‘Brilliantly Dumb’ Can Be an Effective Strategy, and Other Advice From Our Industry Panelists

Takeaways from Adweek's Elevate: Creativity

The event centered around the theme of turning the 'big idea' into the 'long idea.' - Credit by Raquel Beauchamp
Headshot of Alissa Fleck

Adweek hosted the latest installment of its Elevate series Thursday with Elevate: Creativity, which included three panels of experts across the industry weighing in on turning “big ideas” into “long ideas.”

Here are our top takeaways from the event:

Dumb is OK if it catches fire

In a panel called “Creating Long-Term Ideas in a Short-Term Era,” Adweek creative and innovation editor David Griner asked Samantha Deevy, group communications strategy director at Droga5, if the decision to temporarily rebrand IHOP as IHOb was dumb, brilliant or brilliantly dumb.

According to Deevy, the campaign got everyone talking, so at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter—even “dumb” can be strategic if it catches fire.

In a later discussion, Wieden+Kennedy ecd Karl Lieberman said, “If you get a lot of feedback, keep it, because it touched a nerve.” Ideas can always evolve creatively.

Branded podcasts must feel authentic

Brands are increasingly interested in the podcasting space, but nobody will listen to a 20-minute podcast if it feels like an ad, said Nazanin Rafsanjani, vp, new show development at Gimlet Media.

Rafsanjani provided the example of a successful case study in which the network collaborated with Tinder on a podcast that felt authentic and relevant to its audience. They produced a series about dating, which involved conversations with women around things women are already discussing when it comes to dating and relationships—like “the economy of dick pics,” said Rafsanjani.

Podcasters should also never underestimate the amount of work it can take to sound natural, human or even “cool,” she said.

Partner with influencers who have a relationship with the brand—or risk a flash-in-the-pan

Influencers have become a major part of marketing in recent years, and while they started out authentic, the lack of regulation has caused the space to become saturated with hollow endorsements, explained Deevy. The trick to sustainability and authenticity is to invest in people who have a relationship with the brand and believe in it, she said.

Your message has succeeded if it transcends the brand 

It’s always nice if your marketing can drive sales, but a sure sign of success is when your message becomes bigger than the brand, said Christopher Neff, senior director of innovation at global creative agency The Community. In a panel titled “Creativity and Causes: Next-Generation Social Responsibility Campaigns,” Neff offered the example of REI’s “Opt Outside” campaign. The tagline is now used well beyond its affiliation with the brand, he said.

To get your message to a place of transcendence takes work, though—you have to infiltrate the culture by playing off tensions that already exist in society. Your brand also has to truly live its values up and down the organization, added Brad Jakeman, senior advisor and former president, PepsiCo Global Beverage Group.  It’s also critical to involve consumers in the process, as people like to be engaged to take action toward doing good, not just witness a company doing it.

We’re all only moments away from a crisis 

But it doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds. When Dove was accused of racism recently, it seemed as if 14 years of progress pioneering body positivity was about to be eradicated. It’s in moments like this when a brand’s true colors show, said Jakeman. Accept that you will make mistakes, don’t get too distracted by your customers and have people ready at all times to mitigate a crisis, he said.

Pick a cause and stick to it

It can be tempting to jump on the trend of the day, but it’s more authentic if a brand chooses a cause and sticks to it, said Jason Harris, president and CEO at Mekanism. Trying to do too much at once is a recipe for failure. And, while panelists agreed that brands should have social responsibility, they also conceded brands don’t have a social obligation. However, sticking to your guns (or not, in this case) can help a brand profit in the long run, as was the case with Dick’s Sporting Goods. When the store stopped selling assault-style rifles, it saw a dramatic increase in shoppers who admired the company’s stance.

“People will go out of their way to shop brands with values,” said Devika Bulchandani, president, McCann New York.


@AlissaFleck Alissa Fleck is a New York City-based reporter, podcast producer and contributor to Adweek.
Publish date: June 18, 2018 https://dev.adweek.com/brand-marketing/brilliantly-dumb-can-be-an-effective-strategy-and-other-advice-from-our-industry-panelists/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT