Brand Smart Master Class Lessons from Chicago

Posted by Orfie Krejberg on May 08, 2017

Last week, I had the privilege of attending my first Brand Smart Master Class, an event hosted by the Chicago chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA). The day was full of interesting Master Classes to choose from, and I’m excited to attend future events. I’m going to share with you a few of the presentations that I attended and the lessons I learned.

Building the Modern Brand.

The event started with a keynote address presented by David Armano, Global Strategy Director at Edelman. He shared some examples of brands that he feels are leading the way in modern communications, as well as leveraging new forms of creativity and agility.

He cited Barilla for their “Passion for Pasta” campaign. Barilla partnered with Hannah Hart, a popular internet personality best known for her YouTube series “My Drunk Kitchen.” There is an ever-increasing awareness of healthy living and eating, and pasta sales were on the decline as a result. However, with Hannah’s help, Barilla found a creative way to highlight ways that pasta can be used in healthy cooking. The message was that pasta can be good for the body, but is also good for the soul.

He also gave props to REI for their “Opt Outside” campaign, which started in 2016 when they shut all 149 of its stores on Black Friday and processed zero online sales. In addition, they paid all 12,287 of their employees to take the day off and head outside instead. Thus started a movement.

Lessons Learned

  • Look at the relationship your brand has with millennials. They account for over 60 percent of consumership and are very socially aware consumers.
  • Don’t play in spaces where you don’t belong. This can backfire if you’re not careful, so be true to who you are and do what you do best.
  • Your culture is your brand (this also applies to employee retention). Take a critical look at your culture. What does it say about you?
  • Create stories and experiences that people will want to share. What is the customer journey, and what will motivate them to share?
  • Uncover insights for all audiences, not just end consumers.
  • Don’t let brand guidelines get in the way of brand evolution.

Developing a Differentiated Brand Strategy in a Crowded Market

Megan Biggam, SVP, Head of Retail Banking at Byline Bank and Matt Gordon, Executive Director at Landor teamed up to present how they partnered to create a new brand in the very crowded banking space. They brought 12 independent brands and pulled them all under one umbrella in 15 months!

Biggam and Gordon shared their complete journey and process of brand development. They detailed the relationship of brand strategy to design, and how to effectively evaluate concepts with both customers and employees.

Lessons Learned

My key take-away from this presentation was to leverage your employees as brand ambassadors.

  • Insights and Strategic Choices: Understand the opportunity and identify potential territories for the brand.
  • Strategy and Prototype Testing: Explore potential positioning ideas and live research with expert panels.
  • Create the Experience: Bring the positioning to life across all relevant touch points.
  • Impact and Management: Communicate your new brand to internal and external audiences.

Cashing in on Current Events

Nick Scarpino, VP of Marketing and Public Relations at Portillo’s, said that his company used to not spend anything on marketing and advertising. Then, Portillo’s began to use current events as marketing tools.

For example, they used the Blackhawks Stanley Cup win over the Tampa Bay Lightning to break the ice in announcing their expansion into Tampa in 2015. They created two different advertisements for the possible outcomes after the Stanley Cup Finals. When the Blackhawks won, a full-page ad was run in the Tampa Bay Times announcing the opening of Portillo’s in Tampa, with the caption, “Cheer up Tampa, there’s good news from Chicago today.” This was rapidly picked up by the newswires. While not all Lightning fans were amused shortly after watching their team lose to the Blackhawks, it was a creative and engaging move.

He also told us about 6-year old Ainsley Turner, who wore a hot dog costume on “princess day” at her dance school. The story quickly went viral, and the people at Portillo’s saw an opportunity to chime in. They reached out to the girl’s family and flew them to Chicago, where she was crowned “Hot Dog Queen of Chicago” by Dick Portillo himself. The video was shared thousands of times across the country. This was a great opportunity to increase Portillo’s brand awareness, but also to send a positive social message.

The day was full of compelling presentations given by talented and accomplished professionals from companies like The Boston Consulting Group, Prophet Brand Strategy, VSA Partners, Burrell Communications, RxBar and Tide Spin. If you’re in Chicago, I strongly suggest checking out the upcoming events hosted by the Chicago AMA.

Posted in: Communications, Marketing

About the author

Orfie Krejberg

Orfie Krejberg is a Sr. Account Manager with Paladin Chicago with 17 years of recruiting experience in creative, marketing, communications.

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