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  • feedwordpress 21:54:25 on 2017/01/30 Permalink
    Tags: , Brand Engagement, , ,   

    The Rise of Consumer Activism in an Era of Distrust 

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    Consumer Activism: Just Getting Started
    Since the inauguration of president Trump, we've seen protests seemingly organized on a dime whether it be The Women's March, The March for Life or the recent immigration protests at local airports. These actions, however will not be limited to the protests in public but also in protests of the purse or at least the #hashtag. Case in point—when Uber announced that it would be removing surge pricing to pick up the slack caused by NYC cab drivers who joined immigration protests it was seen by some customers as profiting from an issue they vehemently disagreed with.

    And from this, the #Deleteuber "movement" was born with people screen grabbing their deletion of the app, swearing allegiance to Uber's competition and encouraging peers to do the same. While consumer activism isn't new by any stretch of the imagination—today's record levels of distrust in once trusted institutions (see Edelman's Trust Barometer) combined with peer connectivity sets the stage for a dramatic increase of the phenomena.

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    From Brand Awareness to Consumer Activism
    For brands to raise their level of readiness in an era where consumer activism becomes more commonplace—marketers must think about four key stages in addition to the traditional funnel. Each stage carries with it a positive or negative impact for a brand. 

    + Positive: Consumer has general awareness of a brand and its values and finds them relevant
    -  Negative: Consumer has low awareness of brand and its values and brand is not relevant 

    + Positive: Consumer has a high affinity for the brand and preference as a result 
    -  Negative: Consumer has low affinity for the brand and does not show loyalty 

    + Positive: Consumer will recommend brand to others and actively promote it 
    -  Negative: Consumer will speak negatively about brand and actively criticize it 

    + Positive: Consumer will actively defend or take action which benefits brand
    -  Negative: Consumer will actively take action which damages brand (reputation or financial)

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    Source: Buzzfeed

    Earning Trust in an Era of Consumer Activism 
    Emerging societal demands and divides combined with peer connectivity provide the perfect storm for consumer activism and brands must find ways to earn not only the loyalty but trust of their consumers. Edelman's 2016 Earned Brand study outlines that most brands engage consumers in a way that interest and involve them but fall short of getting them invested to the point where consumers would advocate on their behalf or act as "activists" in their favor. 

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    Some brands are taking a proactive stance as this emerging dynamic intensifies. *Starbucks recently committed to hiring 10,000 refugees in in five years while clearly articulating their values. AirBnB announced that stranded refugees could stay for free and Lyft pledged a million dollars to support the ACLU.

    Handle With Care: Consumer Activism Will Force Brands to Examine Their Values
    If nothing else, consumer activists will force brands to ask themselves "what do we stand for"? The biggest risk for a brand in dealing with a low trust environment is to act inauthentically, contrived or in a way that feels opportunistic. Still, consumers will continue to evaluate brands not only by how relevant they are in their lives—but how responsible they feel they are. Or to put it another way, how much they feel they have in common in terms of their values. If a brand today cannot express or articulate those values—it risks leaving its intent and action open to interpretation.  

    *Starbucks is an Edelman client

  • feedwordpress 21:26:14 on 2016/11/29 Permalink
    Tags: Brand Engagement, , ,   

    Six Near-term Trends Influencing The Business of Marketing 

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    If you’ve come here looking for the latest thinking on virtual reality, drones and autonomous driving—you’ve come to the wrong place. Marketers are an interesting bunch—we pride ourselves on “being in the know”, with some good reason… Part of our jobs are to stay one step ahead of the game so we are better prepared for the changes that inevitably effect the business of our industry. But in the pursuit of staying ahead of future trends—we often overlook massive shifts that need to be operationalized over the next five years, if not decade. In the pursuit of keeping our eye on the ball—I’ve identified six near term trends influencing the business of marketing:

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    From Media Channels To Media Ecosystem 
    Blame Digital. Just when we were getting used to shifting efforts and dollars to reflect not only print, television, radio and the internet—the internet itself has fragmented into a million tiny little pieces which blur the lines between paid, owned, earned and even social when it comes to dollar spend—and that’s not even getting into how it all get’s measured. Case in point—in the past year, MTV has seen it’s traditional television viewership of the Video Music Awards decline 34%. However if you look closely at the numbers, digital views including Facebook Live Streaming increased 70%. The problem here? MTV has yet to monetize the ever fragmented and complex digital media ecosystem and still relies on traditional TV advertisers to make money.

