Businesses that harness the power of innovation reap the rewards of growth, customer loyalty and relevance in the marketplace — whether they’re tech start-ups or mature brands in long-established categories.

The 2017 Columbus Advertising & Marketing Practicum (CAMP) featured innovation as its theme for the annual event, which serves as an opportunity for Fisher students and members of the central Ohio business community to discuss marketing trends and to experience presentations from local and national marketing leaders.

Presented by Fisher's Association of Marketing Professionals (AMP), the event welcomed to campus Fisher alumni Lisa Ingram (MBA '00), president and CEO of White Castle, and Dan Healy ('08), chief operations officer of Prolific Interactive.

The event included discussions with Ingram and Healy, as well as a keynote from Tom Denari, president and chief strategy officer of Young & Laramore, a full-service advertising agency based Indianapolis. Additionally, Healy was recognized as the student organization's Alumnus of Year Award, while Dollar Shave Club won the Marketer of the Year Award.

CAMP 2017

Jake Kuss, a second-year MBA student who serves on the AMP leadership team, said he was thrilled that two prominent Fisher alumni returned to campus to speak at CAMP.

"The Fisher name goes a long way, especially with Fisher alumni," Kuss said. "Alumni are very willing to give back, which is great. As a student organization, we don't always have the funds to do everything we'd like, so to know we can count on alumni to come back and provide a great experience like this is huge for us."

Ingram, the fourth-generation CEO and first woman to lead White Castle, spoke about the challenges her company faces in its quest to remain innovative in the fiercely competitive quick-service restaurant category. She said the brand, which was founded by her great-grandfather in 1921, was initially slow to become an innovator. Today, the company's relatively small size and ongoing commitment to innovation help the 380-unit regional restaurant chain remain relevant by adapting to consumers’ changing tastes, while maintaining its core products.

Ingram noted that it’s important for today’s innovative companies to recognize how their customers use and understand their brands, adding that innovation doesn’t happen organically and that leaders must be committed to its thoughtful pursuit. She said that White Castle, the nation's original fast-food chain, relies heavily on public relations and social media to reach its loyal customer base.

Healy's passion for entrepreneurial ventures began as an undergrad at Fisher when he founded, an online food-ordering service geared toward Ohio State students. Healy's passion continued after graduation and into his early career, eventually leading him to Prolific Interactive, which he joined in 2011 as one of the original five members of the start-up. Recently, the Brooklyn-based interactive agency, which specializes in mobile-app development for both starts-ups and leading brands, was included on Inc.’s 500 list and on AdvertisingAge’s Best Places to Work list.

After receiving the Alumnus of the Year Award, Healy acknowledged his gratitude for his experience as a Fisher student and spoke about becoming a young entrepreneur and his career path since graduation. He noted the passion he felt as a Fisher student continues today in his career, adding that it’s important to maintain balance throughout the different aspects of life.

"As students, we gain so much from the Fisher experience, and we all hope to be in similar positions where we can give back in the future," Kuss said. "To have two C-suite Fisher alums come back and share their stories with us was a great experience."

During his keynote, Denari focused on consumer behavior and the importance of marketers not relying on what customers say, but instead on what they actually do. As a frequent contributor to AdvertisingAge, Denari writes about consumer behavior and brand strategy, drawing from his extensive experience working with notable brands including Angie's List, Goodwill Retail Stores and KraftMaid Cabinetry.

Denari cautioned that marketers must understand that consumers don't care as much about brands as the brands' marketers do. The advice resonated with Terry Do, a second-year MBA student, who appreciated Denari’s focus on social psychology and consumer behavior.

"The key take-away for me is really focusing on your customers and understanding what they truly want, Do said. "Tom talked about how customers aren't going to tell you the actual truth about why they're purchasing a product, but as a marketer, you really need to understand what’s behind that purchasing decision."

Citing the keynote, Kuss said that despite the age of some of the behavior-based research Denari shared, marketers have been slow to adopt it, adding that he believes the insights he gained from the presentation will be valuable in his career as a marketer after graduation.

"Innovation was our theme this year and it’s going to play a major role for those of us who are graduating," Kuss said. "When we get into the marketing world professionally, we have to constantly have innovation on our minds and be aware of new currents that are coming from new sources."