We’d be in big trouble.

During this 2016 election craziness over the past several months, the “political marketplace” has been utter chaos.  With Donald Trump’s outspoken political incorrect comments and Hilary’s email controversy, each political party’s brand has gotten negative press.



As the New York Daily News recently said it best, “Consumers (aka voters), we are stupefied by the mess before us, fueled by never-ending analysis from legions of political experts.” The reality is that the Democratic Party and Republican Party are brands, no less and no different than Nike, for example. Up until last year, both brands were pretty calm and controlled, but now they’ve lost direction and are swerving all over the place.

Although this makes for great entertainment in the media, is this good for brand building?
In order for brands to healthy and prosper, there must be consistency, with increments of change, according to the Daily News. Change comes in increments that are sometimes imperceptible. They stay anchored to a set of values and deliver those reliably to a steady cadre of loyalists and advocates that grow over time.

“The visceral negativity by many against the current product on the shelf (Obama), the rogue, reactionary products seeking the same shelf space (Trump and Sanders), the unprecedented unfavorable testing by the leading flagships (Trump and Clinton), and on and on.”

This all sets the stage for a massive rethink of brand strategy for both political parties. Each party must step up and assert that its brand is the parent brand and it's bigger than any one individual — even a President. 
Thank you for joining us in Miami at FUSE 2016!


We hope it was inspirational and transformative, and that you've returned to the office ready to implement all of the learnings from the event. The feedback from this year's event was overwhelmingly positive and it seems everyone approved of the move to sunny Miami! We are thrilled to announce that we will be back in Miami for FUSE 2017 and hope to see you all there next year!

Your participation, collaboration and networking made this year's conference an unforgettable experience and we hope you had a great experience.

A special thank you to our amazing FUSE co-chairs Cheryl Swanson and John Silva, all of the speakers that gathered at FUSE to share their learnings and experiences, to all of YOU that attended and supported FUSE and of course our partners and sponsors for making this event possible.

FUSE Connect: Presentations & Summary to share with your team
All presentations which we have been allowed to share are now posted on the FUSE connect site and available for download.

Please follow the steps below to access the presentations:
·         Click this link: http://www.iirusa.com/fuse/presentation%20page.xml
·         Click on the presentation you would like to view (a PDF of the presentation will open in a new window) 

Executive Summary: To download the summary, click here: http://bit.ly/1W0hE5I

FUSE Presentation Videos: For the FUSE video channel, click here: http://bit.ly/1YyWZ6z


NOTE: Some company policies prevent speakers from posting their presentations. We recommend you connect via this site to reach out to the speaker directly.

GET SOCIAL:

FUSE 2016 had social media ablaze during the event! Follow up on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and the Blog for event recaps and continuing conversations from the event. Whether you contribute or just want to read along, stay up to date on all things FUSE!

STAY INSPIRED: Top Sound bites from FUSE 2016: 




Enough about us what did you think about FUSE?

Evaluate Speakers & Content: As we plan for the upcoming FUSE London taking place Nov 30-Dec 2nd and we begin to think about FUSE 2017, we would love to get any and all feedback you have on your 2016 experience. If you would like to set up a call with the conference producer to share a few thoughts by phone please email Romina at RKunstadter@iirusa.com  to set up a time. If you prefer to share your thoughts via email below are a couple of quick questions.
Thank you for taking the time.

FUSE 2016 Feedback: Please email these to conference producer Romina at RKunstadter@iirusa.com
·         Speakers: What were your most/least favorite speakers and why?
·         Content: Is there a theme or topic that we may have missed? Something that you would like us to explore further in 2017?
·         Keynotes: Who would you like to see on the main stage?
·         Format / Layout of the event: What were your thoughts on layout of overall program: Number of tracks, positioning of keynotes, length of sessions, amount of speakers..
·         Tours: If you participated in any tours we would love your thoughts. If you have suggestions of possible tours for 2017 in the Miami area please let us know.
·         Salon Sessions: What did you think? What could be improved? Would you like to see these again on the 2017 program?
·         Thank you so much for taking the time and if there is anything additional you would like to share please feel free to include those thoughts.


Want to speak at FUSE?

If you would like to be a speaker at either the November 2016 London FUSE or 2017 FUSE Miami program, please contact Romina Kunstadter directly at RKunstadter@iirusa.com.