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    This makes the jobs of the media creators, buyers, sellers and strategists, well—complicated. Marketers are reluctant to embrace this complexity in their need to reach the largest and most targeted audiences they can. But in the near term—this complexity must be dealt with by diving deeper into digital and re-defining how, where and when dollars are spent within the complete media ecosystem vs. the easiest parts of it to put spend against.

    From Text That Tells To Visuals That Show
    The entire Web is being re-built for visual and video content. Before you dismiss this as “obvious”—we must take into account that the previous and dominant version of the Internet became mainstream with the advent of Google’s search engine and search was and to some extent still is a game of text, meta tags, keywords and text based organic content popularity. Now let’s look at demographics: Boomers, and GenX grew up on traditional literacy in the written word. Millennials and GenZ are growing up on what I call “visual literacy” which is accentuated by platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube which are video and visual dominated as opposed to text driven.

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    It is this visual literacy combined with the changing face of how we not only search for but receive content which is changing before our very eyes. marketers have spent years perfecting their Keywords and then finding ways to get text based links to their written content shared on social media but increasingly it’s video that gets shared directly through a multitude of apps that is becoming the dominant social currency. Brands have yet to master modern forms of video and visual storytelling as even the rules are changing in this space. Snapchat for example favors short, compelling vertical video formats which tend to perform well. For marketers—many who built their craft on taglines or standard 30 second television commercials—these forms of video content (not ads) are foreign and still largely untapped. Marketers will need to re-think video, visual storytelling and the production of these things from the ground up in this new world if they are to remain relevant.

    From Mobile Last To Mobile First
    We take for granted that Facebook is one of the most popular apps in the world and most of us access it from our mobile devices. But in the early days of Facebook—there was a time that they found themselves on the defense when it came to mobile and believe it or not—they actually didn’t get it. In less than a year—they transformed themselves into a “mobile first” company from the top down and had some of the most talented developers in the world at their disposal to see this transformation through. Unfortunately, even the world’s biggest and most resourceful brands and agencies do not have these resources nor the imperative to re-invent their organizations to think, act, and operate within the same context as their mobile consumers, customers and employees.

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    Thanks to Google, marketers have good reason to prioritize mobile development as their way forward since Google actually dings Websites that they deem are not responsive or functional in the mobile environment. But the shift to mobile is much more than making our Websites mobile friendly. It means we need to intimately understand how our audiences want to consume, create, share and interact with our brands. It’s one of the leading reasons we’ve seen customers shift to expressing their dissatisfaction about a brand experience or service publicly—they have a megaphone in their pocket at all times. We’ve done a disservice to our industry by treating mobile as a “duh”—it requires a complete transformation in many ways due to its impact on our daily behaviors. Facebook had it right—brands and agencies should do the same.

    From Reliance On Media Companies To Being Your Own Media Company
    “Publishing Is The New Marketing”. Sounds good—easier said than done. But the reality is that thanks to social media—most marketers are already in the business of publishing whether they know it or not. Got a brand presence on Facebook or YouTube? Congratulations, you’re in the content business. The problem however is that most content isn’t very good and so marketers find themselves solving the wrong problem.

    It’s not about creating content as much as it is about cultivating targeted and high quality audiences who want to hear from you again and again.

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    In the pursuit of cultivating quality audiences who not only are willing to consume a brand’s content but want to share and potentially co-create with the brand, marketers must understand how to engage with audiences not only during their “tentpole” campaigns but daily, weekly. monthly and quarterly. This is where the dynamics of marketing and publishing mix and brands are still scrambling to figure out how to do this.

