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Getting Radical with Brand

Brand strategy, when untethered from direct creative execution, has tremendous potential to set the agenda for companies, leading to greater retention, operational efficiency, and audience love. The trick is taking the brave step to think of the power of brand differently.

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GETTING RADICAL
WITH BRAND
March 2017
WOLF WILHELMINE
OH HEY
It’s great to be here. Thank you for having me.
I. THE PREAMBLE
II. BRAND AS OPERATING SYSTEM
III. ARTICULATING BRAND
IV. INFUSING BRAND
V. DOING BRAND
2
THE PREAMBLE
ONCE UPON A TIME
IN A LAND NOT SO FAR AWAY...
After success at FCB New York, Fallon London and
BBH New York, I dropped out and took off. I didn’t
know if I was going to come back.
I spent two years traveling around America in a
truck and freelancing for gas money.
I had a lot of time to think...
This was an epiphany day (weirdly I took a picture that day).
On this day I went on a hike and on that hike I realized that,
despite working in a “creative industry”, I hadn’t felt
creative in years.
I also realized that I loved doing brand strategy and that I
believed that brands have tremendous capacity to make
change in the world.
THIS IS MY TRUCK IN WYOMING
5
6
I STARTED RESEARCHING & THINKING
RESEARCH
What are the conditions that
creativity needs to thrive?
THINKING
What is powerful brand strategy
and how do you do it?

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Getting Radical with Brand

  • 1. & GETTING RADICAL WITH BRAND March 2017 WOLF WILHELMINE
  • 2. OH HEY It’s great to be here. Thank you for having me. I. THE PREAMBLE II. BRAND AS OPERATING SYSTEM III. ARTICULATING BRAND IV. INFUSING BRAND V. DOING BRAND 2
  • 4. ONCE UPON A TIME IN A LAND NOT SO FAR AWAY... After success at FCB New York, Fallon London and BBH New York, I dropped out and took off. I didn’t know if I was going to come back. I spent two years traveling around America in a truck and freelancing for gas money. I had a lot of time to think...
  • 5. This was an epiphany day (weirdly I took a picture that day). On this day I went on a hike and on that hike I realized that, despite working in a “creative industry”, I hadn’t felt creative in years. I also realized that I loved doing brand strategy and that I believed that brands have tremendous capacity to make change in the world. THIS IS MY TRUCK IN WYOMING 5
  • 6. 6 I STARTED RESEARCHING & THINKING RESEARCH What are the conditions that creativity needs to thrive? THINKING What is powerful brand strategy and how do you do it?
  • 7. AND ULTIMATELY, THIS LED TO WOLF & WILHELMINE 7
  • 8. AND ULTIMATELY, THIS LED TO WOLF & WILHELMINE 8 AN ENVIRONMENT BUILT FOR CREATIVITY TO THRIVE 7/Saturday Rule Black-out vacations Non-traditional talent approach Oxygen philosophy
  • 9. AND ULTIMATELY, THIS LED TO WOLF & WILHELMINE 9 AN ENVIRONMENT BUILT FOR CREATIVITY TO THRIVE 7/Saturday Rule Black-out vacations Non-traditional talent approach Oxygen philosophy A RELENTLESS FOCUS ON PROGRESSIVE & PREMIUM BRAND STRATEGY Removed the pain point of AOR relationships and the dilution of hitching brand strategy directly to a creative execution
  • 10. 10 What is W&W? A PREMIUM BRAND STRATEGY SHOP that helps companies make positive shifts in the world
  • 11. 11 We consistently operate from our brand purpose: DO GREAT WORK LIVE GREAT LIVES
  • 12. 12 And like every great brand, W&W has an inherent tension: FIERCE OUTPUT and HUMAN ETHOS
  • 14. 14 BACK IN THE DAY... Businesses were spiritually and structurally silo’ed. Brand sat “over there” - away from the operations and even product. As a result, brand strategy work got applied to what the brand was in that era: the communications campaign.
  • 15. 15 THAT WAS CUTE, BUT THE WORLD HAS CHANGED Transparency has exploded, people want to know what a company is up to and know that it is holistically operating from a consistent and positive ethos. + Everything has sped up. Brands are in a constant state of interaction.
  • 16. 16 Your brand is not your communications campaign. YOUR BRAND IS WHO YOU ARE AND HOW YOU MAKE DECISIONS
  • 17. 17 COMPANIES THAT THRIVE TODAY (AND WILL THRIVE TOMORROW) TREAT BRAND AS AN OPERATING SYSTEM
  • 18. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO TREAT BRAND AS AN OPERATING SYSTEM? 18 A brand is a codification of what your company believes and how it makes decisions. It’s bigger than insights and ideas that drive communications. It’s the ethos that everyone in a company understands and operates from. It’s the purpose and beliefs that drives all company behavior.
