SEQ SPOTLIGHT: Nobody Said it Was Easy. But Why Can't It Be?

When our team sat down last year to discuss the idea of an SEQ blog, we had no shortage of ideas on content, style and strategic direction.  One of the prevailing thoughts though was that the blog should be about more than just events.  It should incorporate the communications industry as a whole, since events are usually just a cog in the com-machine.  We also wanted to integrate some guest speakers into the mix. Today's post accomplishes both of those goals, as advertising exec. Greg Rubenstein talks about the ever-growing need for Simplicity in the increasingly complex world of MarCom.


Sales Goals. Marketing Objectives. Products. Consumer Research. Claims. Insights. Key Messages.

As Marketers and Communications Specialists, we're given a lot of information to work with. We get briefed on a multitude of input items and we're asked to identify solutions.

We juggle insights, trying to find the most surprising ones to assist in unlocking a truly compelling idea. But we're also required to use information like price points, category-standard benefits, and client-mandated copy points, which can sometimes include lengthy legal disclaimers.So how do we wrangle it all in? And how can we possibly pursue an idea, direction or campaign that can break through, create an edge in the market place, or tap into any kind of opportunity space within a brand's particular category?

It really boils down to one word: simplicity.

Getting there sounds far-fetched given the aforementioned hurdles, but it doesn't have to be.

So how can marketers achieve simplicity and connect with their audience when all of the inputs, information and decision makers overcomplicate & over-think the dialogue between brand and consumer? It's simple! Sort of.

First, as a brand, you must connect with culture. Not so literally that you craft your manifesto around "Don't Tase Me, Bro" or "Keyboard Cat." But the more you connect to culture, the more consumers will actually care about what you have to say and what you do (read: what you sell).

Coca-Cola may not suffer from a shortage of support around the globe, but that didn't stop the brand from seizing an opportunity to make a cultural impact in its Singapore market. Identifying a white space that contributor Anthony Kosner described as "a smart move in Singapore, where public signs of affection have long been discouraged, but are on the rise among the young," Coke (and Ogilvy & Mather) demonstrated an acute understanding of how to open a dialogue with a key consumer base within a particular cultural climate by placing a "Hug Me" Coca-Cola machine on the National University of Singapore campus.

The next pillar to simplistic brand strategy and marketing is to think outside the box. Now I realize that promoting the concept of thinking outside the box is hardly thinking outside the box, but let me explain.

Say you're an antiquated name in search nestled in free-falling decline. Your original "platform" was inherently also your limitation in a rapidly expanding digital world. This isn't a riddle, but if you haven't figured out who you are yet, you're Yellow Book.

In 2010, with an all-in approach against something called Google, and in an effort to bridge consumers to its modern, digital tools well after its print edition's inevitable exit from relevance, Yellow Book New Zealand (and BBDO) launched the Yellow Chocolate Bar Campaign.

With a core idea of "get any job done with Yellow," and a staunch realization that there was simply no way to put its own product up against the world's number three brand, Yellow took an extremely unconventional path to create a national campaign that seeded demand for a wildly imaginative product launch.

With an overwhelming abundance of historically beloved brands long-gone (RIP Crazy Eddie), and countless others merely clinging to life, it will never be more apparent than it is now that a fundamental necessity to a brand's conception & survival in today's market place is purpose.

A brand's purpose should sit at the heart of business, not just marketing. It should influence internal & external communications, research & development, packaging, pricing... everything. A brand purpose should lift a brand above the category in which it plays, it should invite engagement, and it should attract audiences rather than chase them.

Take Chipotle, who had clearly already established a very successful business in the QSR space, based on both the quality of its product and the connection to sustainability that informed much of its business practices (sourcing, packaging, etc.).

But what Chipotle did in 2011 that was so game-changing and opportunistic, not to mention wonderfully refreshing, was to allow itself to rise above the category by putting the utmost faith in its brand purpose. With a unique piece of content, initially running in movie theaters and eventually finding its way into the pantheon of long-format television commercials, Chipotle told an incredibly focused story about who they are and what they believe in. We don't see price points, cross-promotions or sell-heavy copy. Perhaps we see ingredients but not in the way that we're accustomed to. Instead we see art, entertainment, a sentiment, and a simplistic statement of purpose.

The above three examples have inspired me for years in this business, and --shit wait, incoming email from client: "ADDITIONAL COPY POINTS TO INCLUDE."

If only things were easy.

Greg Rubenstein is a Senior Vice President, Account Director at McCann in New York. He's also spent time with Deutsch, Grey and Saatchi & Saatchi and has worked with a variety of brands, including Staples, Verizon, Bank of America, 3M and General Mills. Greg graduated from Cornell with a degree in Psychology, and he puts that background to good use every day as he deals with Strategists, Creatives and Clients.