    From Ad-Hoc Influencer Engagement To Integrated Influence Marketing 
    When CBS 60 Minutes does a feature on Influencer Marketing—you know it’s not fleeting trend anymore. However this space as familiar as it seems is new territory for marketers. Unlike traditional celebrities—most of these cultural influencers such as social media stars and Youtubers are creators who have built their OWN audiences using their OWN channels. So to protect their reputations with their audience—their preference is to collaborate and co-create with brands as opposed to endorse and act as spokespeople the way traditional celebrities have always done.

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    In addition—most brands are currently treating these kinds of partnerships as one-offs or ad-hoc engagements vs. re-thinking how they interface not only with cultural influencers but ALL influencers who often play off each other when it comes to reaching mass audiences often times through our peers. It will take years for marketers to fully evolve and build the process to support this in a much more integrated and scalable fashion beyond one off campaigns and programs. This entire space is still in its infancy.

    From Brand Value Proposition To Brand Values
    Lock yourself in a room with the most seasoned and senior marketing executives and they will nod their heads when presented with research that reflects the purchase habits of millennials, especially one key shift—millennials are often influenced not only by the products, services and “value proposition” of the brands they buy from—they are also curious and care about how the brand acts, how it participates and what it “stands for” in a societal context. If they feel like the brand is aligned with some or all of their own personal values—these influence behaviors from purchase through to loyalty. My Employer (Edelman) produced research that most consumers are “involved” with brands but are open to “commitment”. And in many cases, being committed goes beyond traditional value proposition attributes such as quality, convenience and price.

    Screen Shot 2016-11-29 at 3.22.16 PMThe premise seems deceptively simple. Many brands understand this and in response have gone out of their way to show how they are “going green” or “doing good”—often through corporate channels that are responsible for these kinds of messages. But this shift goes beyond messages and block and tackle corporate communications. Marketers have mastered the art and science of building brands in the hearts and minds of consumers by balancing their emotional and rational needs. Products had to show they would actually work but the most successful brands went further and endeared themselves to consumers through appealing to their emotions (Think Nike—Just Do It)

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    Thanks largely to millennials—this is no longer enough. Marketers need to re-examine their value proposition and ask themselves if their brand’s “values” are clearly articulated and if their actions, marketing and every touchpoint with a consumer and customer backs this up. It goes beyond satisfying rational and emotional needs but adding the third dimension of “societal” but above all else—all three dimensions need to be true to the brand and supported by proof points. This becomes not only the job of the chief communications officer and CEO but the CEO, CMO and CEO working in tandem. Few brands have been able to successfully “stand for something” because it takes a village to pull this off right and in line with the brand values. But whether it’s #Optoutside or #LikeAGirl—when done authentically, it resonates.

    If you’ve gotten this far, than you’re probably thinking that none of the above is new to you. And that’s the point—it isn’t. But the marketing industry has yet to fully make the needed shifts in most or nearly all of the above trends based on my observations and in working directly with clients. These trends each bring with them great opportunities but require companies whether brands or agencies to evolve priorities, re-evaluate staff and agency mix and place bets in areas that are still developing or require extra effort to measure. They may not be as sexy as virtual reality or cars which drive themselves—but in the next five or so years, it is how well we operationalize against these trends that may benefit marketers most in the near future.

  • feedwordpress 14:42:28 on 2016/10/03 Permalink
    Tags: Brand Engagement, , ,   

    The Death of Content Marketing: Why Brands Must Become Cultural Currency 

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    Before there was social media—before there was mobile and the video revolution, there was blogging. Once heralded as a revolution in communications and to a degree, marketing—self expression and direct publishing of the written word became an influential force to be dealt with.

    Blogging, in written word form of has been a commodity for some time.

    Even as I write this on the reality is less people are taking in the written word, opting instead for “junk food” media which comes in highly shareable and snackable bits of sticky, mobile optimized content.

    Today however, it is content itself that has and will continue to become the commodity. Content in all forms—even mobile optimized and snackable content. There’s simply too much of it. Most of it is not very good and even if it is—the amount of effort it takes to make sure that content will travel far and wide makes for considerable effort. Many will do this well but more will fail.

    So what is value in today’s connected marketing and media landscape?


