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November 2009

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Colorado American Marketing Association turns 50
Plans to celebrate by making this its best year ever…
What will our region’s Marketing professionals face—fifty years from now?

By Ken Grindall

The Colorado American Marketing Association marks its 50th anniversary in 2009. Walk into any of the organization’s dozens of events throughout its new program year, and you’ll notice a celebratory air. Party hats, confetti and other favors aside, however, this group does much more looking forward than back.

For this “commemorative” article in Advertising & Marketing Review magazine, a longer glance over our shoulders may prove inspiring. After all, AMA’s 50 years reach back across fully half of our industry’s existence…

Where did marketing in Colorado come from?

As a discipline, Marketing truly emerged around 100 years ago in the early 1900s. Advertising was a well-developed branch of business by then. But we realized a need to understand more about the relationships and behaviors involved in buying and selling.

Business leaders found that careful strategy can dramatically benefit both buyers and sellers. Until the 1950s, commerce essentially meant “sell as much as you can,” with little or no regard for what a customer actually needed (or wanted). Colorado, in the late ‘50s, was growing quickly—and embraced the Marketing “revolution.”

A (selected) timeline of Colorado history:

The Air Force Academy opened its doors in Colorado Springs in 1958. Then, in 1960, Denver saw its new Broncos football team play its first season. Between those landmark events, the American Marketing Association formed its inaugural leadership and membership in 1959.

A pair of Western Slope meat packing companies were in court for unlawful buying and pricing practices. Professional marketing work was relatively simple. Campaigns involved basic “split testing” in snail mail, telephone surveys, and demographic studies in key population centers.

Eight years later, the Rockets (now the Denver Nuggets) came to town. In the ‘70s, we saw the Eisenhower Tunnel open and Colorado schools went through segregation along with the rest of the country. A business with a budget could reach 80% of its community—and make true “brand fans” of most—with as few as three TV commercials.

In 1976, as Denver suburbs continued to explode, we chose not to host the Olympic games. That same year, the Big Thompson River flooded and killed more than 145 people. Meanwhile our increasing mobility and individualism met another explosion in the media. Globalization was a new force, and the Internet was coming…

Colorado saw a coal “boom” in the ‘80s. We also saw an oil “bust.” Energy and technology have made this region a true, exciting frontier ever since. Along the way, we built the Rockies baseball and Avalanche hockey franchises.

So, where are we now as an industry?

Our communications options multiplied so fast that consumers, as a culture, began to describe themselves as “overwhelmed” by the onslaught of messages. Most communities can access hundreds of competing brands. Where a majority of companies could thrive with little outreach just two or three decades ago, now a majority of new brands fail to break through the “noise” to even gain a foothold.

The modern “brand skeptic” was born.

Today’s marketing landscape looks much different from 1959 in many ways, but there are also strong similarities. The American Marketing Association was founded during a brief respite between two major recessions. Since then, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) marks eight significant recessions—including the current crisis which began in December 2007.

Consumers are, largely, more value-oriented again. AMA members are no exception. The rising unemployment rate has not left the Association’s ranks untouched, not by a long shot. And 2009 has already seen a remarkable commitment from this organization to expand its service to the community of Marketing professionals in Denver and Colorado.

Communication is a huge priority for our industry. Of course, we’ve always used the communications tools within reach to touch our target markets. More and more, we also use them to stay in touch with each other. Current AMA members can now tap into what’s going on throughout the organization using virtually any channel they prefer—including Facebook, Twitter, Meetup and other social networks.

As this article goes to press, AMA has just announced in-touch mobile as a new sponsor for 2009. Members who read this will want to watch soon for news on how this exciting sponsorship will make their experience more engaging and effective in several cutting-edge ways.

Professional marketers thrive on content and community; AMA delivers both.

For 2009, Colorado AMA leadership and volunteers have worked to add greater emphasis to the “compelling content” members can leverage to enhance their own marketing careers. The first two key monthly luncheons, held in September and October at the Curtis Hotel in downtown Denver, featured experts in online market research (Susan Petoyan, from Walt Disney Studios) and social media (Colorado’s own, New York Times best-selling author Joel Comm).

Regular professional development events, which AMA calls its “Knowledge Series,” are scheduled throughout the year at the University of Denver campus. This series serves those Marketing professionals who want to explore new tactical approaches to marketing and public relations solutions for their clients. The Association has also developed another new webinar series, called Digital Dynamics 2010: Rethink. Reinvent. Recharge. Bright, dynamic minds in the field of digital marketing will share their experiences and ideas, hoping to inspire AMA members to new levels of creativity and success in the 21st century.

Special events can show up on the AMA schedule, too. Last month the group partnered with SDL, Inc. to co-host an International Round Table on Brand Marketing. This free event saw attendance up about 150% over the previous year. AMA’s 50th Anniversary Committee hosted a happy hour after the event, and more than half the attendees stayed to network and socialize.

Colorado AMA starts its 51st year with a value-heavy membership drive.

The 50th Anniversary year kicks off (right now) with a three-part value package for new members who join by Friday, November 6, 2009. First, the Association waives a $30 application fee. The real value, however, is again in the form of content. New members get free access to a special members-only webcast on “Building Brand Momentum” plus a $20 MasterCard gift card or $200 coupon to any AMA conference nationwide (member’s choice). Membership also includes access to member directories, online marketing resource libraries, professional trade subscriptions, special interest groups, and other benefits.

Across the pages of this short article, the photos record quite a few Colorado AMA members at events around the region. Thanks to Ken Custer and his team at Advertising & Marketing Review magazine for helping select these images and retrieve names and other information for new captions.

Most of Colorado’s active marketing professionals can barely imagine what our jobs would have been like fifty years ago. Many aren’t even age fifty yet, and some are just beginning their marketing career. One thing we can likely count on is that change will continue to accelerate. The face and fabric of our industry will adapt and innovate to reach each new generation using relevant methods and technologies.

Congratulations to the American Marketing Association on its 50th Anniversary. The future of this organization, and of our industry, is certain to be very exciting.

Ken Grindall owns My Marketing Writer, a Colorado-based content delivery and consulting service. For over 14 years, Ken’s content has driven test-besting ad response and sales in the tens of millions of dollars for employers and clients around the country. As an active member of Colorado AMA, Ken also serves as a volunteer Social Media Coordinator for the organization. Currently ghost-writing a fiction novel for a client, Ken enjoys studying and practicing new marketing ideas with his colleagues in Denver, across Colorado and around the world. Contact him at or 303-345-5254.

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