Brands of Influence - How to Survive The Future of Marketing
posted by Stuart Cumming ~ 11/06/14
Category: Marketing
For those lucky enough to be at the Mumbrella360 conference in Sydney last week the "must- see" session was Amir Kassei's keynote speech on "Brands of Influence".

Kassei is DDB's Worldwide head of Creative. So why am I, a niche agency* principal, giving him airtime?

Simply because the concepts he advocates as well as the work he showcased were inspirational. And, in a world where we need more inspiration, his presentation was a breath of fresh air.

An unusual career path

"Experienced" as distinct from old, his life is colourful in the extreme. A stint as a "boy soldier" in Iran, his place of birth, makes one realise just how cushy many of us in Australia have it. Even the whole idea of a "boy soldier" sends shivers up the spine!

Escaping from Iran, he made his way to Austria (which explains his strong Germanic accent). His entry into the world of advertising came from the school of hard knocks, seguing from a client-side role as a Product Manager to an agency role in production.

He's seen the dark crevasses of the industry and isn't about to put up with the bull that seems to drive many in it.

He believes people don't remember what you say, only how you feel

Which is why his disarmingly blunt approach engaged the audience of whom a large number were from marketers rather than their agencies.

At the centre of his philosophy is Kassei's belief that people don't remember what you say, only what you make them feel. It therefore makes sense that the only brands that will survive are those that are "Brands of Influence."

The internet is not a medium, it is digital infrastructure

In Kassei's mind, viewing the internet as a medium is old-fashioned. "It is digital infrastructure, not a medium," he said.

Within the next 10 years he sees everything will be connected to everything else by being an entry point to this digital infrastructure.

Success will be enjoyed only by those that build a network of substantial and relevant experiences at every touch point. And those brands that do so will be the "Brands of Influence."

It's more, though, than just producing "stuff"; it must add value to the life of people, must understand the problem behind the problem. "The objective is to create the relevant truth." 

That Kassei now occupies the same office in which Bill Bernbach once plied his trade, its not surprising that some of his predecessor's insightful approach has rubbed off. It was Bernbach who once described the iconic VW campaign as being really a case of "selling a Nazi car to Manhattan Jews" (something which, being Jewish, clearly gave him an unfair advantage over us Gentiles!)

In Kassei's world "Influence" is a simple equation:

Influence = Creativity + humanity + technology 

Creativity means ideas, true innovation, real "invention" if you must. And when you see some of the examples he showcased (see below) you get the idea he's not just talking about which design looks best.

"If you are not relevant you won't create awareness"

Humanity is simple respect for human beings. Don't try to sell consumers something, instead set out to make their world a better place.

Technology is a means of delivering. It is a tool. But that doesn't mean the technology can't be exciting. In fact, he sees it being the role of agencies to be always 3 steps ahead of the client, to keep the ideas fresh.

In his opinion, the best advertising does not look like advertising. Not to be confused with native content marketing, this is all about interacting with consumers.

The executions speak for themselves:

Glad Trash Tents 

Innovative product to solve two problems at once - providing shelter to attendees at outdoor concerts and a means of cleaning up the tonnes of trash left over after the audience has departed.

Heineken Ignite interactive bottle

Highly engaging use of technology to "Wow!" consumers with the brand at the point of consumption

Johnson & Johnson Baby Name app 

Helping parents-to-be understand the meanings behind baby name and so much more. This starts a lifelong connection with the parent and baby well before the birth.

Harvey Nichols "I spent It On Myself" Campaign 

How to cut through the overloaded Christmas period with a message that not only entertained but drove sales and comment.

Starhub Project "Third Eye" 

Driving enrolments in a program for the visually impaired to provide volunteers who describe what can be seen from the subscriber's mobile phone.

Kassei's final takeout was that creativity is all about creating relevance not awareness - if you are not relevant you won't create awareness.

And, if you create relevance and respect people, you will create magic.

* Cumming Agency & Studios is one of Australia's most awarded print catalogue design agencies. We now create online and offline content for leading consumer marketers.

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