    The ability to create it, influence it, co-create it and integrate a brand so seamlessly in culture and relevant sub cultures. This is the next frontier of marketing and communications and while it has much to do with things like social, mobile and content—it is the cultural aspect that must lead while everything else follows. A very excellent article in Harvard Business Review reflects some of this shift, labeling it within the context of something Douglas Holt calls “Crowdculture”:

    “While companies have put their faith in branded content for the past decade, brute empirical evidence is now forcing them to reconsider. In YouTube or Instagram rankings of channels by number of subscribers, corporate brands barely appear. Only three have cracked the YouTube Top 500. Instead you’ll find entertainers you’ve never heard of, appearing as if from nowhere.
    YouTube’s greatest success by far is PewDiePie, a Swede who posts barely edited films with snarky voice-over commentary on the video games he plays. By January 2016 he had racked up nearly 11 billion views, and his YouTube channel had more than 41 million subscribers.”

    The challenge for brands is that they often times cannot create culture by themselves. Today’s culture creators often thrive in “sub cultures”—niche groups that exist under more mainstream areas whether it be food, sports, fashionlest you think this only applies to “consumer brands” it does not.Subcultures exist in business as well and continue to diversify as business itself becomes more specialized and niche.

    Brands and Organizations Must Become Collaborators and Co-Creators of Culture

    Today and tomorrow’s challenge for brands and organizations is to tweak their marketing and communications infrastructure so they can effectively collaborate with influencers of culture across the spectrum. If brands cannot create culture from scratch—they can co-create it with the right partners across the paid, owned, earned and social spectrum. But to do this at scale, they must understand the ecosystem of influence and re-structure internally to connect that ecosystem and approach peer to peer influence from all sides.

    The Influencer Ecosystem

    Brands and organizations who wish to influence culture and become co-creators of it, must begin to coordinate how they approach working with those who wield influence, coming at it from different directions. For example, TIME magazine featured a cover telling us that we should “eat butter”. While earned in nature, the story and the journalists behind it are playing a key role in the resurgence of butter and how Americans are re-thinking fat. It’s an example of media influencing culture—in this particular example, this kind of influence cannot be bought—it must be earned, however, increasingly cultural influencers such as “YouTubers” require paid means to collaborate with. The influencer ecosystem can be broken down as such:

    Cultural Influencers
    These can be celebrities but increasingly, it is the influencers of subcultures—those who are building audiences via Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube etc. that are becoming today’s trusted voices. In 2015, Variety reported on a survey which displayed a trend where digital celebrities (YouTubers etc.) began eclipsing traditional celebrities in terms of popularity:

    “Sehdev predicts that within five years, YouTube stars will consume the entire top-20 celebrity influencer list, and aging teens will grow into a sizable fanbase for online talent overall. But that will require YouTube stars to remain genuine and relatable as they gain in popularity.”

    However despite this trend, there are significant implications for brands. As stated above, the digital stars must remain genuine and relatable which makes working with them a challenge as brands must learn to collaborate vs. dictate heavy handed marketing. Also, brands must develop repeatable ways they can work with all levels of these types of influencers. As it is an emerging space often requiring complex contracts, disclaimers and transparency—it brings new operational dynamics to the table.

    Reputational Influencers
    These can range from employees to thought leaders to analysts and experts and while they often influence consumers or customers who are highly informed and connected themselves. The challenge here for brands is that much of what they do in this space is often times disconnected from what they do with cultural influencers—but should be more integrated. Not long ago, Edelman (my employer) announced a strategic partnership with a start up called Dynamic Signal. One of the key benefits of their platform Voicestream is the ability to harness the networks of either cultural or reputational influencers acting as amplifiers of content that a brand places in front of them. Integration and accountability in terms of performance is now becoming possible, but brands must first connect efforts here.

    Media Influencers 
    As the TIME example illustrates—media in all its forms led by journalists and the media companies they work with can often influence culture and sub cultures also appealing to informed audiences who often share their content. But it isn’t just the “professionals”—while blogging itself has become much of a commodity there is still a role for blogger networks with niche audiences who have built audience and work with brands (often requiring a financial transaction) to incorporate their products and services into their content. But here again whether earned or paid—integration opportunity exists as what all three groups have in common is getting through to peer networks who then influence each other.

