemi: …we have all 18 from the day that we go live and we roll with that.

Mark Jones: Yep.

Renee Gangemi: And sometimes we get ones along the way and that’s when we need to… we can then amp that up better and we need to be much more agile with our approach to that rather than… unlike a festival when you’ve got all of the headline acts locked in and you can live with that. Our kind of proposition is more TED and what you will get from the day and the why to attend. 

Mark Jones: So in many regards, and forgive me for being a bit slow on the uptake, but you are an events business effectively right? Now it’s a meaningful events business. But an events business nonetheless. It’s bums on seats, it’s eyeballs, it’s ticket sales, it’s destination marketing in terms of fly to Sydney and have an incredible experience etc

Renee Gangemi: Absolutely.

Mark Jones: How similar or different do you think you might be from other events organisations because this is a huge sector?

Renee Gangemi: It is a huge sector and I think yes while there’s a large events component the content side of it is incredibly big for us.

Mark Jones: Yeah.

Renee Gangemi: Our content library is all of our own content and all of the videos that we have post each event then has it’s own marketing campaign to push that beyond the people that were just at the event.

Mark Jones: Yeah okay.

Renee Gangemi: So there’s really two sides of it and on event day we’re almost running three mini events. We’ve got the theatre, the hub which we haven’t spoken about 

Mark Jones: What is that?

Renee Gangemi: One of the things that makes us unique is TEDxSydney is a complete integrated activation hub I’m going to call it. We call it the TEDxSydney hub which is very internal-

Mark Jones: Is it experiential or?

Renee Gangemi: Very experiential.

Mark Jones: Right.

Renee Gangemi: So you might be with big AR headset. You might be playing huge putt putt golf. You might be trying insect ice tea. So it’s a sensory overload and that’s what TEDxSydney is about and TED specifically is about. That sensory overload of getting more, more, more, more until you’re like wow I’ve had such an experience of overload that it’s just mind boggling. And that’s the kind of feelings that we’re trying to achieve and evoke by giving that experience. 

Mark Jones: How is that different to an exhibition space at a big conference because, same sort of thing?

Renee Gangemi: It is in essence and I guess if you look it as a blue print you’re like that’s what that space is for. Not being brand heavy in that activation space is where we play in a very different space.

Mark Jones: Well again it’s an idea right? So you’re trying to explore an idea connected to that experience presumably.

Renee Gangemi: Absolutely. And new technologies of how people can see what’s first and what’s new and how it can be integrated in more than a business way.

Mark Jones: Okay. 

Renee Gangemi: The third element is the live stream. So we’re basically running the three events onsite at once. So we’ve got a huge team of over 400 volunteers on that day and our onsite team running all those different components. Back of stage, which is the theatre, this experiential hall of just corners, everywhere you look you want to be involved. And then to extend that reach we look at that live stream piece.

Mark Jones: How much of your thinking is grounded in B2B marketing principles versus a consumer mindset? And the reason why I ask that question is that you’ve talked quite a bit about corporates. Many of our audience people live in the B2B world and I’ve been exploring this idea I think from a marketing point of view. Because we’re seeing… I think a lot of the traditional silos fall away, around what we think works in B2B world. We’re actually learning a lot about psychographics for example, the world views and the values that are actually common to all people as opposed to the archetype business person who thinks like this and does things and responds in a certain way. So what’s your view on the best way to apply some of these traditional B2B techniques or do you just not see that at all?

Renee Gangemi: No I see the B2B and B2C both playing into a TEDxSydney audience which again gets tricky when you’re segmenting, during campaign and understanding how to break down which angles you’re going to go down for which communications.

Mark Jones: Yeah.

Renee Gangemi: I think that the B2B side of it primarily for TEDxSydney comes in… we partner obviously with corporates.

Mark Jones: Yeah.

Renee Gangemi: So there’s a partnership model there for us 

Mark Jones: That’s B2B right? So what do you get for your sponsorship dollar etc? Right.

Renee Gangemi: Yes. So and that’s our partnerships team that will come in and do it and so there’s a part of marketing that that part leans on marketing to assist with how we can build up that brand equity of what that brand gets in return for that.

Mark Jones: Got it.

Renee Gangemi: And they want to ensure that they’ve got other like minded… or they’re hitting the right audience there as well. So comes back for us to data, segmentation, to how we tag that and how our audience is made up in terms of who we want to target, who we want there and making sure we’ve got a nice mix.

Mark Jones: Yep.

