For decades, brands depended on advertising ‘mad men’ and ‘big ideas’ to ensure their distinctiveness and appeal in front of the much simpler consumers of yesteryear. Today, brands navigate tougher markets with increasingly savvy and conscious consumers, who not only care for their needs to be met but also for their interests to be shared. The funnel has turned on its head. Brands can no longer rely on narratives that place them at the forefront (as the one and only choice of the category) but have to earn their status. Consideration and purchase now come at the end of a process that starts with loyalty – the brand’s loyalty to consumers and their community.

What this means is that brands now need to build trust and influence with the community in order to become relevant to society. And once that happens, they will become relevant in consumers’ lives. People will consider meeting their needs with a certain brand because they deem it worthy, and brands need to acknowledge that this is the current state of affairs and understand its mechanism.

Data was supposed to give the edge but the way it is used brings only more rupture in the relationship between brands, agencies, and consumers. Data-inhibited creative, unrelatable communication, or beautiful but unusable products are just a few of the anomalies that have grown from the misuse of creativity and data. And when they are actually combined properly, the end goal is off. Why? Because the goal is always anything else apart from what actually matters to consumers – relevance to society.

“Today, brands need to be relevant in society and culture to also remain relevant in the lives of consumers.”
— Bruno Bertelli, Global Chief Creative Officer, Publicis

Brandingmag had a fascinating conversation with Bruno Bertelli, CEO of Publicis Italy, Global Chief Creative Officer of Publicis WW, and the most awarded creative officer in history. We shared insights on how advertising and agencies can stay relevant, brand building, the new role of brands in society, and how to use data to build great creative.

Using data to build good creative
Using data is not enough; it also matters where and when you use it. There is a difference between efficiency and efficacy. Creativity not only needs to be optimized by data – it also needs to be inspired by it.

Beyond the brief
When a client comes with the problem already figured out, written down on paper, it mostly means that a solution also lingers in their minds. And that can hurt the process and the outcome.

The “big idea”
“Big ideas are only good [for winning] pitches.”

Changing the client-agency relationship
Communication’s influence in marketing is very little (8-10%), so doing even the best of jobs is not enough. Extending the client-agency relationship beyond the P of ‘promotion’ can make agencies much more relevant and brands (and their marketing) more consistent and better overall.

Making brands relevant again
Bruno argues that inspiring messages need to be followed by appropriate actions, and actions that are relevant to society will make for brands that are relevant to consumers.

Brands being culturally relevant: Bottega Veneta and Heineken
Insights on how two already successful brands used their status to help the community, aiming for impact on society not for marketing KPIs. They were digging for copper and found gold, as the return for their efforts was outstanding in terms of brand indicators.

For more insights on the role of brands in society, be sure to tune in to our latest podcast featuring David Aaker, the “Father of modern branding”.