you can see a strong, powerful brand for who it is before being told, because of how it behaves.

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the grid and sonic template provided a quirky playground: adhere to some very rigid rules and break what you want inside the box. a solid acoustic personality plus visual and audio artifacts emphasize the fly and witty. they’re playing along in the pop game.

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we uncovered a miracle relationship between the math of the 16x9 grid and a 16 bar musical timing. if everything is consistent to that time signature it’s consistent to the brand. the result: knowable in an instant.

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“packed for travel” the square behaves according to the new rules of screen agnostics: it lives on all screens, wherever its fans are.

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bbc america rebrand

26 September 2016

cable tv is on the frontline of the rapidly changing media landscape.

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in order to thrive, cable networks need to evolve. as the distribution model of the last several decades is turned upside down, part of this evolution is learning what behavioral traditions need to be adapted and which overthrown.

as part of the revolution, identifying and leveraging what makes a network attractive is key. as an example, when hal and i lead the jaguar cars brand turnaround for euro/rscg, we pushed all creative decisions through the filter of an S.P.S factor. if a communication didn’t enhance the brand’s sex, power, or status, we didn’t do it. prioritizing the S.P.S took the brand from old, bald, and boring to Gorgeous.

our task on bbca was to make the brand present and relevant in culture, and so we went about identifying the equivalent of an S.P.S factor for the network. what was their sexy attractor?of course the sexiest attractor a tv network can have is great shows. bbc america has that. so when they found themselves facing irrelevance — a common network issue in the current age of streaming services — it wasn’t a programming problem.

the network wasn’t cutting through. it wasn’t present or competitive where their fans were showing up.

the master bbc brand has strong equity for its quality programming, and is held in high regard as a cultural touchstone. but bbc stands for ‘british’ in america, and being british is no longer enough of a differentiator, nor enough of a reason to view a channel.

to cut through, the network had to align its offer to u.s. appetites and be where its fans are in a relevant way. to do that, first, the brand had to be there. the website is now a viewing platform, the mobile app is live and thriving, and the living room is open for guests. and the business chose to seize “the smart edge of pop culture,” embracing its innate intelligence along with a pop mentality in a way that’s savvy, switched on, and contagious, or, that has the S.S.C. factor. 

a key motivator to this decision: today’s content travels around (if it’s successful, that is). it doesn’t stay on network air. It gets sampled on the internet, it gets shared. and when it does, you want fans to know it’s yours.

so the branding and its sexy attractors had to be embedded. inherent in everything about it to create buzz around the channel itself, not just the individual shows.

defining the “a” in bbca as “the smart edge of pop culture” articulated the shift the network needed to make, and shaped the new behaviors required to flourish in the changing marketplace.

it also highlighted the S.S.C. and the brand’s sexy attractor: music and the way they move to it.

the smart edge of pop culture is not a fixed state. it’s dynamic. responsive. kinetic and buzzy. active. bbc america is all of that too — its natural behavior is to make, play, socialize, connect, and move on.

the brand had to play more by the rules of music than the rules of narrative. it samples, remixes, loops. that’s pop culture.

playing it with knowing irony, that’s the smart edge of pop culture.

ford shake-up #changepositive

22 May 2017

two years ago, i asked the question “what does it look like to be change-positive? to create with the knowledge of change?”

the question is a constant spark to my curiosity, and the recent leadership shakeup at ford fuels it. i see change-knowledge as equal parts art and science. a proactive perspective on past, present, and potential.

ford ceo mark fields was replaced with “change agent” jim hackett.

while the move is seen by some as uncharacteristic for the methodical company, a usa today article cites bill ford jr. as saying “hackett’s ability to pair a focus on the future with operational improvements was enticing.”

hackett’s change-knowledge positioned him to lead the charge as ford tries to not just survive, but thrive.

new luxury: bye bye bill

19 April 2017

the same forces reshaping luxury seem to be reshaping television.

when it comes to ethics, network news has long been a team sport — you watch who you believe in and retain peripheral interest in the rest. maybe. (the phrase “preaching to the choir” comes to mind.) but in this brave new world where ethics guide how we spend our money and time it appears that even big brands can be forced to bend to the will of the consumer. fox was good to quietly support bill o’reilly, the show’s advertisers were not. the advertisers, luxury cars amongst them, were listening to their consumers… shaping the new luxury.

new luxury, new stories

03 April 2017

we’ve talked about the current cultural conversation around ethics, and the new consumer conversation around luxury. but where the rubber meets the road is in the conversation between brands and consumers.

