Embracing the art of innovation: The accelerate 2023 recap


Leaders from some of the world’s most successful brands gathered in Atlanta on Oct. 1-3, 2023 for MessageGears’ annual Accelerate event to celebrate the best in enterprise marketing. 

Accelerate is an intimate, invite-only event where attendees get to speak freely and discuss how they’re successfully connecting with customers – or what roadblocks are in the way. We’re all going through it, and there’s nothing like trading notes with your peers to make you feel more in control.

This year’s Accelerate sessions were set before the inspiring backdrop of Atlanta’s High Museum of Art

Attendees came away from the event with real-life tips from folks who have been there and done that. They also enjoyed opportunities to connect and get creative with activities like an interactive graffiti wall and custom letterpress station led by Atlanta artist Chris Noosh

A woman uses spray paint to color a wall decorated with other spray paint designs. At the top of the wall is the word, "Accelerate"

Read on for some highlights, including some memorable quotes from the main stage.

The Craft of Connection: Getting Closer to Your Customers

MessageGears CEO, Roger Barnette, led the main stage keynote on the future of customer engagement. B2C enterprise brands are facing challenges this year ranging from tools that over-promise and under-deliver, to tight budgets, lean teams, and pressure to utilize AI now.

We’ve all heard the hype over AI tools, but very few have been able to deliver what they’ve promised. The key to AI success, Roger said, is the ability to connect with data as a single source of truth.

“AI modeling is only as good as the data that is used to model against it. We firmly believe that having access to all customer data is going to drive better outcomes with AI for marketers. MessageGears is in a unique situation to do that.”

Roger Barnette speaks from the stage at Accelerate 2023. He is a white man with brown hair, wearing a collared button-up shirt and dark pants.

You Have a Modern Tech Stack… Now What?

Even with the most modern tech, many companies are stuck in a hamster wheel using the same old tactics they have for years… with diminishing ROI. New tech, old tricks won’t work. 

Craig Schinn, Co-founder of Actable, came to the main stage to share how brands can transform their digital marketing through AI-powered audience segmentation, best-of-breed journey orchestration, and generative AI.

Despite the fact that technology has changed, Craig said teams, processes, and creative haven’t caught up. Teams are continuing to work in the same way they always have, and that’s why they haven’t unlocked more success.  

He urged attendees not to blame poor data quality for inaction and instead focus on what they have available to them today. Craig offered three ideas to take teams to the next level:

  • Improve performance using AI-powered, predictive audiences instead of static, rules-based lists.
  • Simplify with AI-powered rules and dynamic creative.
  • Get in the generative AI game. Start testing now, and build a playbook for your organization.

Craig Schinn speaks from the stage at Accelerate 2023. He is a white man with brown hair, wearing a shirt and blazer and jeans.

The Secret to Driving Innovation & Growth, Even If the Odds Are Against You

We were honored to have Shar VanBoskirk, Forrester VP & Principal Analyst, join us as the keynote speaker for Accelerate. 

If the market over the past three years has shown us anything, it’s proven that businesses can’t control everything. While that may be the case, Shar was able to help uncover the secret to creating differentiation and growth for your brand despite that lack of control: customer obsession.

“When Forrester thinks about customer obsession, we mean that it is putting the customer at the center of your leadership, strategy, and operations,” Shar said. “If you think about something that you’re obsessed with, it is the thing that you cannot get out of your mind even when you want to. In this case, that is your customer.”

Brands that are working to be truly customer-obsessed typically have four things in common, Shar added. They are:

  • Customer-led
  • Insights driven
  • Fast
  • Connected

Shar VanBoskirk speaks from the stage at Accelerate 2023. She is a white man with blonde hair, wearing a tan blazer and skirt with a black shirt.

Connected Conversations From Phrasee and Best Buy: Fueling Customer-Centric Success with Data and Generative AI 

Janelle Wilson, the Senior Marketing Manager of CRM Strategy and Personalization at Best Buy, and Jessica Filipovic, the Director of Client Strategy at Phrasee, sat down to share insights from their collaborative journey, showcasing real success stories where AI-generated content has augmented customer connections through greater efficiency, scale, and insights. 

It was a great opportunity for Accelerate attendees to learn about the real-world applications of using customer data combined with generative AI, along with  how it can empower brands to drive growth in a fiercely competitive arena.

Janelle and Jessica stressed the importance of iterating for success and celebrating small wins along the way.

Two women sit together on a couch. One is watching the other speak into a microphone.

Connected Conversations from Snowplow: Outperforming Competitors with Elite Data-Driven Insights

Continuing our series of connected conversations, Conor Doyle, the VP, of Alliances & Business Development at Snowplow, and Alex Dean the Co-founder and CEO of Snowplow, sat down to discuss how to better understand your customer journeys in real-time with granular, first-party customer data. 