  • 19. WHY DOES THE IDEA OF BRAND NEED TO EVOLVE TO OS? 19 Motivating employees The emerging workforce wants to work for companies that are driven by common belief that is tangible in every aspect of the organization. A brand sets that agenda.
  • 20. WHY DOES THE IDEA OF BRAND NEED TO EVOLVE TO OS? 20 Motivating employees The emerging workforce wants to work for companies that are driven by common belief that is tangible in every aspect of the organization. A brand sets that agenda. People are watching Audiences are looking for saturation of belief and integrity of behavior in everything that a company does. A brand articulates that agenda for the company and when it’s practiced, ultimately drives audience respect and loyalty.
  • 21. WHY DOES THE IDEA OF BRAND NEED TO EVOLVE TO OS? 21 Motivating employees The emerging workforce wants to work for companies that are driven by common belief that is tangible in every aspect of the organization. A brand sets that agenda. People are watching Audiences are looking for saturation of belief and integrity of behavior in everything that a company does. A brand articulates that agenda for the company and when it’s practiced, ultimately drives audience respect and loyalty. Speed To keep up with culture, companies need to move quickly. To do that without damaging the company, employees have to be educated and empowered to work against a common idea, ie the brand.
  • 22. WHY DOES THE IDEA OF BRAND NEED TO EVOLVE TO OS? 22 Motivating employees The emerging workforce wants to work for companies that are driven by common belief that is tangible in every aspect of the organization. A brand sets that agenda. People are watching Audiences are looking for saturation of belief and integrity of behavior in everything that a company does. A brand articulates that agenda for the company and when it’s practiced, ultimately drives audience respect and loyalty. Speed To keep up with culture, companies need to move quickly. To do that without damaging the company, employees have to be educated and empowered to work against a common idea, ie the brand. Complexity Brand touchpoints have expanded exponentially. A strong brand becomes a world in which many activities can live and build upon one another to a stronger whole.
  • 23. WHY DOES THE IDEA OF BRAND NEED TO EVOLVE TO OS? 23 Motivating employees The emerging workforce wants to work for companies that are driven by common belief that is tangible in every aspect of the organization. A brand sets that agenda. People are watching Audiences are looking for saturation of belief and integrity of behavior in everything that a company does. A brand articulates that agenda for the company and when it’s practiced, ultimately drives audience respect and loyalty. Speed To keep up with culture, companies need to move quickly. To do that without damaging the company, employees have to be educated and empowered to work against a common idea, ie the brand. Complexity Brand touchpoints have expanded exponentially. A strong brand becomes a world in which many activities can live and build upon one another to a stronger whole. Efficiency When employees are working in the same brand belief system and know how to make decisions, organizations work more fluidly and efficiently.
  • 24. AND DRIVING FROM BRAND IS GOOD FOR BUSINESS 24 Based on 10 years of empirical research involving 50,000 brands, Millward Brown and Jim Stengel developed the list of the world’s 50 fastest growing brands which built the deepest relationships with customers and achieved the greatest growth from 2001-2011. The study establishes a cause and effect relationship between a brand’s ability to serve a higher purpose and its financial performance. Notably, investment in these companies — the Stengel 50 — over the past decade would have been 400% more profitable than an investment in the S&P 500.
  • 25. 25 A question we need to ask ourselves as an industry… ARE WE SERIOUS ABOUT BEING EXPERTS IN BRAND?
  • 26. 26 If so, our company structures need to evolve. Our development processes need to evolve. THE WAY WE APPROACH BRAND STRATEGY NEEDS TO EVOLVE
  • 27. 27 If we’re serious about being experts in brand, we need to embrace an evolution of how we think about brand development: ADVOCATE FOR PURE BRAND STRATEGY THAT LIVES AT THE MACRO COMPANY LEVEL Which practically means...
  • 28. 28 The way forward: DECOUPLE MACRO BRAND STRATEGY FROM IMMEDIATE CREATIVE DELIVERABLES
  • 29. BRAND STRATEGY and CAMPAIGN STRATEGY 29 BRAND STRATEGY Lives at the macro level of a company, built to guide it over relatively longer periods of time. BRAND STRATEGIST Thinkers that articulate the core brand operating system at a company level. CAMPAIGN STRATEGY Lives at the level of specific audience engagements against specific media/spaces. CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST Guide the brand in the now, using brand foundations, obsessing over how they apply in the immediate need.
