December 17, 2016
Fake news and echo chambers became headline issues during the recent US election. Whether it was outrageous stories fabricated by the pseudo-press to lure clicks (and ad dollars), or algorithms set up by social media to feed viewers stories that reinforced their worldview while blocking contrary thoughts, the phenomenon raised a disturbing question: are we losing our grip on the truth, and becoming a hostile, fearful world?
I believe brands can play a key role in reversing this trend. After all, they've done it in the past.
Consider Coke's I'd like to teach the world to sing commercial, which gave us a brief respite from political, racial and social tensions during the late 60's. Or the famous United Colours of Bennetton ads that forced us to confront our racial, sexual and societal prejudices in the 80's.
There is terrific upside for brands that are brave enough today to challenge our fear and hostility towards the 'other'. Which brands will seize the opportunity?
December 7, 2016
Yesterday, I had a terrific conversation with Spring Advertising founder and Creative Director Rob Schlyecher.
Like myself, Rob believes the classic ad agency model is flawed. His 'a-ha' moment came when he created a campaign that enabled his clients to sell their company for millions - while Spring was paid a nominal (in hindsight) fee.
That got Rob scratching his head and wondering how he could avoid this sort of conundrum in the future. His solution? Create products, instead of just selling them for others.
Sure, other agencies have done it. But most of them have failed, because they don't get the entrepreneurial (vs service industry) mindset.
Spring seems to be charting a course for success in innovation. Their first product, Poop Like A Champion cereal, is selling out.
If you'd like to get in on Rob's secret, listen to the podcast here.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.