During our FUSE Calls series this spring, Dan Mandinabeitia, Informa's Head of Branding and Design sat down with futurist Erica Orange to discuss trends, counter-trends and what Orange calls "cybrids" (children aged 18 and under who, due to technology, are biologically evolving differently than those who came before them). Their discussion delved into questions of whether we , as a culture, are headed to a utopian or dystopian future and brought to mind a satirical film I saw recently called "Wild in the Streets". Any of you who are fans of art films or retro movies may be familiar with this 1968 film. It presented a dystopian future where the vote is given to 14 year olds and mandatory retirement is imposed for those over 30. Wikipedia describes it as a "reductio ad absurdum projection of contemporary issues of the time, taken to extremes, and played poignantly during 1968, an election year with many controversies." Interesting that now we're in an equally controversial election year, the outcomes of this combined with a new generation with a "changed brain structure" growing up and joining the workforce all makes for some interesting speculation on what the next ten years will look like.

Chat with Erica Orange of Future Hunters

Dan opened their informative chat with the comment/question: "you use long term trends as a catalyst to see the future with a new set of eyes."
Erica: "It’s our job to study the future on a continual basis. I’m looking at social trends, economic, technological, demographic, environmental, you name it. How all of these things intersect and then extrapolating out to what the strategic opportunities and strategic threats are for people."

"Seeing it through new eyes – we get so trapped in our thinking that oftentimes we act with blinders on, we accumulate knowledge based on what we know and we think it makes us able to see disruptive things happening on the horizon differently. But it also impedes us from seeing new disruptive trends. It’s my job to open peoples’ eyes get them thinking differently. See how all of these things interact and intersect and influence the future of pretty much every industry across the board."

Dan: "Future Hunters has an allure or a mystery to it. You claim your process is time tested and you don’t follow fads. What goes into your process?"

Erica: "We rebranded as Future Hunters last year... (the company Weiner, Edrich, Brown, Inc.) was actually co founded in the mid 1970s. The process we used back then is the same we use today. Which is different from trend analysts who use the new digital tools to aid in their trend hunting process whether it's algorithms or social media scanners. For us there’s only so much that you can rely on from a technological prospective. The key in the art of what we do is very much based on the human eye. Pattern recognition is really the number one part of my job. I think in terms of Venn diagrams. How these things intersect. We do a lot of reading, a lot of analysis, it’s based much more in the qual than the quant. We’re not running our own research studies, we’re dependent on other people’s research. We’re the ones connecting the dots. It’s definitely more of an art than a science."

Dan: "Can you tell us in a nutshell what the consumer of tomorrow looks like?"

Erica: "(You need to) understand the bidirectional relationship between the counter trend and the trend. Often we think the counter trend happens in spite of the trend, but the counter trend happens because of the trend. We see the growth of the virtual, tech is intermediating the human. The counter trend is the desire to reestablish true, genuine human engagement where you don’t have technology as an intermediary. This counter trend is not happening in spite but because of it. In design and branding space we see many companies adopting virtual or augmented reality platforms, at the same time they’re looking for the human touchpoint promoting empathy or cultural sensitivity. Things people are resonating with people on a more visceral level."



Dan: "Today's brands are on the spot to engage customers."

Erica: "The evolution of storytelling is profound. Consumers are getting in on the process and sharing their experiences with the brand, it’s very consumer centric."

Dan: "Are we entering a utopian or dystopian society? Do you have a perspective?"

Erica: "Making that determination is based on a value judgment. I go back to  - seeing the future with a new set of eyes means stripping away all those inherent value judgments; this is the hardest part of my job. It’s human nature to attach some sort of view point on whether this is an exciting development or scary develpment vs. just seeing it for what it is. Underlying much of what is happening... whether it's tech progress or the future of empathy on the more human end of the spectrum...What’s tying this all together is just reframing and reunderstanding time in a completely new way. Brands are playing a game of catch up with this. When you couple the exponential rate of technological change with what’s happening from a time perspective. Time is just getting faster and faster. It’s going from something we once viewed as linear and sequential… now it’s happening simultaneously. So we can live many lives at once, whether it’s in the real world and virtual reality, we can be many different personas. From a design and also from a marketing and advertising perspective the consumer of today is so much more multifaceted. Getting to the heart of what makes them tick when they’re one person one day and another person the next becomes really difficult. Time in the years to come is only going to become even faster."

Dan: "If time is speeding up, I am seeing brands having to be more and more authentic and honest. Do you think at some point will the brands just say well 'we’re a lot more human, we’re a lot less perfect'."

