The matchmaker for brands looking for better agency love

November 28, 2016

The world of brands (like the world in general) is becoming more complex.

Where the rule was once to find an 'integrated' agency capable of handling all requests, the mood today is shifting toward finding a raft of specialized shops, then 'conducting' them like a symphony.

AgencySparks was launched to meet the growing need for hyperspecialized matchmaking. Founder and CEO Joe Koufman joined me in a conversation on the shifting priorities of brands, the willingness of big brands to trade the stability of one agency for the greater performance of many smaller shops working together, and how to make this all work - both logistically and in the presence of competing egos.

 

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Trump, Clinton, and the rebirth of brand USA

October 31, 2016

To the world, the US has always been more than a country - it represented an idea of dreams pursued and happiness attained. Now, with the impending US election, that concept has taken a body blow.

Has the US fallen? Or is this merely a rebirth by fire? If it is indeed a rebirth, what will the new brand USA become?

To shed some light on the psychological implications of the election, the candidates, and the zeitgeist, I invited my old friend and collaborator John Marshall Roberts for a discussion on the issues beneath the surface. What we unearthed was both disturbing and - for the long run - reassuring. Enjoy the conversation!

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How to build (and kill) brand image

October 17, 2016

With the recent release of the Gustavson Brand Trust Index, I was invited on CFAX talk radio to chat about how to build brand image - and how to destroy it. Join host Mark Brennae and myself as we discuss the Gustavson Index, Edelman's Global Trust Barometer, and the rapidly morphing world of brands.

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Why your best ad may be a speech

October 8, 2016

Technology has enabled us to personally engage with more people than ever before. Simply put, we can now speak to the world. And if our message is worthy, the world will tune in.

But will public speaking supplant advertising as the go-to form of communication for brands? I asked Hugh Culver, an industry veteran who has charted the evolving role of public speaking in business. Culver runs a great speaker training company, coaches corporate teams on productivity, and delivers upwards of 40 speeches a year himself (he also has a thriving social media business, climbs mountains and runs ultramarathons, but that's another story).

Culver had some terrific insights on building a personal brand through public speaking, why great speakers make great corporate brands, and how to hone in on your most effective brand message. Enjoy!

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Will enlightened consumers stop buying your brand?

August 23, 2016

Brands were created to make us happy - for a fleeting moment, at any rate. After that moment passed, they trained us to be dissatisfied until we hit the 'buy' button again.

But lately, something strange has been happening.

Blame it on sustainability or internet-induced transparency. Blame it on people getting fed up with feeling compelled to buy more on smaller paychecks. Blame it on enlightenment.

Today, people want to be makers, or they want to enjoy experiences. Buying new shiny things is starting to look less, well, shiny.

In this context, I wanted to introduce you to John Habibi.

John caught my eye because his business was teaching tech entrepreneurs to close more deals and take more time off. As I spend most of my time in tech, this promise seemed like the holy grail. Intoxicating, and unreachable.

When I dug a bit deeper, it turned out John was helping these entrepreneurs discover mindfulness and spirituality through meditation. Again, a concept that seemed incongruent with my impression of the average alpha tech entrepreneur.

John and I have had a number of conversations on his practice, and how our yearning for something 'more' than material success is changing the face of our society. As a brand specialist, I dug into his thoughts on how mindfulness could destroy brands, or reshape them.

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A brand perspective on Trump, Clinton, and the future of American politics.

July 31, 2016

To many of us, the 2016 presidential race is moving from baffling to bewildering. But if you look into the science of worldviews, a pattern begins to emerge. Even more interesting, this pattern mirrors the evolution brands must undergo to thrive and survive in our turbulent world.

To give this bizarre state of affairs coherence and make it easy to understand, I invited behavioral scientist John Marshall Roberts aboard for a lively discussion. Fasten your seatbelts!

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Has advertising lost its focus on innovation?

July 18, 2016

Leading North American companies used to be headed by engineers and innovators. Today, however, managers and accountants hold the reins. The result? Less focus on innovation, and more on efficiency and maintaining revenue.

Advertising is no different. Today, the owners of agencies and networks are vast holding companies that don't put much stock in risky new ideas.

That has created a crisis in confidence in the sector, with vital young talent departing for more innovative careers in sectors like tech.

Andrew Carty's agency Send+Receive is rethinking the role of agencies, and changing a number of accepted practices to put the focus back where it belongs. Crafting great ideas.

Andrew joined me for a lively discussion where we covered issues as far-reaching as billable hours vs outcomes, and the failure of consumer insights to generate ads worth watching.

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How to save advertising, one dollar at a time

July 7, 2016

Requests for Proposal, or RFP's, have become the bane of the ad industry because they reward agencies for undercutting competitors on price. What results is antagonistic relationships and mistrust between the winning agency and client. The result is almost always the same - the client leaves the agency prematurely, looking for a happier relationship - and an even lower price.

Cal Harrison is a champion of QBS, or Qualification Based Selection, a methodology for agency selection that takes price bidding out of the agency selection process. I chatted with Cal on the toxic environment agencies are finding themselves in on a regular basis because of RFPs, the 'order-taker' mentality that has ensued, and what a world of creative difference QBS would make.

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Can Brands Survive our Toxic Communication Environment?

June 16, 2016

Public discourse has denigrated into toxic shouting matches. Whether it's political debates, climate change or the message emanating from big brands surrounding flashpoint issues (big oil or the gun lobby, for example), we've seen critical thinking, engagement and constructive dialogue be thrown by the wayside in exchange for headline-grabbing abuse and shrill megaphone matchups.

PR expert and celebrated author Jim Hoggan has just released an incredible book - I'm right and you're an idiot - that dissects our language's destruction by a host of forces. Together, we explore some of the highlights and surprises of his book, and dig into the implication for brands trying to build an audience that alternates between shell shock and cynical disbelief.

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Decoding Happiness - Key to Creating a Futureproof Brand?

June 1, 2016

Selling happiness (and unhappiness) through consumption is a concept as old as planned obsolesence itself. But consumers are tiring of the merry go round, and brands that want to survive and thrive into the future need to redefine how they make consumers happy.

This is a topic that fascinates me, and is the subject of exploration in my book. In this episode, I bring aboard renowned psychologist, author and all-around good guy John Marshall Roberts to discuss our natural happy state, and how brands can augment it.

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