TEDxIndianapolis: Top 12 Marketing Takeaways [RECAP]

Yesterday Indianapolis hosted its 4th annual TEDx event, at the University of Indianapolis’s Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. Though the event isn’t a marketing event, per se. But, I’m a marketer like you – and can’t help myself. Below you’ll find my top marketing takeaways from my TEDx experience in sequential order according to the day’s agenda.


“The world doesn’t readily meet my need for simplicity,” started Maura Malloy – driving right at the day’s theme of Keep It Simple. In her talk, Maura invited attendees on her path to simple living – stemming from backpacking through India to budgeting in grad school, embracing an artist’s lifestyle in New York City to settling down to a family lifestyle here in the Circle City. In closing Maura encouraged all attendees to go home, find a quiet serene space (ie: the Element Three blog – j/k), close your eyes for 30 seconds and envision your masterpiece. Michelangelo said, “It was easy. You just chip away that which does not look like David.”

Takeaway: What if you practice forced restraint on your next marketing project? Have a $100,000 budget? What if you forced yourself to use $20,000 for yourself (and your team) to focus on what’s most optimal to your campaign’s success?


An accomplished and well-published urban planner, Tony Garcia offered the crowd his experience and insight into the shifts in urban dwellers’ expectations. Tony called for city government to be nimble, flexible and responsive. In great detail, he talked about his experience in leading local efforts around an abandoned rail corridor in his Miami-Dade neighborhood called the Ludlum Trail Corridor. Through proper planning, “a good website – because a website makes you real,” rallying others so it wasn’t a solo effort, not always asking for permission, creation of high expectations and tenacious effort – Tony invited Hoosiers to also “do good in your community.”

Takeaway: If you have a big vision – great! Cast it for others, plan properly and get started by taking baby steps.


As a performer, storyteller and brand-builder, Tyler Lennox Bush was at home on the stage. Coming from an area in northern Indiana known as the Region, Tyler appreciates being called a Region Rat because “they feed on almost anything and are hard to kill.” He spoke passionately about doing hard work in the “cinder” (orAct II if you’re a Hero’s Journey fan) of a problem. Having become a teacher in Gary, Indiana – an area widely known for its post industrial despair – Tyler has thrust himself into participation with the locals in an effort to revive the community.

Takeaway: Be willing to fail if you want to improve yourself and your community.


Bridgett Luther served as director of the California Department of Conservation for five years under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. After receiving the Governor’s initial nod to make “the world better with each production cycle,” Bridgett started the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. Since then over 200 companies have agreed to the approach. She laid out steps for you to do the same: 1) say yes 2) investigate your product or service 3) remake the way you make your things 4) keep innovating. After becoming C2C Certified, Shaw Floors saw a 340% increase in revenue because their customers wanted to do business with a company founded on high integrity.

Takeaway: What can you do to employ more environmental care in your processes? How much would your company story improve if you handled your business more ethically?


Pauline Oliveros is an award-winning composer and central figure in electronic arts music. She shared several sounds she’s collected through her career as a sound pioneer. Pauline talked about the fundamental difference of hearing: scientific measurement of what happens in your ear, and listening: a lifetime practice that depends on your accumulated experiences with sound. Through her study of sound she’s come to understand how to truly listen by being present – resulting in a better quality of life.

Takeaway: How well do you listen to your customers? Are you just hearing them? Or are you relating to them and living in the present?


A teenage journalist’s journey from USA to Cuba did more than just provide a learning experience -­ it transformed Emily Jacobi. When you empower a young person, you spark a movement that can change the world. Emily’s early experiences led her to create Digital Democracy, a non­-profit that empowers marginalized communities to use technology to defend their rights. Emily’s talk was crammed full of goodness. What stands out was a story about her working with Haitian women in 2010 who were combatting gender-based violence. After entering into relationship with this community, Digital Democracy trained the women on a texting program to report instances of violence they encountered. The program completely failed due to a lack of cultural understanding. The women weren’t afraid to raise their hands to the injustice – but to do so through a text message was completely countercultural. A women’s health hotline was then established and the program has helped to diminish violence.

Takeaway: What culture or group is your product or service reaching? Is your messaging on point, or is it completely wrong for your end customer?