Erica: "When we look at “cybrids”… those under the age of 18, especially those under age of 10, they’re the 1st generation in history to have different neural wiring than the generations that preceded them. This is caused by access and exposure to technology at such a young age that it is literally rewiring their brains and their neural connections. They’re the 1st generation in history to have a truly symbiotic relationship with technology. This symbiosis with technology is changing their perceptions, cognition, purchasing decisions, buying habits and how they learn. For a lot of brands being able to attach something from a design perspective directly to their brains - and a changed brain is going to be critical…When we have a changed brain structure, really understanding what makes them tick will be critical. At the same time, it’s the generation that also is craving the other end of the spectrum, that face to face interaction. How to effectively marry the two is the million dollar question in the years to come. .. Who knows how these brain differences are going to manifest as they go into the workplace. There are things they are going to be hyper proficient at… in other ways, keeping them engaged and interested - present - will be interesting."

Dan: "Anything particularly inspiring in design trends around the world?"

Erica: "4D printing. In 50 years, go into an IKEA store. Right now you take home a box with 100 pieces, you have to put them together. Imagine being able to 3D print out all those separate pieces at home, they are infused with smart nanobots that know how to assemble themselves. That’s what researchers at MIT are looking at.

Dan: "I could geek out on this all day. From a top level perspective, what does the best brand strategy look like in 10 years. Can you tell me what brands will be most powerful in 2026?"

Erica: "I can’t. I would argue that the brands that will be the most powerful in 2026 don’t exist yet. If you asked me this 10 years ago, many of the companies that I would answer today either were not in existence or …were in a different form. I go back to this whole notion of time, when things speed up so quickly, and so many of these cycles are so unpredictable. I would say the major disruptor are companies that are probably going to be owned and created by cybrids.

Dan: "From talking to you Erica, I can safely say the cybrids are going to take over the earth."

Erica: "For the near future until those younger than them take over!"

You can listen to the full podcast here, or continue picking Erica's brain about cybrids and 4D printing at @erorange.

It's unlikely that you, the reader, have not seen several of the Lincoln car commercials featuring Matthew McConaughey. Whether you like them or not, they are decidedly memorable. And in an age where digital media rules, they have successfully managed to cross over and have a successful second life on the "second screen", with parodies from superstars such as Ellen Degeneres, Jim Carrey and South Park bringing YouTube views of the McConaughey commercials and related spinoffs to upwards of 25 million. All this excitement from one commercial that featured McConaughey performing an odd monologue as he's stopped in the middle of a highway by a bull.

Dan Madinabeitia, Informa's Head of Branding and Design sat down with Paul Miser, one of the masterminds at Hudson Rouge who's come up with these viral worthy, semi-surrealist, mini art films. Dan jumped right in and boldly asked Paul: "How has your firm changed the world?" 

Speaking with Paul Miser of Hudson Rouge


Doing Something That Has Never Been Done Before

Not phased a bit by that question, Paul confidently responded: "The filter that we use in order to break through to the audience, to develop experiences in a way that has never been done before. (We ask ourselves) Is this something that has never been done before? Is it respecting individuality?"

Paul continued: "We're offering as personalized an experience as we possibly can. The consumer is not just seeing an ad or a print spot. There's something to engage with."

 "So what does this have to do with a car?" asked Dan.

Systematic and Strategic Journey

Paul explained: "How do we drive engagement with a brand and connect back to a product? All have an underlying theme of the story of Lincoln. Our campaigns have an element of turnaround or reimagination of something. We’re very cautious to not hit them over the head with buy our product. (Instead we want them) to say 'I am going to start taking notice…I might not be ready to buy it right now…I am going to start paying attention to that'. It's a systematic and strategic journey."

So everyone wants to know what's next. Hudson Rouge has indeed succeeded in their goal of piquing our curiosity and interest in the storylines of their commercials, we want to know how the story continues. We wonder: "Will more strange things be happening? What's next?"

Creating An Emotional Connection to the Product

That emotional connection to the commercials, and ultimately the product was just what Hudson Rouge intended. Paul said: "We wanted to go out there with a big bang and craft stories that would get talked about. One one count we had over 5200 spoofs on the internet. We knew that being a little bit obscure would get that response."

So can we look forward to more cryptic monologues? Dan posed the question we're all asking: "How does the evolution of what is happening in the commercials tie into the brand?"

Paul explained: "More recent commercials... with the MKZ (McConaughey) was more quiet, using non verbal communication to make the spot drive emotion. (The person watching is thinking) I kind of want to be a part of that situation/magical moment. There's an emotional connection to the product."

Continuing the Customer Journey on Social Media

Dan posed a question about their social media strategy: "What’s happened in the digital ecosystem with these ads? What does that look like behind the scenes?"

