It may have taken more than a year to coordinate a gathering of the top educators and practitioners in mobile marketing from around the world at Texas A&M University, but the impact it will have on students in the Mays School of Business will be immediate and far-reaching.

Eight marketing directors from brands such as JCPenny, GameStop, Macy's and several professors from Texas A&M and around the world held a private three-day brainstorming session Wednesday through Friday on how to navigate the uncharted territory of mobile marketing at the third Thought Leadership Conference. The private seminar served as a launching pad for academic research in areas of mobile advertising, supply chain, mobile shopper marketing, mobile promotions and gaming that will culminate in a special issue of the Journal of Interactive Marketing next year to be the premier resource on how to reach customers through mobile devices.

According to Conference Chair and Mays Coleman Chair in Marketing Venky Shankar, the exchange of ideas will help direct the future of marketing.

"The power of the mobile medium and technology is that it allows you to communicate on a real time basis and it allows marketers to serve something depending on your location, the time of day, the weather, lots of things," Shankar said. "We wanted to get the best minds to think aloud. We call it thought leadership because they discussed issues that will be at the forefront of marketing five years from now."

Discussions among conference attendees during the final day of presentations included the untapped channel of video games in marketing, how to reach customers based on their physical locations and how to target income brackets of smartphone users.

Marketing executives at the conference -- such as Bharti Mishra of Citigroup, Steve Holland of 7-Eleven, Shawn Morrissey of Macy's and Jeff Donaldson -- have been able only to scratch the surface of mobile marketing since smartphones started to gain ground in 2009. Working with professors such as Martin Spann, who teaches marketing classes at the University of Munich in Germany, will allow executives to explore the field in ways they never thought of.

"It's such an evolving field since smartphones have been used in practice," Spann said. "But how to really utilize what can be done with them, there is still a lot of uncertainty. Most people working here today are at the forefront but you don't have any published knowledge. This issue will be the first in its field and, I think, have a very strong impact."

Shankar said Texas A&M marketing students will not need to wait long to absorb the lessons learned from the conference and become highly sought after by major national and international brands.

"We are going to take the outcome of this, crystallize this and put it into the curriculum so they can be let in on the leading edge practice," Shankar said. "By being the thought leader, A&M becomes the forefront in all the practitioners minds, that this is the university to go and recruit students for today's world where we need thousands of global marketing-savvy students who will hit the road running and help us."

Shankar understands that, at the rate technology is evolving, the next Thought Leadership conference might focus on an idea or practice that does not yet exist, but he is ready.

"Every two to three years we try to do something that the industry needs, the students need and the researchers need more of," he said. "We want to be ahead of the curve and be leading."

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