Our Brand Genius Honorees Are Building Engagement With Marketing That Defies Avoidance

Charting a new course

Headshot of James Cooper

These are strange and interesting days for brand marketers. Fragmentation among screens continues unabated and consumers have more sophisticated tools than ever for avoiding marketing messages they find horrendous, interruptive or useless—or all of the above.

A recent Adobe/PageFair study revealed that ad blocking in the U.S. grew by 48 percent in the 12 months leading up to June 2015 and predicted that by next year the global cost of ad blocking to marketers will hit $41.4 billion. Those are chilling stats for all of us. As John Snyder points out in his Voice column (see "How Marketers Can Avoid Getting Stuck in a 'Badvertising' Rut"), if the value exchange of a piece of marketing isn't rich with inspiration or utility, it will drift away, unseen and ineffective. Indeed, the era of "badvertising" is over.

The good news is that beyond all the hyperventilating over ad blocking, insights about data have never been richer, as is the understanding that data as a human-insights tool, paired with genuine, creative storytelling, will create marketing that consumers see as smart, useful and something they want to engage with—and deeply so.

Each of the 10 individuals we will recognize with our 26th annual Brand Genius Awards at a gala in New York on Oct. 20 understands the evolving world of marketing in his or her own unique way. Adweek senior marketing editor Robert Klara, along with executive editor Tony Case, spent months working on this signature editorial project, resulting in the profiles in this week's issue. 

We think you will agree that the work of all this year's Brand Geniuses speaks for itself.

Gatorade, 50 years old this year, has tapped the sports fan in all of us, while also stoking our instinct to get in the game. Lego inspired a $500 million theatrical franchise with The Lego Movie (and basically took over this year's Academy Awards ceremony). Patrón has come to represent (as in, "I'll have a Patrón on the rocks") the high-end tequila category.

Under Armour drafted athletes like dancer Misty Copeland and Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry before they were phenoms and stitched their triumphs into our collective desire to play. SoulCycle marketed itself not by way of a traditional advertising strategy but by creating an experience that inspired remarkable word of mouth, and a highly anticipated IPO.

Always redefined what it means to be a girl by challenging the most basic cultural bias with its breakout #likeagirl campaign. Delta elevated the concept of commercial air travel, Jaguar drove a sexy edge back into the definition of a sports car, the E! network found the sweet spot between tabloid and taste, and Honey Maid celebrated the diversity of the modern American family.

At our event, we will also recognize this year's Brand Visionary Arianna Huffington (see "How Arianna Huffington's Idea for a Blog Changed the Media Industry Forever"), for the clarity of vision that led to the successes of The Huffington Post as well as her own personal brand.

Finally, our Brand Save honoree, Every Mother Counts, led by founder Christy Turlington Burns and profiled here, is striving to make the world a safer place to be a mother, and, thus, a better place for us all.

This story first appeared in the Oct. 19 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@jcoopernyc james.cooper@adweek.com James Cooper is editorial director of Adweek.