Paul explained: "We have a brand publishing lab almost like a mission control for our social team. They’re looking at the conversation, figuring out responses, putting media weight against certain content where conversations are happening…on a real time basis.  We saw the Ellen spot come in an hour before the show actually aired, we were able to craft a response to that conversation with our clients as we knew it would go pretty viral... We can track to see what programs people are watching and retarget them with conversation and deeper engage  down the funnel content  so the conversation doesn’t stop with “I saw the McConaughey spot”.  But drives to “now I’m seeing an expert talk about the feature” as I engage with that…“here’s another feature I might like” ..drive them down the funnel with content and engagement. Continuing the story arc with content and engagement."

"It sounds like all efforts are geared towards creating a journey while being engaged with your market, with your customers and potential customers and putting the brand message out from an advocacy place." said Dan. There’s a lot of businesses that talk about this or think about doing this, you are really executing on this. Would you say it’s been tremendously successful, lukewarm? You‘ve been doing this around 3 years."

Does Storytelling and Engagement Actually Lead to Sales?

Paul made it clear that he considered their strategy to be a winning one: "Response has been phenomenal, more than we actually anticipated. Sales growth has been 20% year-over-year the last couple years...Once McConaughey hit, sales growth was 25% month-over-month."

He continued: "Sentiment and favorability have gone up tremendously over last two years. We even hear from dealers talking about the type of people who are coming in, they’re not used to these new types of people coming in. asking for the "McConaughey car", or asking about what they saw online. And it’s definitely a big change for the organization, it’s really developed a lot of momentum for the brand. And it’s built a really strong foundation for what's to come over the next few years."

Dan closed their talk with the comment that Hudson Rouge has indeed provided the perfect case study for brands who want to capture that oh-so-elusive customer engagement.  You can listen to the entire podcast here, or continue the conversation with Paul on Twitter @PaulMiser.

FUSE Calls is a series of interviews where the FUSE team literally picks up the phone and calls disruptive design and brand strategy leaders across the globe - some of whom spoke at our FUSE 2016 Conference in Miami this spring. Dan Madinabeita will also be dialing in to speak with the very esteemed members of our FUSE community. Our goal is to share insight, promote design-thinking and hopefully inspire anyone interested in branding and design as it relates to strategic vision.




Storytelling and Branding with riCardo Crespo

“ It is our job as professionals in our craft to convert interest into an engaging experience. ” – riCardo Crespo

In our second edition of the "FUSE Calls" podcast seriesInforma Creative Director Dan Madinabeitia sat down with riCardo Crespo, Chief Creative Officer and Brand Design Lead with Th13teen and Jackknife Design, to talk about how storytelling is key to branding and why brands needs to include the audience as participants in their storytelling.

Dan: "When we invited you to speak with us today, I was intrigued by the notion you spoke of how storytelling related to being a key aspect in the branding paradigm. You expanded to share about how attributes of storytelling were great metaphors to inform best practices in design strategy and development. Can you elaborate on this idea?"

riCardo: "At the end of the day as human beings, everything that we do or everything that is premised about communication is about telling it through story. The five attributes of storytelling are: “Promise”, “Narrative”, “Moments”, “Resonating” and “Benefit”.

We make a promise in the brand as we communicate. We project its value proposition. That’s a promise to us.

Every story is founded – and the cadence of it – is founded on the narrative. What is the narrative of the story? What’s the opening shot in a movie? What’s the high point? When we went through school and we went through English, what’s the key moment? When does the hero become the villain? When does the villain become the hero? That pivotal point. Everything is founded on a narrative.

When you are going through (a) story, someone’s ability through the storytelling facet to create those moments that are memorable, to create those moments that you feel that you are part of it, that you jumped into that scene with them or that you were there “with them” quote/unquote. Those are great. We then take that and transfer that over to the branding practice where moments and experiences are those unique instances that are distinctive in how you are creating that promise or how you are delivering against that promise.

When we create think points, those moments where we go: “Wow, this really resonates with me as a brand story; an attribute.” Something about it connects with you.

When they are not connecting to your brand, all they are doing is passive. What they are doing is what I call “seagull activity”. They come into your brand and they fly out. But when you really connect with them, they come into your brand and then understand: 'What’s next for me? I love this. This was a great experience because I understood their story, they delivered on their promise and, Oh my God, these moments. I get it'. So, good strategic marketers, good strategic brand strategists and designers understand how promise, narrative, moments and resonating really culminate to a benefit that is unique to why I’m going to care about (your brand), why I want to be interested in your brand and, more importantly, why I want to stay interested in your brand."

