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It's Time to Be Bold: 5 Takeaways from the IIR FUSE Conference

Posted by Julie Kurd on Thu, Apr 23, 2015

FUSE, branding, brand strategyLast week’s FUSE conference gathered top branding and design leaders to talk about disruption, brand strategy, and the changing marketplace. Until recently, branding experts urged brands to focus on mindfulness: gather the data, listen, and react to the results. But a new economy demands a bold and proactive approach—listening is great but it’s not nearly enough. Here are my top 5 takeaways:

1. You can call it a comeback—if you’re willing to be radical. Legacy brand Kodak is rising from the ashes of bankruptcy, and its near death reminds us of the need for disruption. Kodak CMO, Steve Overman, described the company’s journey as that of a beloved brand in search of a product suite that will serve as the brand’s emotional glue. Is this brand going to climb out of the cracks? Who knows, but if it’s got a shot, it will be through a radical reimagining of Kodak’s products and not just a tweak of its messaging.

2. Don’t discount the incredible. Futurist @bkreit (Bradley Kreit) talked about the emerging tech that’s making its way into your reality. These include: mood-spotting—algorithms that can escalate a call based on your emotions, sensors to tell you you’re running low on Tide, apps like Dorothy which allows you to click your heels 3 times and order an Uber, 3D printed domiciles, and other things like sensors for major disease self-evaluation. We’ve got the data, we’ve got the technology, and it’ll be here sooner than you think. . .all of it personalized, inexpensive, and possible. 

3. Be real, be emotional. @MorganSpurlock (Morgan Spurlock), Oscar Nominated filmmaker (Super Size Me, 2004), shared his latest project—a channel called Smartish. The concept is brand entertainment curated by “smartish” talent. How can branded content be authentic? Spurlock explains that it’s critical to identify and develop your brand’s core essence and the emotional payoff it will provide for your target market.

4. Whether you’re selling candy or condoms—you’ve got to go there. Serendipitously, I sat between one of Wrigley’s design/brand people and one of Trojan’s folks (you know. . .the condom people). I asked them both what they were really selling. The brand manager from Trojan was quick to reply with “trusted pleasure” while Wrigley’s person said, “we offer simple pleasure.” This chance encounter reminded me how important it is to think waaay outside the box.

5. This ain’t your grandma’s motivation. According to James Fox, CEO of Red Peak Branding, Millennials, who grew up with internet access, report that their friends would describe them using outward facing adjectives such as “good looking, bold, funny, creative, stylish and successful.” The older crowd, who didn’t grow up with internet access, use descriptors like “a team player, independent, and a good friend,” which are inward and loyalty focused. Brands are facing off to groups of people with enormously different basic motivations, and their messaging needs to reflect that.

The world is transforming, and to be relevant and prominent, brands need to trade-off two key roles: consistently making well-thought-out brand decisions for the core (sharpening the brand) and innovating and growing. So forget what your mother told you, it’s definitely not enough to be kind and a good listener—you need to be bold.

Julie blogs for GreenBook, ResearchAccess, and CMB. She’s an inspired participant, amplifier, socializer, and spotter in the twitter #mrx community, so talk research with her @julie1research.

Topics: conference recap, brand health and positioning, growth and innovation