    Content Marketing” came after social media and mobile and it enjoyed a good run. But it’s not enough to create content in a complex media ecosystem that makes it extremely difficult to break though and earn attention. Brands will have to learn how to influence culture and sub cultures by collaborating with those who create it externally while coordinating their fractured functions internally. And they’ll have to do it in ways that can be repeated and scaled.

  • feedwordpress 15:44:16 on 2016/01/23 Permalink
    Tags: Brand Engagement, ,   

    Hero, Hub and Hygiene: Where Marketing Meets Publishing 

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    Q: When should a brand act like a publisher?
    A: Ad blocking software

    You find yourself watching an entertaining series starring your favorite celebrity and Jerry Seinfeld. Or maybe it's your favorite internet cat celebrities joining forces in a holiday themed music video. Or it's a *satirical article from The Onion showing up in your Facebook feed. What the above have in common is the fact that none of them are the advertising most of us grew up with on our televisions or even desktops for that matter—but they are all working in the service of brands and organizations. 

    Welcome to the age of brands as publishers—designed for mobile screens, Google algorithms, social news feeds and driven by essential success metrics: "sharing and subscribing". 

    A brand marketing meets publishing model is nothing new, nor is the Hero, Hub, Hygiene approach coined by Google originally as an approach for YouTube. But as many brands are finding out, adding the nimble publishing approach to your existing global behemoth marketing machine is a daunting task. Just like any significant shift organizations must make to any part of their business—marketers both at the brand and agency level must find common ground in how they define major components:

    Brand Platform
    A common mistake made in the worlds of marketing, branding and advertising is confusing a campaign with a brand platform which is akin to confusing a banana with a banana tree. For the sake of clarity—"Dove Campaign For Real Beauty" is a brand platform, while Dove Sketches was an activation that evolved into campaign like territory. As referenced in Building Modern Brands—a brand platform is foundational in nature and modern brands are evolving to reflect not only rational and emotional benefits, but articulating what they stand for in a societal context. Can campaigns be derived from brand platforms? Yes, but they are more evergreen in nature vs. moment in time and should influence all activations no matter how strategic or tactical.  

    Unlike a brand platform—activations are more time and context sensitive. These are your programs, campaigns, events and other activities that will range from highly strategic and pre-planned to highly responsive and in the moment. Activations should be strategically aligned to the brand platform but also possess the flexibility to expand contextually. These are the ways the brand platform comes to life over time.  

    Hero activations are where brands place their big bets. Typically these are the global integrated marketing campaigns though increasingly they can still be big bets without ever coming to life in traditional channels like television. These can also be big communications and engagement activations involving media and influencers. Regardless of classification, brands often times don't support more than one to two of these annually and sometimes they can extend beyond a single year. 

    Hub activations can be more frequent and are often times less ambitious than a Hero campaign. Partnerships with media companies or digital influencers for example can often fall into Hub territory. Depending on the nature of the brand or organization—Hub activations could be as few as quarterly or as often as monthly. The rise of native advertising and sponsored content is currently fueling the popularity of Hub activations that don't always directly support a specific Hero campaign. 

    Hygiene activations can fall into the "always on" "daily" or "content engine" classifications. Often times, Hygiene activations require multiple publishing touch points such as social channels or Web destinations. Barilla for example aggregates both Hygiene, Hub and Hero content onto its "**Passion For Pasta" Tumblr. Hygiene activations can be as frequent as daily and in some cases even hourly. 

    Hero, Hub and Hygiene all have two things in common:
    1. Activations across all three must be coordinated.
    2. Increasingly, they require a blend of a "marketing meets publishing mindset" in order to scale and operationalize.

    And it is here where many organizations will face challenges. Integrated marketing is an apple while publishing is an orange. Increasingly brands will need both in order to remain relevant in the search engines and social news feeds of consumers and customers. To do this—marketers will have to genetically splice that apple and orange together to create an entirely new fruit, designed to work around the ad blockers and entice consumers to pause, take a bite and pass it on. 