Dan: "If you ask ‘who’ or ‘what’, you may be looking more for facts. But asking ‘why’ is different. That always struck me when I first met you. I don’t want to know who you are, I want to know why you are. So, asking why for both explanation of purpose and/or meaning. Does having a purpose necessitate the need for a story?

riCardo: "Absolutely because at the end of the day, a purpose is what informs why that story is going to be unique. An effective brand marketer, an effective brand lead inside the house or somebody advising on that brand understands through and through – unwavering understanding and application – that when there is a purpose to it, that is what informs why somebody will appeal and attract to your brand. It is then our jobs as professionals in our craft to convert that interest into an engaging experience. We are promising that and purpose is directly related to that. When you ask me specifically the difference between ‘why’ and then asking ‘who’ and ‘what’, when I’m communicating to you as somebody who owns and manages a brand or advising on a brand’s success, when I’m merely looking at it and communicating from this aspect of ‘who’ and ‘what’, I’m essentially looking at a research deck to the left of me that said: “This is who the audience is, this is how much they make, this is where they live.” Those are attributes called: “data points of research”. Those are just insights of who that person is. .. But if I approach that with the ‘why’ vs. just ‘who’ and ‘what’, why understands and informs me. It helps me to understand that I’m talking to you as a target, a partner, a consumer; as somebody who I want to come into my brand because I understand – again, that key word of ‘why’ – why it resonates with you because I understand what drives you. Why is this purposeful for you because it’s purposeful for us. And when you do it ‘who’ and ‘what’, it becomes purely --- it’s sort of formulaic, Dan, if I could. Understanding why – it’s unique."

Dan: "Today we have a say in our brands much more than we did decades ago when we were advertised to or marketed to. So, in your view, how do you think technology has changed the way we tell stories?"

riCardo: "Very dynamically, honestly. Very dynamically in the sense that it’s constantly changing, right? I think you know that, Dan, and I agree wholeheartedly. Back in the “day” – when I created TV spots, when I created a campaign – I was exactly what you alluded to. I was talking to somebody. I wasn’t communicating with somebody. It was me creating – hopefully – a very cool, compelling TV spot in 30 or 60 seconds to tell you about this amazing new car or this amazing new beverage. But the conversion of that back in the day was that I would create it, I would buy the media and I would blast that media and I would measure impressions and then hopefully the proof point was that I converted that to sales down the line. But there was a continuum that you couldn’t measure until it was down the line. Today, it’s very dynamic because technology – whether it’s through social or on-demand – the technology is enabling us and empowering us to choose to be part of the story…This dynamic aspect directly implies that your audience, your target, your intended participant is always part of your story. If you are not listening to them, if you are not including them and you are merely just broadcasting to them like the old ways. In social technology, it’s not like we’re inviting them. It’s pervasive. They are part of it whether we like it or not. The perfect example of that is how technology and social can make or break in how directly the community is involved with the health of your brand. For example, Angie’s List. The entire premise of that platform is real users endorsing or commenting on a vendor or supplier or a contractor to say: 'I trust this guy'. Back in the day, you’d create a commercial and hope for the best. ”

To listen to the full podcast, click here

To download the interview transcript, click here

FUSE Calls is a series of interviews where the FUSE team literally picks up the phone and calls disruptive design and brand strategy leaders across the globe - some of whom spoke at our FUSE 2016 Conference in Miami. Dan Madinabeitia will also be dialing in to speak with the very esteemed members of our FUSE community. Our goal is to share insight, promote design-thinking and hopefully inspire anyone interested in branding and design as it relates to strategic vision. 



“If people don't care about their (own personal) brand, what chance does my team have?”

In our “FUSE Calls" podcast series, Informa Head of Brand and Design Dan Madinabeitia sat down with Stephen Gates, Head of Design at Citi, to talk about how to get a design job by building your own personal brand.

Dan: "You’re a designer who seems to have turned representing himself into a craft. Would you agree with that Stephen?"

Stephen: “Teams want to hire and teams want to work with people who are really highly respected in the industry; who are brands, who are names that you know. I’m constantly amazed at --- I get stacks of resumes, stacks of portfolios, look at tons of stuff and talk to people at conferences. So often you can tell that they do beautiful, incredible design work, but then their resume is done in Word. Or they do these beautiful sites, but you can tell that they just slapped something together. I think you have to get to a certain point in your career where you start to become aware of the bigger world that’s out there and aware of the competition that’s out there. Obviously, being in New York heightens that."

"But the reality is, the reason I wrote that article for “How to Write a Resume that Will Get You Noticed” is because I end up with these people who can’t articulate who they are. They can’t articulate why they are different. They can be incredible talents. But if you don’t have the ability to treat yourself like a brand, to step back and understand what your story is, if you don’t understand where you want to go, your resume’s not going to get noticed. Your site is not going to get noticed and you’re not going to be good in interviews because so often you become reduced to just a commodity. You’re a weak brand."

