Nearly three and a half years ago, Roman Tsunder helped co-create a plan to take on the world. Today, that plan has been realized in the form of the PTTOW! Summit, the convergence of CEOs and executives from almost every major youth lifestyle and culture company on the market. Together with Terry Hardy, entrepreneur and manager for pro surfer Kelly Slater, Tsunder has brought together the likes of Vans President Kevin Bailey, skate legend Danny Way, DJ and Record Producer Kaskade and Comedian, Actor, Director and Producer Rainn Wilson of the hit show “The Office” fame, to share creative thoughts and ideas with leaders at the US State Department, Virgin Mobile, and Coca Cola.
Tsunder, who says the PTTOW! committee is always searching for inspiring new leaders to become members, adds that the concept is not just a once-a-year meeting, but a year-round open forum to constantly shed light on and evolve some of the best marketing ideas out there.
“From space travel to electronic dance music, this year we are showcasing the people and their projects that are shaping today's culture,” says Tsunder. “Our goal is to inspire the best marketers in the world and bring together influencers to help share and ideate what's impacting our culture."
To give an idea of how much momentum PTTOW! has gained over its brief existence, Tsunder says the network formed by its members represents more than $1.2 trillion in revenues and $36 billion in media spending, and has reached 140 millon Twitter followers and 783 million Facebook likes.
This year’s event marks the 5th annual summit, and is taking place May 1-3 in Rancho Palos Verdes. Some keynote addresses will feature Jeff Jones, EVP & CMO of Target, Levi’s Brand President James Curleigh, RVCA Founder Pat Tenore, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, and Musician and Entrepreneur will.i.am, to name just a few. We caught up with Tsunder to learn more.
>When was the "Plan To Take On the World” or PTTOW Summit founded and why?
It was crazy to myself and Terry Hardy that although 60% of the world was under the age of 30 and that young adults (ages 14-34) are the largest economic group in the US ($1.2 trillion in spending), that there was no place where the leaders representing all the major industries could get together and talk about this audience (young adults) since their company's future depended upon it. Leaders from totally different organizations ranging from Quiksilver to the US State Dept. People who would normally never be in the same room together...but share the commonality of the same customer.
What was your background prior to working with this conference, and how did you get involved in PTTOW?
I'm an entrepreneur. The last company I founded was called Access 360 Media, which we built into the largest in-mall and in-stadium media network in the US. While I was running Access 360 Media, our audience was between the ages 14-34 and the events I attended were uninspiring to say the least. Usually a dozen keynotes and 500 people trying to sell you something. Maybe there was a skate demo if it was super creative.
So in 2009, Terry and I started PTTOW! as a passion project with just 25 people, representing totally different industries at the St. Regis. Once the Dalai Lama came and spoke at our event a couple years later, it began to take on a different and very cool type of momentum. He's never spoken to a marketing group before.
We don't like to consider PTTOW! a conference. First and foremost, we are a year round member network.
PTTOW! is a business accelerator for our members. We share successes and failures from the brands that are shaping our world and culture. One of the most important thing we do as a business accelerator is facilitate partnerships between our members to help grow their businesses and we've done over 30 to date.
You have a few major executives from the action sports industry involved – how are brands like Vans and RVCA, and people like pro skater Danny Way, relevant to this conference and what sort of insight do they bring to the table in the discussion of innovative ideas?
It's not accidental that we host PTTOW! in OC every year. We feel that is the home of youth culture – definitely action sports. One of our founding members is Bob McKnight, Co-founder and former CEO of Quiksilver. We feel that some of the best inspiration comes from the action sports world. They understand, live and love the lifestyle. In many cases, they grew up in it. You can't say that for most other industries. You don't have many young guys and girls saying they are a Volcom guy or Roxy girl. Imagine someone saying they are a P&G guy or Kraft girl...haha
Also, some of the best success stories have come from action sports. Just look at the Gymkhana series, 500 million views and counting...When Nate Morley was running marketing at DC, he showcased that at PTTOW!. I think that brands around the world aspire to be more like many of the OC brands. So yes, some of our OC members like Bob McKnight (Quiksilver), Nate Morley (Skullcandy), Kevin Bailey (Vans), Pat Tenore (RVCA), Ethan Anderson (Volcom) deliver the most value – Yvon Chouinard has also joined PTTOW! and is an inspiration. Not to mention star athletes like Tony Hawk, Danny Way and Kelly Slater, we love and are inspired by them.
What is the selection process like for getting people and brands on board in general?
We have a membership committee and break down every member by the industry they represent. We currently have 56 industries ranging from space travel to sports networks.
We never want to be too heavy in any one industry, whether it's beverage or gaming. Brand attendee's must be VP and above, most often svp/cmo level. Media companies are usually C level. We also include cultural influencers in that group that may not fit that category such as a DJ's like Kaskade or Adventurer's like Sebastian Copeland.
What sort of “a-ha” moments and monumental ideas have come from past conferences? Do you have some a takeaway committee or forums set up for attendees so they can follow up on action items from the conference?
The Dalai Lama was the ultimate a-ha moment. I think it is the life lessons that you can apply to yourself as a human as well as your career that are always the most inspiring. One of the things the Dalai Lama said is "be your own master." If we can remember that everyday as we leave our homes, we will all be happier.
Since we are a year-round member network, we share exclusive insights, information, and connections with all our members year round. Those are invaluable.
How do you measure the success of a conference of this nature?
We measure success for our membership and summit in three ways.
1. Insights and inspiration you can't get elsewhere. Whether it's the head of the Navy Seals talking about building trust and leadership with their team or how Red Bull pulled off Stratos and got 10 million concurrent live video views. Real world KPI's and best practices from the most successful professionals in the game.
2. Partnerships that are seeded and formed at our summit and year round. We've had partnerships ranging from Quiksilver partnering with the US State Dept., to sending snowboarding ambassadors to Easter Europe, to Skullcandy and Spotify partnering together on a music platform, to Chrysler becoming the tentpole sponsor of the iheartRadio festival. Major 6 to 7 figure deals get done through our network – over 30 to date partnerships have been made.
3. Social Good. If our members profit from these consumers, let's make their lives better. Whether it's TOMS and Warby Parker with their 1:1 model and showcasing that or what Pencils for Promise of the Gates Foundation is working on. We love to support that and that's what its' all about. Taking responsibility for this audience and having a positive impact on their lives.
What tips or advice would you give an entrepreneur looking to launch a creative new idea? Do you have a checklist for him/her to go by, or do you believe in just going with your gut?
Great question. I would first ask them if they want to be the best in the world at that idea. Second, I'd ask them if they are ready to commit the next 10 years of their lives to that idea.
I think going with your gut is important and often that speaks to your passion. You have to be in love with your idea and stay in love, but then you have to build your case of whether there is a need for your product in the market, etc., so it's a step-by-step process.
What sort of workplace environments spawn creativity and how can companies inspire their employees to be more innovative and think outside the box?
Another great question. Today, workplace environments have to change. At our summit this year, we have Coke and L'Oreal talking about how larger companies need to act like start-ups and the workplace is where it all begins.
We also have Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos giving a key presentation titled "Revitalizing Downtown Las Vegas Through Serendipitous Interactions". Those serendipitous interactions are so important to building teams and community.