On April 12, 2011, Maurice Young checked himself into a local homeless shelter looking for a break from his life. That’s when he began his fight for the fair and equal treatment of Indianapolis homeless population. He calls himself actively homeless. Sparing no detail, Maurice shared his story of multiple divorces and soul-searching with a sense of calm and calling that demanded the room’s attention in a way I don’t think any other talk did all day. “When I put the needs of others ahead of myself, I became rooted in unspeakable joy,” said Young. Ending his 12 minutes with an expression of gratitude to all that have helped him become who he is along the way – I’m certain I wasn’t the only one considering what I’ve been called to and for whom.

Takeaway: How can you make a positive difference in the lives of others by marketing what you’re already marketing?


Mary McConnell (Indiana State Director, The Nature Conservancy) started her talk how anyone with a deep appreciation for nature would – by making barn owl noises. Her angst around screen-obsessed Hoosier youth not understanding or appreciating nature enough has driven her to work with others on a completely new state park concept. K-12 children from all over Indiana will be able to be part of Hoosier history and claim a bicentennial ceremonial deed of trust for a parcel of land via the the park’s website, by “utilizing their love of all things digital to inspire a lifetime of engagement with our natural world.”

Takeaway: How can you use what’s most familiar to your audience to introduce your product or service to them in a unique and meaningful way?


Mali Jeffers and Denver Hunt shared about Rock, Paper, Fork – an initiative to bring people together over lunch. If you don’t already know word-of-mouth marketing is the most impactful method for sharing your message, check out this key stat from Nielsen’s latest Global Trust in Advertising study. More than eight-in-10 global respondents (83%) say they completely or somewhat trust the recommendations of friends and family. It’s a metric Mali and Denver might not have memorized, but fundamentally understand.

Takeaway: Expand your network. But, do so with the intention that you are giving as much as you’re receiving. Who are you having lunch with tomorrow?


Creek Stewart is a character. Rather, he’s a survival guide and TV host of Fat Guys in the Woods (which I can’t DVR quickly enough). In addition to sharing some comical stories and video of men who were incredibly uncomfortable in nature, Creek’s real point was about the importance of four simple things – 1) food 2) water 3) shelter and 4) fire. Yet the ingredients he shared weren’t the point, but that wilderness can change people. “Through struggle is a sense of perspective and appreciation – which transforms into fulfillment.”

Takeaway: The men on Creek’s show signed up for a challenge they were completely ill-equipped to handle. What’s the hard thing you can do alongside a mentor to improve your craft?


Why is an insanely accomplished entrepreneur, Chris Baggott, (co-founder of ExactTarget and Compendium Software, both sold to publicly trade companies in 2013) now a farmer?! Because “we live in a society that makes food that’s making us sick,” says Baggot. Chris delivered one of the most passionate talks of the day in sharing what he’s doing at Tyner Pond Farm and Husk Foods. By noticing $17.8 billion dollars of food is eaten in Indiana and that over 80% of that is imported, Chris found a market opportunity. He’s also in the process of working with his team to “Uberize the shopping model” by allowing residents within 50 miles of Indianapolis to order online directly from his farm. If marketing democracy equates to farm-raised antibiotic-free sausage and fresh local sweet corn at my doorstep, I’m sold!

Takeaway: There is opportunity in unlikely places if you’re willing to till the tough soil to find them.


Through his Aussie accent and sequin-covered sport coat, David Engwicht wasn’t afraid to lead with emotion in talking about his work as a professional placemaker. He’s traveled the world working with various people groups and municipalities to transform public spaces in meaningful ways. “Creating place is the antidote to our addiction to movement,” says Engwicht. David’s entertaining prop-filled talk was a great reminder that as marketers, we have a responsibility to guide our customers through a memorable experience.

Takeaway: If you can create place out of your product or service for your customer, you are not only calling them to live more in the present, but creating an incredibly memorable experience in interaction with your brand.

A hearty thanks to Jim Walker of Big Car and so many other organizers and sponsors for putting together yesterday’s TEDxIndianapolis. This year was my first. I’ll be back.

This post originally appeared on Element Three’s blog.