Entries have been judged. The finalists have been announced. Now, 336 finalists representing more than 120 Houston companies await the arrival of the 2017 American Marketing Association (AMA) Houston Crystal Awards Gala on May 11. That night, winners will be announced, trophies will be handed out, and a new class will join the ranks of Houston’s elite marketers. The Crystal Awards Gala is Houston’s largest marketing event—attended by the marketing crème de la crème from virtually every industry and career level.

After accepting a record-breaking (and website-crashing!) number of award submissions, the Crystals’ organizing committee assembled many of the brightest marketing minds from across the country to judge the cache of brilliant entries.

Get ready to tackle the question of how to compete in dynamic, global markets with "Everything I Needed to Know about Marketing, I Learned from Justin Timberlake!"

Brands operating in today's fast-paced environment must outshine, outperform and outmaneuver their competitors if they're to succeed. What many brands lack, but where Justin Timberlake excels, is marketing mastery in a high-tempo, hyper-competitive marketplace. Building excitement around your products that emotionally connect with your customers deepest values doesn't happen haphazardly. Rather, it takes a genius branding strategy that not only delivers trust and exceptional performance but also generates excitement and brand loyalty among your raving fans.

Today, marketers have no shortage of options for engaging and strengthening relationships with their audiences online. Almost every quarter, a new social media platform comes out that leaves communication professionals questioning if their brand should be active in the new space. What guiding principles keep our messages from getting lost?

“A brand must first decide what experience they want customer to have,” said Joe Alfidi, director of Global Go to Market programs for DC Shoes. “Do not just talk at the customer but show them the benefit of coming back to you.”

The AMA Houston monthly luncheons are a valuable support for marketers seeking the latest information and networking opportunities. The members-only job search roundtable, hosted before the luncheons, can also usher you into your next career opportunity if you're looking (according to reports 40 percent of workers are).

"There are great ways to work with partners that benefit both sides," said Christian Brown, director of marketing and public relations at the Houston Ballet. For the March AMA Houston Luncheon, Brown covered how to use data to form valuable partnerships. While not a dancer, he still brings his own finesse to the role.

By starting with a brand evaluation, he was able to determine the value of the Houston Ballet's brand, what type of data they needed, and what they could offer that other people would want. Instead of looking into the data to determine what they could do, he looked and asked, "How can other people use it?"

It's estimated that more than 1 trillion dollars are spent each year on marketing, and that 15 to 30 percent of those dollars are wasted. That’s right,  wasted. Understandably, marketing leaders are under increasing pressure to prove the value of their marketing investments. When two of three marketing executives struggle to do so, how can you demonstrate the value of your marketing efforts through more meaningful marketing metrics?

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