  • 30. BRAND STRATEGY and CAMPAIGN STRATEGY 30 BRAND STRATEGY Lives at the macro level of a company, built to guide it over relatively longer periods of time. BRAND STRATEGIST Thinkers that articulate the core brand operating system at a company level. They operate the most powerfully when engaged in execution-agnostic assignments. CAMPAIGN STRATEGY Lives at the level of specific audience engagements against specific media/spaces. CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST Guide the brand in the now, using brand foundations, obsessing over how they apply in the immediate need.
  • 31. WHY IS AGNOSTIC SO IMPORTANT? 31 In other words, why can’t this just come out of an advertising process and company? Advertising companies are largely brought in to do advertising. Advertising companies are largely filled with advertising talent that thinks in advertising. Advertising companies start with advertising as the solution. (As they should, it’s their job) When it comes to brand, we are living in a post-advertising world. Advertising is just one part of a brand (as is any other kind of engagement execution). For companies to operate most powerfully, brand thinkers should start further upstream, untethered from any kind of execution.
  • 32. THE UNTETHERING OF BRAND STRATEGY FROM EXECUTION IS MAGICAL 32 Brand strategy is too powerful to only be tied to specific creative output. Brand strategists, in their investigations, often think at the cultural level. We are often rabidly curious about how a company functions. We get in deep with audiences and people. We are conditioned to live in a more macro space. Companies need what we offer. Companies need narrative. Companies need purpose. Companies need beliefs. This is what brand strategists do. Give companies relevant, provocative and positive versions of these and companies can be better, operate better and make real impact in the world.
  • 34. 34 PRODUCT/BRAND CULTURE COMPETITIONPEOPLE What greater cultural movements does the brand align with? Who are the believers and what does this brand answer for them that is both modern and primal? What makes this brand unique from the competition? From the inside out, what is powerful and true about the brand? FIRST, START WITH A THOROUGH INVESTIGATION FRAMEWORK The four quadrant framework is not proprietary nor rocket science, but it works. It ensures that we’re interrogating all aspects of the world within and around a brand when figuring out the brand foundations. The trick in using the quadrants is to get ferocious in the investigation. BRAND FOUNDATIONS
  • 35. 35 NUMBER ONE RULE: DON’T BE BORING Boring strategy leads to boring brands. In a world hungry for points of view, boring is utterly ignorable.
  • 37. BE BRAVE WITH LOVE 37 In every investigation, hunt love. You might find love in how the core user feels about your product… or your competition’s. You might find love in the founder’s ambition for the world. You might find love in an interaction at retail. You might find love in the long-lost DNA of a legacy brand. You might find love in your audience’s hope for the category. There is love in every investigation. Find it.
  • 38. BE BRAVE WITH PAIN 38 The pain is real. Honor it. There might be pain in the way your audience feels about the world today. There might be pain in the way your audience is treated by other brands. There might be pain in how your client is interacting with the world. There might be pain in the category, how it’s not serving people. Pain is important. (It can be difficult or tricky to acknowledge sometimes.) Great brands embrace pain.
  • 39. MOST OF ALL, BE BRAVE WITH TRUTH 39 It’s pretty simple. The days of brand as mechanism to slap lipstick on the proverbial pig are over. Audiences reject liars. Don’t lie. Don’t make shit up. Don’t overestimate your ability to keep your promises. Don’t overestimate how much people care about your brands or product. Don’t shy away from client pain, even if your client doesn’t want to hear it. Truth rules.
  • 40. AND THEN FIND SOME WICKED TENSIONS 40 You’ve got your love, your pain and your truths. Find the push and pull between the forces of your investigation. List them out. Work with them. Figure out the play between love and pain. Find a space in the tension where your brand exists that’s deadly true and slightly scary. (Slightly scary usually means you’re doing something right)
  • 41. 41 LOVE, PAIN, TENSION, TRUTH Take the elements and weave them together into a provocative and relevant brand story for your brand that culminates in a brand purpose.
  • 42. GREAT BRANDS HAVE GREAT STORIES 42 A brand story articulates where a brand fits into and how it leads culture. Love, pain, truth, tension. These are your ingredients. Now the creativity of strategy comes in. Weave it. Work it. Tell the story of your brand. Create a narrative that tells the the company and its audiences why it must exist in the world. Like any good storyteller, think challenges, heroes, villians, triumph. Keep it simple. Keep it clean. (Strategy is sacrifice after all) Show your clients how they are going to rock the world. Culminate the brand story into a brand purpose.
  • 43. A BRAND PURPOSE IS THE NORTH STAR 43 It’s an organization’s reason to exist in the world. It’s the constant thought that the organization and brand consistently pivots from. It’s why everyone show up to work everyday. It’s the relationship that the company and brand has with the world.
  • 44. POWERFUL BRANDS ARTICULATE THEIR PURPOSE 44 Inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow. Make people believe they belong anywhere in the world. To make the world more open and connected. To create a better everyday life for the many.