On how to be a strong brand 

"What is your value? Can you think? How are you different? A lot of times what people are doing is writing what they think people want to hear. The problem is that whenever you do that, it’s just like a brand. When I’m trying to be what everybody else wants me to be --- this is like the old Henry Ford quote about as he was building the car if he’d have listened to what everyone else wanted, he would have ended up with a faster horse, not a car. Not that dissimilar. So, as opposed to people taking the time to say: “Who am I? What do I stand for? What am I about? Can I communicate that succinctly? Does my portfolio, my work, my career align to that?” This is basic brand strategy sort of stuff, but it’s just interesting that whenever you have to apply it to yourself, most people don’t think to take a step back and basically treat themselves like their own brand. It’s probably the most important brand that they’ll ever work on. What makes a good “book”? Don’t over-promise and under-deliver. To tell the truth for me, whatever you do, own what your role was. Tell me what your role was. Be honest about that."

On how to get hired as a designer

"The world is full of people who know how to Photoshop and make pretty designs. The world is really short on leaders and people who know how to market great ideas. So, again, I think the ability to understand “What was their role? What did they contribute? Where do they want to go?” Things like that. That’s what’s really critical. That’s what gets me excited and gets people in my chair and in my office. In that interview is when I can tell if they are really clear about what they want."

On how to create a resume

"You’re not doing this in a vacuum. You’re going against other people. This is the Hunger Games, right? You have to put your best foot forward, even if it’s in a resume. Even if it’s just something that simple. I would think that great people want to work for somebody where I notice the way you chose your type selection. I notice the way it’s tracked out. I notice the way you are laying it out to be able to do things like that. So, again, this is all the stuff where everything communicates. Tell me a story. Show that it matters. Show me that you put the time in. Those are the people I want. The people who show me that something like that really matters, I’ll know that when they are on my team they will take that approach of making it matter. If the resume is sloppy, the message doesn’t exist. If it’s in Courier or Comic Sans, those are the people that if they don’t care about themselves that much and their brand, what chance does my team have?"

Continue the conversation with Stephen @sdgates or get more resume and job hunting tips for design professionals at the links below.

To listen to the full podcast, click here

To download the interview transcript, click here

FUSE Calls is a series of interviews where the FUSE team literally picks up the phone and calls disruptive design and brand strategy leaders across the globe - some of whom spoke at our FUSE 2016 Conference in Miami. Dan Madinabeitia will also be dialing in to speak with the very esteemed members of our FUSE community. Our goal is to share insight, promote design-thinking and hopefully inspire anyone interested in branding and design as it relates to strategic vision. 

In a recent FUSE Calls podcast, Dan Madinabeitia, Informa's Head of Brand and Design, interviewed Jon Silva, President and Creative Director at DuPuis. Their chat focused on how empathy is key to reaching today's consumers. 


Chat with Jon Silva Creative Director at DuPuis

Dan began the conversation with this point: "the advent of the digital world is requiring businesses to be more human, whereas 10-15 years ago they didn’t have to be".

Jon agreed with his statement, and added: "We have to kiss transparency goodbye as a choice. Your behaviors are evident in the marketplace. You’re not opting in on it anymore, you just are. Companies are struggling with that, people are seeing a little bit different truths than they might be hearing.

The way that we attribute new thought and values to the millennials is a bit of a contagion

Jon doesn't cut brands any slack for doing a poor job in the way they market to millennial consumers - as he pointed out they ultimately have the tools to get it right. He said: "The millennial is the poster child for market penetration and growth. The millennial target is becoming more of a psychographic as much as a demographic. The way that we attribute new thought and values to the millennials is a bit of a contagion. You really can’t sell to 'consumers', you’re putting people into analytical buckets."

You’ve got to evolve

Jon continued his criticism of a typical "marketing to millennials" strategy, and posed a solution: "You have to get down and look at people as human beings. A big company admittedly has to go pretty far and drive pretty hard to be able to do that, but they do have the resources. Having that connection on a one on one basis and not applying old rules to new generations and new problems. You’ve got to evolve. In the last 20 years brands have not had to evolve as fast as they must now. 

Point of no return?