Renee Gangemi: So we often run two campaigns for TEDxSydney and we do that B to B layer of marketing. We look at the loyalty space, rewards, member benefit programmes and talking directly into those so that we’ve got a good mix of B2B and B2C and then we have our consumer campaign which is the more social, digital and brand piece.

Mark Jones: So you actually are quite distinct in your approach to the two and I think necessarily so from the sound of that.

Renee Gangemi: Yeah, absolutely and I think that they are appealing to those two audiences. So it’s tapping into that and understanding.

Mark Jones: What’s been your experience with the corporates? What are they looking for from you that they can’t get from other people?

Renee Gangemi: I think there looking for an integration that is authentic yet playful and can communicate their brand in a way that they might not somewhere else. I think when they are integrating at other events or B2B marketing it has to be in a certain confined way and when it’s B2C it’s still driving a direct objective to hit a more tangible, deliverable and whilst they still come to TEDxSydney for that I think we force and encourage them to think in a more creative and playful way as to how they can communicate their brand differently and get the same result.

Mark Jones: Okay.

Renee Gangemi: So we work with them to achieve those objectives, we work them to understand what they are, what they’re hoping to get from it and how we can best deliver that.

Mark Jones: Okay.

Renee Gangemi: So with a particular brand at TEDxSydney this year we had a tax and accounting company that activated and instead of having anything to do with saying that message at their core, they had a line up of very interesting people that exercised skill and knowledge that they then aligned themselves with to show the strength of their brand is more than just a core offering of a product. That they can actually teach, have interesting discussions and their brand has a soul and different side of it to than what they maybe communicate do go out with their hardcore brand campaign.

Mark Jones: Exactly. We want to be seen as having either communicate the personality we do have or maybe change it in some way and it seems like there’s a human aspect to that right? This is a big long conversation but brand personality is a big deal and whether these companies are seeing TED as an opportunity to change that personality or emphasise what they do have. Curious to see what you’re seeing while working with these other marketing managers.

Renee Gangemi: Absolutely and we do see that. It gives them that muscle to flex that is… whether it channels into their corporate social responsibility. It might go into their core values. It might go into what their doing in a not-for-profit or charity space. It might be what their focus and goal is that year around collaboration and they get to exercise that muscle and strengthen that and actually showcase it in an activation that has a high touch point of 5000 plus people and then beyond that from a social and digital perspective to be able to amplify and create content from that single day event.

Mark Jones: I’m quite fascinated by this idea of excellence because in marketing it’s not just the execution that has to be excellence but it actually has to be really well connected to a creative idea that elicits an emotional response from an audience. It’s the power of creativity and the power of a creative idea expressed through a very short, sharp message that hooks people into I want to know more. How much are you weighted towards that creative side versus the data which says we need get these particular people on board?

Renee Gangemi: Yeah from a creative brand perspective it’s funny because everyone has come from being on TED for a different amount of time or having a different perspective of what TED should be or where TED should go.

Renee Gangemi: I come at it from a data and industry perspective and other people come at it from much more a heart perspective of what to them the brand stands for. And so we got into these really meaty discussions about what the copy should be on the ad creative and the brand campaign.

Mark Jones: Yeah, yeah.

Renee Gangemi: And what part people’s… what part that should feed into? Do we go down the road of what feelings it should elicit when you see that, what emotional connection, what the ROI is for someone to attend in terms of what will I get out of it. Or do we go down the pillars angle of is it technology, is it science that I’m going to get out of the day, is it am I going to become a better boss, manager. And so going down this road I think it’s the why. I think when you look at a poster, an ad, a piece of content, I think the storytelling piece, you want to really understand the why. Why is that brand holding that event, why do I want to go, why should I care and I think there’s going to be different messages that feed into different people’s psyche about what the why. But I think if you can showcase the brands core values in that why and really get someone to understand that piece then they buy into that.

Renee Gangemi: You’ll have your loyalists that come because they know TED and they love it TED and they know it’s always going to deliver what it has from an inspirational and aspirational perspective of just being inspired for that day. There’s other people that will come because they’ve seen a certain speaker and there’s spark, a certain interest. And then there’s the brand piece that I’m coming because TED will deliver X and that’s a new experience that I have not experienced and I want to be a part of that and I want to be a part of that community or a part of that change, that movement and bringing them in on that.

Mark Jones: for aspiring TEDx speakers how do they get to TED? Do you have to be like Bill Gates or?

Renee Gangemi: How do you get to TED? It’s simple, you need a good idea. It’s not about being a great speaker or having a presentation or having just a story that you want to tell.

Mark Jones: Yeah.

Renee Gangemi: TED is this very specific style of presenting and it’s core is it needs to be an idea.

