Earlier this year, Fallon Minneapolis reached for the crystal ball. We didn’t like what we saw in the mirror. We had become schizophrenic, pitching new business under the banner of everything from ‘platform creativity’ to ‘challenger branding’ to ‘return on imagination’. We made the collective decision to call time-out. We stopped. We took a breath. We quit trying to fit words around an assignment, and stopped trying to read clients’ minds. Instead, we wrote down where the leaders of the agency saw the world going instead of what we thought could help us win the next pitch. We didn’t need another banner; we needed an altar – a movement we could all believe in.
We believe generosity is the recipe for modern branding.
Generosity is about providing value to the audience: entertainment value, social value, and brand value. And to be honest, it’s long overdue. The industry continues to pollute with messages, ads, and interruptions at a time when the audience is increasingly looking for ideas, actions, involvement, and experiences.
And, while today’s patron saints of marketing generosity have a decidedly glossy finish, with Oprah, Radiohead, and Obama leading the way, in the near future all brands will be expected to be generous. Moving forward, branding will be about learning to give instead of take. This raises the bar for agencies and clients alike, and it means big changes for what we do.
It’s no longer enough just to be known for something. That old planning exercise of asking who the brand would be at the party is no longer relevant. To connect today, marketers should be asking what their brand would do if it learned they had only one year to live. This evolved thinking requires that we spend as much time choreographing brand behaviour as we do defining the brand idea itself. Generous brands behave. They engage. They do.
Brand generosity isn’t charity. Generous brands are thriving globally. Google, Cadbury, and Nike all know that, in a world where the consumer is in charge, the brand that gives, gets back. Generosity is not an earnest, Pollyanna concept. It’s a simple belief that brands shouldn’t pollute; they should be generous. And sometimes, what we give is just a great piece of film. When Cadbury chose to create joy in the world with the gorilla and Glass and a Half Full Productions rather than try to shove joy into yet another chocolate advert, they were being generous.
For the creative department, generosity means we need more ideas. While it’s possible to position a brand with three actions every 12 months, building a generous brand requires more involvement. Positioning is simple science. If I tell you, ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger, skyscraper, terrorist,’ you know what the movie is about. But it takes more than four words to show you who the brand is. Generosity demands that we paint more than a brand caricature. Today’s compound communications landscape is filled with 24/7 cable, a myriad of digital channels, and an increasing audience need to participate in or even own the idea. These factors have made the job more difficult. Getting close to the audience today requires a deeper, more immersive brand defined through actions and words. It’s about reciprocity. Generous brands share more, and in so doing, they inspire people
– and in turn let themselves be inspired by people.
Australian travel company Zuji proved generosity can translate to the gritty, not pretty landscape of fast-moving commercial goods / Zuji became an instant player in packaged goods by pricing everyday food staples ridiculously low and attaching an idea — people should take more holidays. Zuji was able to sell 10,000 cans of beans in tomato sauce, delivering a tough audience to the Web during difficult economic times and generating a lot of conversation along the way Says Zuji’s managing director, Peter Smith: ‘It’s not the answer to be the biggest. We will go out and do everything we can with the resources we have to rise above the melee.’