SiriusDecisions Summit: Marcus Samuelsson Keynote Recap

SiriusDecisions Summit 2016 has officially begun! Seismic is in Nashville for the four-day event, and we are off to a great start thanks to the kickoff keynote from Marcus Samuelsson. Samuelsson was a last-minute fill-in for Alton Brown—both of whom are Food Network favorites—and was a perfect fit for the Summit’s theme of “the art and science of intelligent growth.”

Samuelsson is known for being a guest judge on the Food Network’s Chopped, a recipient of multiple James Beard Foundation awards, the winner of Chopped All Stars and Top Chef Masters, the author of numerous books, and owner of many restaurants. But during his Summit keynote, Samuelsson spoke not so much of food, but of how his hard work, desire to learn and unconventional personal life led him to where he is today. Here are some notable takeaways for marketers from the keynote presentation.

  1. Challenge yourself. Samuelsson kicked off his keynote by sharing a little bit about his life. Born in Ethiopia, Samuelsson was adopted and moved to Sweden as a child. His love of cooking stemmed from his grandmother, who was a chef, and the close-knit fishing community he grew up in. Samuelsson then moved to France, then Japan, then the US to learn as much about cooking from as many cultures as possible. While a sous-chef in New York at age 23, his head chef passed away unexpectedly. He said he wasn’t ready to take on the head chef role, but intended to keep the restaurant afloat until they found a new chef. During this time, the restaurant received a three-star rating from the New York Times under his tenure, making Samuelsson the youngest chef to ever be awarded a three-star rating. The moral of these stories? Challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone and constantly seek ways to improve through experiences.
  2. Standardize the creative process. Samuelsson is the owner of several restaurants around the world, and maintaining a consistent creative process—one that delights customers and keeps exceptional chefs happy—is a challenge. “How do I write down and translate recipes that exist only in my head in half Swedish and half French to people who don’t know what herring is?” Samuelsson joked. Standardization is integral to scalability, and the creative process can seem like an impediment to productivity at times. Samuelsson shared that standardization can be done authentically with the right people, process and communication, which perfectly aligned to the Summit’s theme of “art and science of intelligent growth.”
  3. Adjust to buyers’ needs. “No one comes to a restaurant anymore because they’re hungry; those days are gone,” Marcus shared. People go to restaurants for the experience, and because of these great experiences expectations have heightened over time. The same can be said for B2B buyers. B2B buyers have become accustomed to personalized and productive interactions throughout their purchase process, and expect interactions to be tailored to their specific needs. Marketers need to ensure content and other marketing touches are personalized to buyers’ needs, goals, and previous experiences.
  4. Create memorable stories. Samuelsson shared with Summit attendees his love of travel and the experiences he’s had in different places, and had a special story of cooking from each destination. “Memorable stories are the ones that are different, that come from a special place,” he said. Marketers need to create memorable stories in order to resonate with many buyers, and can do so by understanding buyers’ needs and their experiences.
  5. It takes a village. One of Marcus’ most recent ventures was the Harlem EatUp, a community event celebrating the New York neighborhood, its residents and its food culture. He delved into the importance of community, and how “doing anything without the community and its engine doesn’t really work. Cooking and eating food tastes better with the people you love.” The importance of community is not lost on B2B marketing; without a group of motivated communicators who are all dedicated to a common goal, the marketing engine will have some trouble running.