ethics as the new luxury won’t affect advertising and marketing as much as it will messaging. the shift won’t be on spend, but on the stories that get told. 

the march issue of departures offers a solid example of this in its story into the blue. “while the maldives struggles to deal with the rising seas of climate change, new resorts like the st. regis are doing their small part.” that line alone — the rising seas of climate change — would eliminate a swath of conservative consumers who “don’t believe” in global warming, but triggers passionate support among a much larger segment whose politics have commandeered their wallets.

the idea of eco-travel or ethical fashion is not new — for years companies like elevate destinations and designers like stella mccartney have built their brands on the idea of ethical luxury. but now it’s not just a side conversation with a conscientious few. the new luxury is a mainstage badge of social responsibility, impact, and alignment. so each message has to be an invitation to not only buy, but to be part of the solution.

formula change: luxury

13 March 2017

now that we know what we mean when we say ethics and values, let’s look at what we mean when we say luxury.

because what we, culture, means by luxury has changed.

luxury has been defined, for decades, by a trifecta of exclusivity: tribe, attainment, and craftsmanship.

tribe is the social badge of a purchase: who you associate with, who you share values with. attainment is status, the level that must be achieved to allow you to afford access to such a purchase. and craftsmanship is the quality of construction of an object. in the instance of luxury objects, it’s high quality.

quality is rarely the prime motivator in the calculus of a purchase, but it pretends to be. quality is the cocktail party rationale for a purchase.

let’s say you drive a mercedes g-class suv. it speaks to your level of attainment and tribe, but the conversation is often about its quality. its durability and engineering, its resale value… but it’s the other two factors that are more likely to have motivated getting that car onto a short list for purchase.

if ethics is the new luxury, then the formula shifts.

tribe doesn’t change — we are still aligning ourselves with those who share our values. but the cocktail conversation about quality shifts to impact. “this exquisitely crafted bag is not only made within a fair trade collective… 10% of proceeds go to support the (insert badge association here) and…”

because it’s no longer enough for something to be well made — craftsmanship is a cost of entry. the new luxury is how much downstream impact a purchase has. how much influence.

in this new conversation i believe we will see attainment shift to independence. “i’ve achieved this level” becomes “i have the freedom to make this sort of decision, to have this impact.”

tribe + impact + independence = the new luxury

what do we mean: ethics

22 February 2017

working on a re-brand or product launch, certain words will come up over and over in conversation with clients. over the years i’ve found it’s good to make sure everyone in the conversation has the same meaning in mind when using the words, whatever they might be.

we all keep saying the same thing, but i want to make sure we are meaning the same thing, so we “go to the dictionary” to gain clarity around what is actually being expressed — and to avoid costly trips down the rabbit hole of miscommunication.

if ethics is the new luxury, and values are driving both consumer and brand decisions, then we need to be clear on what we mean when we say “ethics” and “values.” what currency do those words have in our culture and how does our culture express it? 

the dictionary definition of ethics includes phrases like “a system of moral principles,” “the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group culture, etc,” and “the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions.”

consumer and brand values are then the “relative worth, merit, or importance” they place on a set of moral principles. what they are willing to stand by as right action, and what they’re willing to stand down as wrong.

the current cultural conversation around ethics seems to hinge upon this polarization of rightness and wrongness, particularly when it comes to the values of humanity, equality, respect, and honesty.

this is how every purchase is becoming an expression of ethics. how culture is bringing philosophy into the center of commerce, asking “do you stand for what i stand for?”

ethics is the new luxury

06 February 2017

u.s. culture has been thrown into a bit of a tizzy, and in the fray it’s reframing luxury. while the classical conversation on luxury has always been grounded in craftsmanship, the new conversation appears to be biasing to ethics and values.

there’s an emerging overlap where the money of older generations and the values of millennials are aligning in a way that is driving both makers and consumers to put their money where their mouth is. and in the process they are resetting what the new luxury badge purchase looks like.

gone are the days where global brands play their values cards close to their chest. as more and more ceos on the frontline of pop culture — including airbnb’s brian chesky, facebook’s mark zuckerberg, apple’s tim cook, and levi’s chip bergh — make their ethics known, they are being met by a surging consumer expectation for transparency on issues of sustainability, equality, and human rights. don’t like a brand’s values, don’t buy. don’t like a demographic’s values, don’t sell.

if the new york times is right and 2016 was “the year politics took over our closets,” 2017 may be the year it takes over our cars and travel itineraries, too.