Jon remarked on the challenges that the current competitive space is making for brands: "A lot of (brands) are finding themselves a bit on the ropes and kind of in a quandary about ‘how do we back into a relevant strategy with an evolving consumer?’ Well… you may not be able to. Especially if you’ve lost a consumer contingent. It’s very difficult to wean them back by modifying your ingredients statement on a box of cereal, for instance. That can be very tough… a consumer doesn’t have any more needs. Their needs have been met by a thousand choices. If you’re just one of a thousand there’s not a lot of leverage you have to get them to pay attention to you if they’ve walked away once."

Effective Empathy

Dan asked Jon to name a company that has innovated an approach with millennials that employed empathy in an effective way. Jon used Frito-Lay as an innovator, speculating that they may have got more than they bargained for - in a good way - when they utilized crowdsharing to engage consumers.

Jon explained: "Frito-Lay’s 'Do Us a Flavor' campaign put it out there to the consumer. 'What flavors would you dream of'... I’m guessing it probably began as a promotional campaign, it ended up becoming a product platform. They handed the keys over to the marketplace and said ‘Hey come up with some wacky stuff and if it has enough traction well actually make it'.  They’ve come up with some flavors they never would have come up with on their own. They probably see that as a very big win that created a bit more of a relationship with their consumer base than just throwing options on a shelf."

The consumer defining the brand

Dan postulated that Frito-Lay's choice to open up decision-making to consumers gave those consumers the ability to actually define the brand. Jon agreed, adding: “That took a lot of risk for a brand. Sharing authorship…sharing direction… is not something most companies are familiar with.”

Let's get uncomfortable

Jon closed the discussion with some valuable advice to designers and brand marketers who want to gain the empathy it takes to be effective. "Do something that makes you uncomfortable." He told the story of how prior to his career in design he made an attempt to do stand-up comedy. Jon related how difficult and awkward it could be when jokes fell flat to an unforgiving audience. Far from regretting his past, he's embraced it as a great empathy builder. He explains: "Everyone has the thing they’ve done in their life that has made them the most uncomfortable. Perhaps that’s the lesson. Do something that makes you uncomfortable. It will help you relate to people better.”

You can listen to the entire podcast here or continue the conversation with Jon on Twitter at @silvaware.








 
"We want consumers to be on our case and check us out and be sure that we behave." 
Rob Wallace


In our “FUSE Calls" podcast series, Informa Creative Director Dan Madinabeitia sat down with Rob Wallace, Brand Advocate of Best of Breed Branding Consortium to talk about growing affinity and communicating integrity through authentic brand stories.   

Dan: "You describe brand authenticity as the value of being who you are not what you think your customers want you to be. What do you mean by a brand being authentic?"

Rob: "I think we are in an interesting age of branding. It’s super obvious that with the Internet and the immediate, vital barrage of information that are at our consumer’s fingertips that branding is becoming more transparent. It’s more evident than ever whether you’re being honest or dishonest about your branding. Consumers just don’t want to be marketed to; we are kind of tired of that. We can smell marketing coming at us from ten miles away. We don’t want manufactured brand stories. We don’t want to be manipulated by, you know, encouragement and disguises to encourage us to buy. We really want to take branding to the next level. As consumers, we don’t want products, right? This has been discussed years ago. And we don’t even want just experiences anymore. I think that a significant number of consumers really want to have affinity with their brand. They want to know where their brands come from. They want to know what their brands stand for and they want the brand to have an honest and compelling story that the consumers themselves can attach with. Now, in my mind, this is not just about upcycling or saving dolphins or giving back. All those things are important if it is part of the brand behavior and part of the brand’s DNA. Consumers just want to know where the brand stands. We want to believe the brand has a message and it is being consistent. We expect the brand to behave in a certain way because of the messages that it sends out. And we expect the brand to have a point of view. Even, in my mind, if we as individuals don’t share that point of view. It’s nice if we do – but, it’s more important that the brand be authentic and be consistent; that the brand behaves consistently with what it’s saying."

Dan: "A great example is Red Bull. A great example of a brand that you might not agree with its point of view – twice the sugar, twice the caffeine – but it was a very disruptive brand in comparison with Coca Cola."

Rob: "You bet. And now, of course, Red Bull is under the radar screen because it is being consumed by kids who are seven and eight years old and that freaks people out, too. So, what is the responsibility that Red Bull has to talk to its consumers to say: “Hey, be responsible about drinking this” with parents. Keep it out of your kid’s hands. Those are examples of being authentic and real and having genuine concern for your consumers. (For example) the Jared debacle and the fallout has really, really hurt the brand. I don’t know if you’ve seen recently how they’ve responded to that. Their new ad goes back to their heritage; it goes back to their original founders opening a sub shop in, I don’t know, Baltimore or somewhere..they talk about how they “were fresh before it was ‘fresh’ to be fresh”, which is great. They’ve extracted themselves away from the Jared idea. It’s not about losing weight anymore. It’s about freshness and, God Bless, isn’t that an important thing to have in the context of the rest of the fast food industry. So, I think they will regain their integrity because they have crafted a brand story that is real and relevant that people can attest to."