Mark Jones: Yeah okay.

Renee Gangemi: And I think people forget that. I think people pitch what they want to talk about all the time.

Mark Jones: Yeah and always start from an agenda perspective. Because I really want to change this thing.

Renee Gangemi: Yes.

Mark Jones: So then just on that. What makes a good idea?

Renee Gangemi: I mean sometimes I think it’s a great idea and I send it to head of curatorial and they are like absolutely no or absolutely yes so I think it largely depends on them. But I think it needs to be unique. It needs to not be something that is… I think it needs to be relevant, topical and interesting and have… evoke a style of thinking that isn’t mainstream thinking.

Mark Jones: Okay.

Renee Gangemi: How can we push people to think outside the box?

Mark Jones: Yes.

Renee Gangemi: And approach something from a different angle. And I think that they’re very loose parameters of what makes a good idea but I think it comes back to storytelling.

Mark Jones: Yeah. I would say that but I would suggest that you’re actually well qualified to answer that question because you’ve got a market the idea.

Renee Gangemi: Yes.

Mark Jones: And you will know whether this is an easy idea to market or a hard idea.

Renee Gangemi: Absolutely.

Mark Jones: Because you could be going to curatorial staff as you describe it and say “Yeah that’s fantastic but no one cares.” Or “How am I going to turn that into a story?” Or-

Renee Gangemi: And we have lots of meaty discussions like that on a regular basis.

Mark Jones: Right, okay, yeah.

Renee Gangemi: So yes you are correct. And what is one of the most interesting things for me is we have an NPS survey at the end of each event and then we send out our TEDxSydney survey to understand more about who liked what, audience feedback, what worked, what didn’t and feedback on speakers and performers. And TED does such a diverse range of audience.

Mark Jones: Yeah what do you do with all that? That’s a mixed bag of feedback I would have thought.

Renee Gangemi: Sometimes I hold onto the one or two negative and I think no I need to let that go.

Mark Jones: Yeah.

Renee Gangemi: I think what I’ve learnt is that the TED demographic is not an age group, it’s not a certain person from a particular area. I don’t think I’ve marketed a product that has such a wide range before.

Mark Jones: Well I mentioned before psychographics.

Renee Gangemi: Yes.

Mark Jones: It’s what value systems, belief systems around what’s needed to either to affect change or to inspire people or what’s right or wrong with the world. I mean you’re dealing with some pretty macro issues but ostensibly you’re looking for the thread that connects people of all ages.

Renee Gangemi: Yeah absolutely and without an incredibly large marketing budget to reach everyone that has those different… you really need to be targeted and that’s why the grassroots marketing campaigns I think work really strongly for us.

Mark Jones: Yeah I know that person-

Renee Gangemi: We’re tapping into a connection.

Mark Jones: Yep.

Renee Gangemi: Or a relevance or the oh I’m interested in that. I knew that person. I’ve worked with them so there’s either a personal connection there or a work interest but coming back to the question of

Renee Gangemi: Marketing the idea. I think it needs to like any good story have a hook or a draw card or a key interest and you need to be really quite neutral, have your neutral hat on when you’re marketing those ideas because they are so vast. It might be from Quantum Computers to we had a dentist speak this year so when you’re looking at that it’s that common thread of the idea that will spark a conversation or a question it’s really triggering an interest and when you are in that, on that event day looking around at that theatre and you see a uni student who’s studying maybe somebody in their 50s, 60s that maybe retired and their going and there’s everyone in between. There’s corporates, there’s creatives and it’s incredible to bring an audience together like that, that are all so interested in what that one person is saying on stage at that point in time.

Mark Jones: What’s success look like for you and I’m not just talking about people turning up? What’s the thing that gives you a kick out of all this marketing work?

Renee Gangemi: I was in the bathroom at TEDxSydney last year and I just-

Mark Jones: Where you get all your best ideas.

Renee Gangemi: Yeah exactly. And I heard other women in the bathroom just saying “This is the best day ever.” And I heard them saying “Oh, we will have to book next year. I’ve got to tell X, Y and Z person about this.” And I think for me it’s spreading that feeling of really trying to capture… you’re trying to obviously market what TED is and who the speakers are but I think the key thing I try to capture is what you actually get out of it and that feeling of what the experience is like and that’s almost… that piece of magic is really hard to market because it’s not a product and it’s not a tangible outcome and it’s different for everyone.

Mark Jones: But it’s the joy of events. We all put this thing on and it works and people loved it right?

Renee Gangemi: Yeah and in the middle of the night before you’re like “Why am I doing it?”

