Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Theme Machine

I've been spending a lot of time dissecting the book, Brand Digital by Allen Adamson. It really brings into focus the importance of branding and the branding mindset in today's digital age. Or has Allen puts it, "digital amplifies the things that have always been true of branding."

One of the things Allen touches on is the importance of a Brand Driver. That "one idea" that serves as a launch pad or platform for every idea communicated across every channel. For instance, in the book Adamson refers to brand driver's such as Johnson & Johnson's "having a baby changes everything," GE's "imagination at work" and HP's "Personal computers are personal again."

Adamson calls it a "brand driver," but I've come to know it as a "brand theme." A brand theme is the backbone of all marketing communications and internal activity, yet it's stretchy and elastic enough to wrap around the entire brand. Which is why I believe that ad agencies need to get better at developing meaningful and original "brand themes" for their clients, and get beyond cute and clever "one-off" ads and taglines that sound more like prom themes. Ideas that work okay in the moment but are cast aside in a matter of months because they quickly lose relevance.

Is your brand wrapped around a clear, compelling and memorable brand theme? Is your brand theme built around a powerful and actionable consumer insight capable of generating hundreds of great ads, commercials or websites?

"Serious Care Starts Here" for a prestigious University Hospital, "Life is Looking Up" for Verizon Yellow Pages, and "Spontaneous Cool" for a brand of apparel for the NFL all were brand themes that gave the client and agency plenty of room to run. They were brand themes that spoke directly to the audience and gave the brand something to talk about. A conversation to own and involve people in.

Therefore, we're no longer makers of ads or designers of websites. We are
theme machines. Methodically crafting emotional blockbusters that become the calling card for the brand, and serve as a underpinning for all digital and traditional work.

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