Conor and Alex shared how marketers can find success by making better connections with their data teams, and they  suggested ways to extend the olive branch and work together.

That alignment is crucial as more teams adopt a composable model for their marketing technology, enabling everyone on your team to access and develop insights at scale for customer acquisition, engagement, segmentation, and retention.

Two men sit on bar stools. One is speaking into a microphone.

Expert Panel: Using Cross-Channel to Drive Engagement & Revenue

After a break for lunch, Accelerate attendees enjoyed a panel discussion featuring:

  • Dave Ragals, MessageGears’ VP of Customer Success
  • Matt Michalski, T-Mobile’s Sr. CRM Capabilities Manager
  • Katie Hansen, Director, Global Engagement Marketing at KAYAK
  • Matt Earnest, Sr. Director, Digital Product Management at Cox Communications

These marketing leaders shared insights into their real-life cross-channel campaigns. This session proved to be a case study session x3, featuring tangible, cross-channel best practices from some of MessageGears’ elite customers. 

They kicked off by discussing how their teams specifically approach email vs. mobile marketing, and then dove into how their large organizations handle internal alignment and communication while launching complex, cross-channel campaigns. This clearly takes a lot of coordination and planning, so the panel went into a little more detail on specific campaigns they’ve launched and how they tackled all the nitty-gritty details that are required to be successful. Overall, it was a fan-favorite session full of actionable takeaways!  

A panel of three men and one woman sit together on a stage. They are engaging with each other and smiling.

Mobile-First: A Deep Dive into the MessageGears Mobile Suite

Up next, mobile expert Kelly Harlan walked through MessageGears’ latest mobile offerings, including a comprehensive walkthrough of push, in-app, and OTT capabilities. 

Brands are redefining customer journeys to thrive in today’s mobile-first realm and figuring out new capabilities for driving engagement across all lifecycle phases.

Kelly shared how brands can use mobile messaging through different use cases including:

  • Optimizing the first-time user experience
  • Timing in-app permissions requests
  • Utilizing in-app behavior data to improve promotional push campaign performance
  • Targeting users based on location
  • Enhancing user experience with relevant features
  • Creating persistent custom offers for each user

Kelly Harlan stands on stage at Accelerate holding a microphone. She is wearing a black dress and blue blazer.

Party City’s Segmentation Masterpiece: How Machine Learning Painted a New Path

Kicking off our final morning of sessions, Alisa Stewart, Sr. Director of CRM & Loyalty at Party City, and Dave Ragals, MessageGears’ VP of Customer Success, sat down Tuesday morning for a cozy, one-on-one chat about how the team at Party City approached a new strategy with a new tech stack.

Alisa shared how the team was able to implement demographic segmentation using machine learning and predictive models. Improved segmentation helped them determine which demographic included their most profitable customers and best prospects. They were then able to figure out what products these customers buy, and then tailor acquisition and retention efforts accordingly, layering in predictive models to identify which customers are most likely to shop again and what product(s) they are most likely to buy. 

This allowed Party City  to deliver more relevant messaging via channels that were specific to each customer, and in turn more likely to convert. 

A man and a woman are sitting on a stage having a conversation. The man is watching the woman speak.

Vision Forward: The MessageGears Product Roadmap

The final session of Accelerate 2023 featured MessageGears’ Director of Product Marketing, Elizabeth Weddle, and VP of Product Management, Michael Murdza

In this popular session, Elizabeth and Michael shared the product roadmap along with insights into market trends we’ve got our eye on at MessageGears, and key challenges facing B2C enterprises and how they drive our innovation.

We are continuing to build the leading customer engagement platform for enterprise marketers focusing on:

  • In-the-moment mobile engagement
  • Even more powerful and flexible segmentation
  • Leveling up real-time dynamic content
  • Strengthening your strategy with native AI/ML
  • Up-leveled UI and efficiency

A man and woman are standing in front of a large screen. The woman is speaking.

A Celebration of Innovation

We’re all facing challenges that threaten to stop us from implementing an outstanding marketing strategy. (Did anyone say, “limited resources, inadequate data, or a constrained budget?” 🫠) 

It’s also true that MessageGears works with lots of amazing brands overcoming those challenges and doing incredible work to connect with their customers. 

There’s nothing like trading notes with your peers to make you feel more in control and we hope attendees are coming away from Accelerate 2023 feeling as refreshed and energized as we are. Here’s to another year of achieving (and exceeding) goals. We’ll see you next year!

About the Author

Elsbeth Russell

Elsbeth has nearly two decades of experience helping brands attract and engage audiences through content. For the past six years, she’s been dedicated to helping B2B companies in the email marketing space connect with audiences through community building and social media marketing.