Dan: "It’s a much more human approach to the business. Everyone makes mistakes and we are accepting responsibility. I think people are probably a lot more forgiving – would you say – than some of these big conglomerates at first might think?"

Rob: "It depends. It depends on how the company responds and their history of responding in that. (There’s) an ad that I saw just around the holidays from SC Johnson. I know SC Johnson from bug spray and Pledge and a couple of other things. I don’t know, but I don’t really have an affinity with that brand. But I will tell you that I went on the Internet to make sure that their message – which is all about family – was authentic to who they were and it was. And now I honestly have an affinity to that brand. That brand touched me. It moved me and it was real. It wasn’t manufactured. It was something that they believed in. Not only a family company – meaning that it’s not owned by Wall Street – but it’s owned by the Johnson family and they have given back to family causes and issues. They really walk-the-talk. So, I was delighted by that."

Dan: "It is just a very authentic sentiment. Even if I was trying not to align with the brand, that absolutely spoke to me."

Rob: "Here’s a thought then. That’s part of the history and it’s easy for them to leverage that because it’s real and it’s authentic and, thank God, they began that way so many years ago. But, what happens if you don’t have a history? What happens if you are a new brand or your brand story really isn’t relevant? There’s nothing in there. Can branding and design really help create a relevant story? So, that’s where I think marketing and branding go into the future. So, I don’t know, 10 years ago the world didn’t need another household cleaning product, right? We had lots of dishwashing liquids and laundry detergent. So, Method came along and literally created an authentic brand story around the environmental sensitivity of its ingredients; around recycling and upcycling. But they also brought design into that picture and where other brands had used similar ingredients and had maybe recycled packaging, Method brought user experience to the category. It’s like the Apple of dish soap, right? They created, they manufactured a brand DNA, but they have been authentic to that. Again, I think the brand has a tremendous level of integrity as a result of that. Now, it’s under the radar screen and if they make a misstep – even a simple misstep –they are going to be called out on it, which is good. We want consumers to be on our case and check us out and be sure that we behave."

To listen to the full podcast, click here

To download the interview transcript, click here

FUSE Calls is a series of interviews where the FUSE team literally picks up the phone and calls disruptive design and brand strategy leaders across the globe - some of whom spoke at our FUSE 2016 Conference in Miami. Dan Madinabeitia will also be dialing in to speak with the very esteemed members of our FUSE community. Our goal is to share insight, promote design-thinking and hopefully inspire anyone interested in branding and design as it relates to strategic vision. 
Modern culture tends to label creativity as a natural gift. But in reality, creativity is a skill to be learned, practiced, and developed, just like any other. The more you make creativity part of your daily life, the more it will grow.

Huffington Post gave us 8 great ways to incorporate creativity into your life today:

1. Doodle
Doodling, contrary to popular opinion, does not demonstrate a lack of focus. In fact, doodling can help you stay present and engaged during an activity in which you might otherwise find your mind drifting.

2. Sign Up for a Class
Creativity flourishes when you push yourself outside of your comfort zone and learn something new. Many communities offer evening adult education classes. Try painting, pottery, woodworking, learning a new language, picking up a new instrument, or taking a cooking class.

3. Create the Right Environment
The truth is that every single individual can be creative. You simply require the right environment, stimulus, and support. Kids are awash with creative energy in part because they have not yet learned to fear the criticism of their peers or experienced embarrassment from failure. This is now why failure is lauded in adults-it reflects creative, risk-taking endeavors.



4. Move Your Body
Try new approaches to creative problem solving. Go for a walk. Physically move your body and consider your project problem from different locations. Physical movement has been shown to have a positive affect on creative thinking, just as theater pros suggest practicing lines in different poses and positions to generate new character approaches.

5. Sketch
Sketching is a great way to preserve memories and make constructive use of time that might otherwise be spent fiddling on a phone. Buy a small sketchbook that can easily fit in your bag and start sketching whenever you have even a few spare minutes-draw the salt and pepper shaker on your table while waiting for your coffee. Don’t overanalyze your results-simply draw for the enjoyment of the process, not the end piece.

6. Keep Toys on Your Desk
Many creative design companies encourage employees to keep toys on their desks-from Legos to Play-Doh and origami paper. Building something physically with your hands, as opposed to typing on a keyboard, can be just the creative jolt you need.
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