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5 Takeaways from the Fast Company Innovation FestivalNovember - 2019

The fifth annual Fast Company Innovation Festival convened in New York City last week. Thousands of entrepreneurs, executives, students, innovators, and curious thinkers gathered from across the globe to attend. Through various sessions on a range of topics, attendees were inspired by the most creative and innovative minds in business. 

2019 marked the third year that AE Marketing Group participated in the FC Innovation Festival. Attending these events inspires our team’s creativity and ideation, both within our own organization and for our customer brands.  If you were not in attendance, don’t worry. We are breaking down our top five takeaways for you.

“Build a business focused on customer experience not sales or profit.” – Emily Weiss, Founder and CEO of Glossier


The beauty company began as a blog in 2014 and is entirely focused on the real-life of its customers. Entering a crowded space, Weiss knew she needed to build a brand around inspiration and experience to breakthrough market clutter. So, she interviewed hundreds of consumers to inform the business she would create. Co-creation and customer experience have been vital for Glossier since the beginning. The company features customers’ stories, beauty routines, and reviews on their website and social media pages. They use beauty to give customers a voice and they leverage the power of personal narrative to own the beauty conversation online. 

Glossier’s customer-first mindset is how we think at AE Marketing Group.  When we focus on solving our customers’ business problems, and do what’s best for their brand – it strengthens our relationships and often leads to increases in revenue


“Focus on all the things you should do not the things you can do.” – Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft


  As a leader, managing teams, customer-relationships, operations, and financials can be a tough job – whether you’re running a small business or a global company.  

Microsoft’s CEO acknowledged that while he has a great team around him, ultimately it is his individual focus on what he should be doing at any given moment that helps him the most.  

That discipline requires a tremendous amount of trust in others and trust in oneself to stay focused when the unexpected happens.  Nadella also said that there is really no training for the CEO role until you become a CEO, which really hit home with AE CEO, Brian Walker.   


“Digital media has two customers, a human being and an algorithm.  You have to speak to both of them to be successful today.” – Neil Vogel, CEO of Dotdash

With digital media growing faster than any other medium today, it is critical that any business understand how to leverage technology platforms to connect with current and future customers.  This poses a challenge for marketers though, if digital media activity is focused only on the audience segments (the human beings).  

Vogel said great content that could really benefit your customers and help your company grow, will be limited in its effectiveness if the content isn’t actually designed for the algorithm of the platforms you market on.  The Dotdash CEO said it requires brands to really understand and monitor how Google, Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms determine how your content is distributed. If you can game the algorithm you can gain a competitive advantage that is so critical in today’s highly competitive attention economy.  

For example, Facebook prioritizes showing users posts from their family and friends, over brand content that is meant to sell products or services, making it harder for brands to breakthrough. For AE, that means that our Facebook posts that highlight the lives of our team members or the personality of our company, always perform best. So, we use Facebook as a platform to keep our customers up to date on our agency and team, and introduce potential customers to our company culture. A different platform, Google, tends to reward longer form content as part of its ranking system. So, at AE, we focus on creating longer form blog content. When we post videos or podcasts with shorter form written content, we always include transcripts for SEO purposes.


“Empower consumers with education” – Gregg Renfrew, Founder of Beautycounter


Driving industry-wide change is a huge undertaking, but CVS Health CMO, Norman Greve, and Beautycounter Founder, Gregg Renfrew, were up for the challenge. In a session on leading with authenticity, and purpose, Norman and Gregg discussed shifting consumer perceptions through impactful initiatives. Renfrew explained that Beautycounter broke through a crowded cosmetics market by pioneering the clean beauty movement. She said, “As consumers, we vote every day with our wallets. Using storytelling, Beautycounter sheds light on situations to empower consumers with education. Then the choice is up to them.” 

By tapping into a consumer need and doing good business, Beatycounter has become a beloved brand that consumers can feel good about. 


 “Embrace and follow what you’re interested in, whatever that may be.” –  Mo Rocca


Mo Rocca is an actor, journalist, comedian and author. His book, Mobituaries, tells the stories of people from history whom Mo believes did not receive the recognition they deserved in life or death. In a live podcast recording at the Fast Company Innovation Festival, Mo was asked,  “What is the hardest creative muscle to work?” Mo responded that it is most difficult to like what you like.

Mo’s love of obscure stories led him down an incredible career path with countless opportunities, but none of it would have been possible if he fought off his innate curiosity. He advised the audience to let their passions drive them, whatever those passions may be.

If you have the chance to attend the Fast Company Innovation Festival in coming years, we highly recommend it. The networking opportunities and range of session topics are truly inspiring for all attendees. You will learn from the people who are using tech, design, leadership and creativity to change the world. We are certainly inspired every year to expand our creativity and tackle problems from different angles. 

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