    *The Udder Truth was created by Dairy Management Inc. in partnership with Edelman 
    **Passion For Pasta is a Barilla Group activation executed in partnership with Edelman

  • feedwordpress 16:22:12 on 2016/01/18 Permalink
    Tags: Brand Engagement, , ,   

    Building A Modern Brand: Strategy, Creativity and Agility 

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    Building brands in the mad men era was a relatively straight forward endeavor...

    A brand needed to effectively communicate its value to the consumer, plainly stating its functional benefits and for the more enduring brands—connecting with consumers at the emotional level typically through a story told via television led advertising campaigns. The most iconic of brands over time, mastered the art of really digging into the "soul" of a brand. How it was differentiated from others and how it should be expressed in all parts of the world. 

    Building brands became something of a religious pursuit, with high priests and gatekeepers of brands in place to ensure that a brand did not become diluted. These guardians of brands created all kinds of doctrine meant to keep a brand's value proposition pure and true. Brands have always been built and expressed based on how they met consumers needs at the rational and emotional levels. More recently, brand stewards have been grappling with the notion of a brand's "purpose"—industry shorthand for how a brand's "values" take into account societal context. Can a brand stand for something bigger than itself? Does it exist for a higher purpose? Is there a cultural tension point that a brand has a right to participate in (or lead) a conversation around? 

    Data from Edelman's Brandshare study concluded that today's consumers look for and evaluate their relationship with a brand beyond traditional rational and emotional benefits into areas that veer into societal. Well over half of 10,000 consumers polled globally indicated that brands having a clear "mission and purpose" influenced how they felt about that brand. 

    In short, today's marketers must ask themselves—does our brand stand for something? Does it stand against something else?

    It is this tension point that takes us back to the drawing board when it comes to the "soul" of a brand. But we cannot divorce this exercise from how a brand must be brought to life. The re-visiting of a brand's foundation requires taking another look at how it comes to life an today's always on, multi channel world. Modern brands must master the relationship between these three key facets for how brands sustain their relationship with consumers after answering what it stands for and against:

    It's tempting to think at the program level (campaigns, etc.) that once a foundational brand strategy is set—we can go right to ideas and tactics both big, medium and small. Avoid the temptation. Strategy at the program level should be the nucleus of any program and it should inform and influence all ideas. It should present clearly the balance between meeting business, brand and consumer/customer objectives. 

    Never has creativity been so important. People are rarely motivated by statistics and logic—but rich stories and experiences can lead to desired action. However, telling stories and designing useful, usable and desirable experiences requires out of the box thinking. Stories don't get shared by people unless they are exceptionally compelling, entertaining or educational. There are thousands of apps to compete with and digital influencers can often times build audiences better than brands can. Creativity is now complicated. 

    Probably the newest and most disruptive dynamic out of the three. Most brands grapple with agility because they are still operating in a construct built for the industrial broadcast era of marketing. As I've outlined in Responsive Marketing, it's adding a layer of smaller more nimble initiatives than can help inform and even optimize the bigger more comprehensive programs that are still linear in nature. What both layers have in common is that they must move away from the launch and walk away model and move toward a model that puts various "things" in a live environment and adapts along the way. Google's Ben Jones recently pointed out the elephant in the room when it comes to agility:

    "Advertising has radically shifted to be more agile, useful, and relevant in the always-on age of mobile. Yet the foundation of creative work, the creative brief, remains largely unchanged."

    The creative brief shouldn't go away, but if you truly buy into the notion of agility then the doctrine of briefs and briefing must become more dynamic than static while preserving the ability to influence big, medium and even small ideas. 

    It's been said that the more things change, the more they remain the same. In the context of building and preserving brands—this holds somewhat true. A brand becomes a brand only the the hearts and minds of consumers. And today's consumers have ever evolving values, demographics and technology/lifestyle habits. We didn't walk around with super computers in our pockets years ago and millennials are a far cry from baby boomers.

    Modern brands will be built and re-built on foundations which reflect these evolutions but they must come to life informed by strategy, inspired by creativity and designed for agility. 

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