  • 45. A BRAND PURPOSE IS THE CENTER POINT FOR ALL COMPANY ACTIVITY 45 These prongs are illustrative - each organization will have their own operational priorities.
  • 46. 46 Brand story? Check. Purpose? Check. TIME FOR THE ARCHITECTURE
  • 47. BUILDING A BRAND ARCHITECTURE 47 A brand architecture is a toolbox to make decisions and keep all activity, across the org, aligned. Some tools get used daily. Some get used sporadically. The trick is making the toolbox broad enough so that its useful across the company but specific enough that it corrals ideas and actions.
  • 48. A FEW TOOLS THAT THE WOLVES LOVE 48 Brands will always need specific tools based on their unique company needs, but here’s a few tools that we find are especially useful... BELIEFS Five to ten statements that talk about what you believe and how you behave. VIBE The manner in which a brand interacts with the world; the brand’s personality. PRIMAL NEED The human need, that transcends culture, that this brand answers. ENGAGEMENT PRINCIPLES Drivers of behavior that guide all interactions. SPIRITUAL ENEMY What you’re opposed to or up against as a brand. This isn’t your competition, this is spiritual. In the past we’ve identified enemies such as fear, retreat and walls.
  • 49. 49 IN THE END, BRAND FOUNDATIONS HAVE THREE CORE COMPONENTS The narrative that explains why the world needs your brand. It provides the context for your brand’s existence. The single lighthouse statement around which an entire org orients. It articulates a brand’s relationship with the world. Your toolbox for engagement. Some tools will be used daily. Others will be pulled out sporadically. All are necessary and useful and should be used by all who touch the brand.
  • 50. ARTICULATING: THE BRAND STRATEGIST IS THE STORYTELLER 50 This is the bulk of our job. We investigate, we dream, we challenge, we push. And then we tell a truth and a progressive story that leans the brand forward.
  • 52. 52 SO WE GO MAKE SHIT NOW RIGHT?
  • 54. 54 The key to successful modern companies and brands is the process of PROGRAMMING THE ORGANIZATIONAL INSTINCT
  • 55. 55 “Knowledge is only a rumor until it lives in the muscle.” — Asaro tribal proverb
  • 56. 56 KNOWLEDGE vs KNOWING Knowing aligns people, it eliminates the “I think” in favor of “we know.” When there’s knowing, the organization moves together.
  • 57. KNOWLEDGE VS KNOWING KNOWLEDGE KNOWING Understanding what purpose means Applying purpose to day-to-day duties and responsibilities Recalling beliefs and vibe words Acting on those beliefs with the vibe, creating ideas, messaging and experiences that manifest them Hiring people that are smart Hiring people who are smart AND “get” the brand in their bones Receiving Creating Following rules Liberated by principles
  • 58. THE INFUSION OF KNOWING HAS TO HAPPEN IN MULTIPLE DIRECTIONS Great business leaders often need to adopt the skills to also be great brand leaders. TOP DOWN BOTTOM UP LATERALLY The culture leaders of a company, no matter what level, need to feel inspired by the brand. Everyone needs to know how to work through the brand and support others. KEY ENABLERS Consistency and tangible proof of commitment KEY ENABLERS Ownership and pathways to lead KEY ENABLERS Filters for decision-making and room for creation and experimentation
  • 59. INFUSION: THE BRAND STRATEGIST IS THE TEACHER 59 It’s imperative that the brand strategist infuses the organization with the thinking and instinct of the brand foundations. Some common techniques are: Coaching Workshops & Creation Sessions Classes Brand materials Ongoing check-ins
  • 61. 61 SO WE GO MAKE SHIT NOW RIGHT?
  • 63. 63 If we’ve done our jobs right THE VIRUSES HAVE INFECTED THE ORGANISM, REWRITING THE CODES OF THE OPERATING SYSTEM
  • 64. DOING: THE BRAND STRATEGIST IS THE HERDING DOG 64 At this point, the organization should start to infuse all its decisions with the brand. Our role is to nip, guide, suggest, help and also hone if needed. Brand can be iterative.
  • 65. TO SUM IT UP
  • 66. 66 Your brand is not your communications campaign. YOUR BRAND IS WHO YOU ARE AND HOW YOU MAKE DECISIONS
  • 67. 67 COMPANIES THAT THRIVE TODAY (AND WILL THRIVE TOMORROW) TREAT BRAND AS AN OPERATING SYSTEM
  • 68. 68 The way forward: DECOUPLE MACRO BRAND STRATEGY FROM IMMEDIATE CREATIVE DELIVERABLES
  • 69. 69 BE BRAVE: EMBRACE LOVE, PAIN, TENSION & TRUTH