World’s best brands meet in Banff to share secrets of success

The Gathering, founded by Calgary marketing gurus Chris Kneeland and Ryan Gill, honour brands that enjoy a cult-like following among consumers

Mario Toneguzzi

The Gathering annual marketing conference is once again bringing some of the best and most recognized global brands together in Banff to discuss the latest trends in the industry — and to celebrate success stories.

The annual meeting of the world’s most coveted brands is an opportunity to share secrets and learn from the courageous leaders and trailblazers who are reaping the benefits of unbreakable brand affinity and loyalty.

The Gathering was founded by Calgary marketing gurus Chris Kneeland and Ryan Gill, of Cult Collective, to honour brands that have achieved enviable brand engagement and a cult-like following among consumers.

It runs from Wednesday to Friday.

Kneeland said The Gathering “is intended to be a celebration of what we call the world’s bravest and most beloved brands.”

Chris Kneeland

“The entire concept of The Gathering six years ago was that we were disenfranchised as an industry and that marketing and advertising was celebrating the most superficial of things,” said Kneeland.

“I’ll give you a great example. Within a week of following the Super Bowl, everybody wants to celebrate and debate what was the best commercial. I chimed in to one of these online debates saying ‘How can we debate what’s the best commercial? Why don’t we wait six months and see whose business has improved the best?’

“That’s the point of a commercial — to drive business. We’re talking about what’s the most entertaining commercial. And that’s fine. But shame on us as an industry if we think our job is to entertain. Our job is to drive business and if we can be entertaining in so doing it, awesome.”

Kneeland said the industry isn’t Hollywood. It isn’t there to entertain people; it’s there to move products and services.

“Somebody told me that the ad industry is actually the single most-awarded industry in the world. We love giving ourselves awards but they’re all about fun ideas.

“And we wanted to celebrate business impact and the irony of it was that most of the brands that were succeeding were the worst advertisers – either because they didn’t do a lot of advertising, like Lululemon for example, or they were just more commercially hard-nosed. They were more clear than they were clever.”

The Gathering was established to shine a spotlight on the brands that were doing spectacularly well and not getting credit for it.

Five years ago, The Gathering had 300 participants. That grew to about 450 in the second year, 500 to 600 in its third year and last year about 700. This year, they’re expecting about 1,000.

“It’s growing 20 to 30 per cent every year,” said Kneeland.

“It’s very topical that advertising in its current state is broken. It’s easy to complain about stuff and The Gathering is a great alternative solution. So don’t just come and complain about how bad things are but come and learn and see how good things could be.”

Some of the world’s biggest brands will be there – Beats by Dre, Gatorade, Vans, Jack Daniels, Keurig and local success stories Freshii and Fiasco Gelato.

The keynote speaker is Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, where she holds the Huffington Foundation–Brené Brown Endowed Chair at The Graduate College of Social Work. She is author of four  #1 New York Times bestsellers – The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, and Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and The Courage to Stand Alone.

Brené’s TED talk – The Power of Vulnerability – is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world with more than 30 million views.

In addition to her research and writing, she is the founder and CEO of BRAVE LEADERS INC., an organization that brings evidence-based courage-building programs to teams, leaders and organizations.

Canadian country star Paul Brandt will speak about the trend for brands and musicians to partner.

Information about the event can be found here.


The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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