Mark Jones: Right, yeah.

Renee Gangemi: And then afterwards you’re like “Oh it’s the best thing ever. Can’t wait to do it next year.”

Mark Jones: Right, okay.

Renee Gangemi: Yeah. It’s like event amnesia. But I think success looks like, for us, creating a really connected community that either… meet new people at the events and they further connect and they come next year. Or we create smaller meet ups that can meet more regularly around dinner table conversations. That it’s a far and wide movement rather of ideas and engaging in those rather than just a commercial event that has got a flagship event one day a year.

Mark Jones: Yeah.

Renee Gangemi: I think to see the community evolve and connect and I think spreading the ideas is… if we go back to what’s in communication? Articulating ideas and the impact of spreading interesting ideas. They’re the core things that we’re trying to create.

Mark Jones: Yep.

Renee Gangemi: And yeah contribute I guess.

Mark Jones: What’s the one TEDx talk that really changed your life or you think about it all the time? 

Renee Gangemi: There’s two and they’re quite polar opposites which is I think very telling of what TED encompasses. One was Mike Cannon Brookes, imposter syndrome.

Mark Jones: Ah yes I remember that one.

Renee Gangemi: And I think he has really accentuated how the term is used and how people can relate to it and that you’ve got someone that is a very senior member of an incredibly successful business yet talked about something so real and so human and I think everyone has experienced something like that in their life where they feel like oh am I ready for that or is that bigger than me, is that something I can step up to and broke it down by walking through it and being humble and being real. You know you will get through it.

Mark Jones: Yep.

Renee Gangemi: Then there was Andy Dexterity and Andy Dexterity has really brought to life a way of miming/sign language…

Mark Jones: Okay.

Renee Gangemi: To make it more understandable for people who don’t actually understand each symbol in sign language.

Mark Jones: Okay.

Renee Gangemi: he toured with The Wiggles for children that are deaf.

Renee Gangemi: to understand what The Wiggles were singing about.

Mark Jones: Yes.

Renee Gangemi: So there will be very much the love heart for love.

Mark Jones: Yep.

Renee Gangemi: The I. Pointing to the eye for… so he’s broken it down and made something very quite accessible for people who can’t connect with that and he does a TED talk about it and then he performs to a song and he does Bohemian Rhapsody and it is an incredible creative gesture of all his hands, it’s his whole body explaining the song.

Mark Jones: Yes.

Renee Gangemi: And even though you might not understand any actual sign language you could almost get the words and what the feeling and emotion is from the song without hearing it.

Mark Jones: Okay. That is fascinating, I’m gonna look that one up. So I ask those two question because I think the thing about storytelling is that it sticks. When you hear those stories you remember how you felt at the time.

Renee Gangemi: Yes.

Mark Jones: And you remember the facts and the information that was carried across and also the meaning, all right. For me at a personal level I think that’s one of the enduring things about creating content experiences is that we actually get to… it’s a privilege of being able to share an idea that actually sticks in someone’s mind for a really long period of time and I think that’s fascinating and for marketers to be in a space of influence of shaping those ideas and thinking about people in a really human way, they care about this stuff right and there are moments that really change stuff. It’s fascinating to hear your story and to hear about how you’ve applied quite clearly great marketing thinking as well as interfaced with the curation and then just getting really detailed in the strategies and how do we get people to turn up to this thing and curating a global brand that has local relevance. 

Mark Jones: Renee thank you so much for being our guest on the show today.

Renee Gangemi: Thank you for inviting me.

Mark Jones: Yeah. I wish you all the best with continuing to make this even bigger over the next ten years. So thanks once again.

Renee Gangemi: We’ll see you at TED.

Mark Jones: Thank you.

Mark Jones: So I hope you enjoyed the interview. They say core to the goal of fostering a better future around ideas is they believe there’s no greater force for changing the world than a powerful idea. And I like this really strong sense of identity that comes through in all that TED does and all that TEDx does in Sydney of course. We have high level things like marketing and events and you know just headline topics that’s pretty self evident. But interrogating an idea now that’s interesting because we’re talking about creativity, we’re talking about the role of data and how we can analyse the data that’s gone into our decision making. And so for me I’m walking away from this going “Yeah but what are my ideas? And how good are they? What’s the quality of my ideas and what change do I hope to affect through these ideas and how am I going to apply them?”Mark Jones: I really hope that you’ve been able to take something from my interview today and make a difference. That is it for this episode of the CMO Show. As always I invite you to subscribe, tell your friends and like us on the social platforms. Until next time.


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