Welcome to The Stream: Allison+Partners’ content hub that features the latest news and trends making the biggest waves in media and marketing.
Kevin: Hey Lisa! So, last week we were in humid and overcast Orlando Florida soaking up the lessons of some of the brightest marketers and premier brands in business today. The ANA Masters of Marketing summit is ground zero for learning from and schmoozing with the best of the best – Samsung, P&G, Walmart, Lane Bryant, KFC, Chase, MGM Resorts, Cadillac and State Farm all had impressive presentations. Listening to each it was hard not to see a common theme: find your purpose as a brand and communicate it authentically. Similar to how we preach in our Storytelling and Brand Workshops, brands need to find their core values, their strengths, and elevate them above their product messaging in the hopes that they can connect in a deeper way with customers and prospects. That’s how you stand out, endure, innovate from and create memorable marketing experiences that drive growth. And get you on a stage telling everyone else about it. Of course, we couldn’t agree more and we were happy to see other big brands show not only superlative work, but the transformative results that came from them. Seeing how Cadillac and KFC recharged their struggling brands by doubling down on their brand truths, how P&G and Lane Bryant connected with cultural touchstones and movements but in ways that felt permissible and genuine to the brand mission and product experience. The results for the bottom line were persuasive, and their risk tolerance and brand management skills were incredible to see and hear.
Lisa: Kevin, what a great couple of days it’s been it was listening to industry legends like P&G’s Marc Pritchard and Walmart’s Tony Rogers. And while the theme of the conference was the role of brands in driving growth, what struck me was how many of the brands sharing their stories not only talked about their journey to find brand purpose, but understood the power that purpose can have in becoming a force for good. There was much discussion of gender equality and the perception of women in society. P&G’s #weseeequal digital ad campaign was a powerful reminder of gender equality, simply stating it as an obvious matter of fact. Brian Beitler, EVP & CMO for Lane Bryant went a bit further opening his session with a rallying statement that “gender equality is not a female issue, it is a human issue.” The work that Lane Bryant has been doing to change the conversation around body equality is filled with provocative imagery, bold language and hashtags designed to spark a movement. While the #imnoangel and #plusisequal campaigns are not without their critics, it’s hard not to give huge props to a brand whose purpose “is to change the way women see themselves and the way the world sees women.”
Kevin: And as is often the case, the winning formula seems to be to develop something so provocative yet honest that paid media becomes an afterthought. Get the world talking, have the blogs buzzing, make your message carry enough weight that the brand is recognized as relevant and interesting (and interested). As we preach nonstop – and as it was mentioned in a slide by none other than an auto brand – brands need to tell stories that intrigue and inspire, instead of just showcasing products and features. Your business must be obsessed with your customers, must be data driven and digital first, yes. But it must also be purpose led, so that the stories you tell don’t feel out of touch with our need to feel centered around a shared humanity. This should not be only applicable to consumer brands or worthy non-profit causes. It’s the province of any company looking to gain the attention of a potential customer and translate that attention into interest. One of my favorite slides was from Cadillac, which was titled “We’ve Re-Focused on Building Desire for the Brand” and featured a graphic that had all product features sitting in the base of a Maslow’s “hierarchy” as costs of entry. Appeal, relevance, prestige and exclusivity of the experience sat at the top. If all brands did that as an exercise it would be a great first start!
Lisa: Not only is building desire for the brand critical, but understanding how to build a brand from the inside out is increasingly important when you think about a brand’s most powerful stakeholder. MGM with its new corporate brand campaign, “Welcome to the Show,” understood the impact that its 77,000 employees could have on shifting perceptions of MGM as just Vegas hotels and casinos to a global entertainment brand. The work put into its internal communications program squarely put the emphasis on the role of the employee in building the brand. It was interesting that so much of the work shared featured anything but traditional advertising. I thought that KFC and its agency, Weiden+Kennedy with their “branded everything” mantra are paving the way for what’s to come. While KFC’s Extra Crispy Sunscreen was met with equal parts laughter and wrinkled noses, it stands as one of the hallmarks of the brand’s turnaround. I think that brands who demonstrate marketing innovation – Cadillac’s Book, State Farm Next Door - on par with product innovation, are going to be the big winners with next generation consumers.
Lisa Rosenberg is partner, chief creative officer and co-chair of Allison+Partners' consumer marketing practice. Kevin Nabipour is the head of Content Strategies for Allison+Partners.