Deep insights, great networking, and serious partying: Those are the reasons Washington DC’s advertising community comes together each year at Advertising Week DC (ADWKDC). This year’s theme was “Becoming the Brand Authentic”. Here are a few takeaways from keynote talks on the main conference day, which capped a week of events.
David Sable, CEO of Y&R, showed us how and why to shatter convention, with the caveat that “this morning’s disruption is this afternoon’s conventional wisdom.” He explored the public’s perception that brands are more reliable than governments, and why “purpose” must come from a brand’s DNA. Discover more wisdom by going to ShatterConvention.com and downloading his slide deck. (Only insiders know that his password is SableDavid1 but I’ll share it with you.)
Stanley Hainsworth, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Tether, charmed us with his thoroughly personal and truly authentic approach to “What Is Your Brand Promise Worth?” He showed us fascinating examples of his agency’s work for Tatcha, which powerfully melds modern style to traditional geisha flair, and the We brand, which he sees as his most important work by far.
A former creative lead at Nike, Lego, and Starbucks, he pointed out how Nike’s success is grounded in its connection to communities and how Lego brings out the child in us, but I was struck by the brand lessons he shared from his tenure at Starbucks:
- Employees refer to a Brand Book when they create anything for print or online use. They use five filters to answer the question, “Does this feel like Starbucks?” Is it:
- At one store, they set up a “100 Club”—each barista would write down 100 customers’ usual orders and memorize them. When every barista at that store achieved the goal, they started a 200 Club.
- Starbucks stands out from the crowd by noticing what customers are already doing.
Example 1: People sometimes leave their coffee cups on the roof of a car; when they start driving, the cup flies off. Starbucks created a promotion with magnetized cups that they’d place on cars. If you saw one of these cups and stopped the driver, you’d get a Starbucks card for a free drink.
Example 2: A Starbucks store got the coffee order wrong for a man in a blue truck. The barista quickly gave him the correct order, and told him it was free because of the mistake. He said, “Don’t give me my money back. I’ll just pay for the next person in line.” To encourage this pay-it-forward behavior, Starbucks created Kindness Cards, each good for one drink, which had the story of the “man in a blue truck” on the back. Stores gave out the cards during the holiday season. The result: Many people paid it forward. At one store in Manhattan, customers paid it forward to the next person in line for 12 hours.
Since the company built this kind of goodwill in communities across the country, it was perfectly positioned to weather the storm when (earlier this year) a racial incident in one store became a nationwide story.
Klein said that his goal is to take someone “from curiosity to understanding.” To that end, he will:
- Look for the “hinge” question that will get them there
- Take the reader on the journey that he took
- Include other voices and perspectives (especially in podcasts)
He expressed great concern about how our lifestyles destroy our attention spans because “Our lives are what we pay attention to.” This is a crisis because short bursts of attention aren’t enough when society has to address our most important issues. He feels that Vox is respecting its audience by helping it slow down and understand more: “As the world gets more complex, people want to dig deeper.” So, contrary to some competitors, he’s eager to have longer stories and podcasts that enable immersion in a topic.
The common threads across these keynotes were authenticity, paying attention to what’s really happening with your audience, and the need to, as TBWA/Chiat/Day and Apple put it, “Think Different”.
Zohar Rom edits this blog and is a writer and project manager. He drives brand success for clients and adores new challenges. Zohar is also a filmmaker who earned the first-ever Best in Show at the Cable Advertising Awards. He is directing and editing Entitlement, a short film set in a future where sexual choices have new limits.