The marketing team at SCS asked me to write about “Brand Transformation” (we are the Brand Transformation agency after all) and I immediately thought about how little has changed over the last 20 years I have been in the business. Before you think I am completely insane, hear me out for a second. It’s easy to get caught up in how complex our world has become. How fragmented audiences are and how retail channels are getting completely disrupted. The immense amount of data that’s available. How much technology changes the way we interact with the brands we love. And seriously… is AI going take over our world, or what? All of those things might be true and are great questions to ask, but, at their core the challenges that brands face today aren’t much different than 20 years ago; we just have to continue to be strategic.
Our Chief Creative Officer John Zegowitz (aka “Zego”) recently shared with his team the definition of strategy from Harvard Business School. “Company performance is driven by two things; strategy and execution. Strategy is about performing different activities from those of rival companies, or performing similar activities in different ways. A strategy is not a goal or an objective or a target. It’s not a vision or mission or a statement of purpose. It’s about being different from rivals in some important way. In turn, execution is all about carrying out those choices.”
I love this.
When I first started out in the advertising world, I was working with brands to help find their “Blue Ocean” space, away from the bloody waters packed with competitive sharks. To discover new audiences and to reach them in new ways. I couldn’t sleep at night without knowing how we were going to set our clients apart and drive real results.
Helping transform the brands meant we could leapfrog the competition by “being different from rivals in some important way.” We were able to find trends and trending audiences by diving deep into the culture of the brand and tapping the passions they shared with their customers. At the time, social media didn’t exist, programmatic digital didn’t exist…in fact, there weren’t even TV shows that catered to certain audiences. So, what did we do? We worked with media companies to create properties and unique opportunities for brands to integrate within existing properties. Properties and opportunities that became shared experiences and that set them completely apart from the competition. A great example is Redline TV. A television show we developed on Spike TV dedicated to the drifting and tuner crowd. A thriving new market getting literally no attention from competitive brands in the US. It was right at the time the big name drivers from Japan were breaking into the US scene, and sliding their cars sideways around US tracks, before Formula Drift even existed. The much sought after younger automotive community couldn’t get enough of drifting or of Redline TV. We created seasons worth of episodes—all featuring the drivers, the machines, the people and the lifestyle of drift culture that aired on the weekends, right when our prime automotive audience loved watching car shows. It was a huge success in the ratings, and our client immediately found success, becoming the leading brand in the space.
So here we are now. More than a decade later, and we’re all doing exactly the same thing for brands we’ve always set out to do. Find unique and relevant ways to set them apart from the herd. Sure, it’s significantly more complicated now. Driven by much more data and information—all flying at us in real-time. And sure, we have to work much faster and more efficient than ever before. And yes, instead of creating one focused TV show to run on one focused network, we have to solve problems globally and more holistically.
But it’s all to do what we’ve always done. Set our clients apart from the other sharks trying to steal their lunch. Only now, we get to work in omni-channel strategies, developing measurable campaigns that run through apps, games, OTT video platforms to run in retail, hundreds of pieces of content designed for every possible platform and device that our clients intersect with their customers on. And even some that might not have—before. Now we’re reading the matrix. Measuring everything through a real-time dashboards and using all that data and information to glean insights that help us to hone, tweak, and constantly refine our craft to drive better results.
The magic to brand transformation is still in the way we think. It’s doing what we have always done. We strategically carve out new ground for our clients to engage their customers, and then execute our asses off.
Also published on Medium.