Archive for the ‘Ideas’ Category

This post originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of Hardware + Building Supply Dealer.

tool-library-1As much as I hate shoveling snow, I can’t possibly justify spending upwards of $500 on a snow blower that I might use five days a year and would take up space in my garage for the remaining 360.

According to a recent PwC study, 43% of consumers agree that “owning feels like a burden.” When you consider the cost, maintenance and storage requirements, buying things is kind of a pain. It’s no wonder, then, that the “sharing economy” is estimated to be $110 billion (and growing fast), according to a November 2014 Leo Burnett study. Whether it’s Netflix, Spotify, Zipcar, TaskRabbit, Uber or Rent the Runway, there’s another, arguably better, alternative to ownership for virtually every aspect of our lives.

In a world where people don’t aspire to own their own homes or even openly despise the idea of owning a car, where does that leave the tool, yard care and appliance markets? (more…)

167172306When it comes to marketing in today’s digital and social world, I believe coming up with ideas is the easy part. There, I said it, and I have no doubt I’ll get pummeled by many of my colleagues for making that statement.

I doubt anyone would disagree that in the advertising industry, we love to celebrate creative thinking. But we must remember that creative thinking goes nowhere without people who can bring ideas to life. And that’s getting harder every day as technology gets a stronger foothold in the marketing world.

A 2013 Harvard Business Review article titled “Closing the Chasm between Strategy and Execution” got me thinking about how the “chasm” applies to advertising. And while I don’t say this lightly, the truth is, with the digital ecosystem being so complex and continuously evolving, finding talent with the skills to deliver flawless execution is much harder to come by these days than a creative mind to dream up the idea.

Mapping out the customer journey is a painstaking and methodical process, and I’m not talking about the old “Attract-Engage-Convert” model. I’m talking about the complex and convoluted path the consumer takes today, and the detailed planning we have to do for every step of it. For which device should we optimize? Where does the data live? How do we analyze the data? Are we following the rules of every social platform and exploring how to use each to our advantage? What technology do we use and why? What are the potential effects of those decisions? The list goes on and continues to grow every day, and people who can not only navigate these waters, but can also lead within them are invaluable.

But I have to say, they are hard to find these days.

So what is a marketing executive to do? Here is what I think: (more…)

About 15 years ago our agency picked up a small project from a manufacturer of fiber-cement siding. The product was called HardiePlank. It wouldn’t rot, warp, crack, or burn. It was even hurricane proof. At the time, wood composite sidings were experiencing huge problems around the country, yet no one would try this remarkable product called HardiePlank. Our challenge was to change that.

My father-in-law was a builder. My grandfather had been a carpenter for 40 years. I’d run my own painting and deck maintenance company in college. Heck, my first job ever was working in a lumberyard. So when it came time to choose a copywriter for this assignment, I was the unanimous choice. If anyone could talk about building products like a man, it would be me, they said.

Fast forward a few years and the brand was enjoying remarkable success. Our program had gone nationwide, and James Hardie was one of the top three requested brands in all of home building. So picking the good ol’ boy to be the copywriter was a wise decision, right? Well, yes and no. When asked how we’d found such a powerful way of communicating their brand, the CMO had this to say: “Brett is a 40-year-old mom trapped in a young man’s body.” Say what? (more…)

5 Questions is a podcast series dedicated to exploring a range of topics with professionals from all walks - boiled down to (you guessed it) 5 Questions. The hope is to share points of view on different topics with experts from many different industries.

To get started, we’re going to keep it close to home. The first installment of 5 Questions features Shaun Quigley, VP Digital Practice Leader for Brunner speaking to brands, content and what the future might hold for advertising agencies.

Listen to Shaun’s take below.

ad-age-digital-conference-20131The theme of day two had much to do with video: TV in the past, now and the future, and how the new and evolving platforms are breaking the norms. We even had a star sighting with Eva Longoria on stage to talk about her upcoming venture on Hulu. With all of the trends, information and speculating about the future, the big takeaway for me was that Ideas win. That’s it.

Robert Wong, CCO of Google Creative Lab, shared some of the most interesting and dynamic work of the conference. It was powerful, engaging, smart, and it told stories. In the end everything he shared, from product innovation to ads, came from good ideas. What I found most interesting is where the ideas came from. Unconventional ways of going about the thinking seems to lead to these really great ideas. For Google, one example was to come up with the commercial before the product – as with Google Glass. As the team was searching for what this “thing” could be and do, they decided to put their efforts into making a commercial, allowing them the freedom of thinking “what could this be?” with the focus of needing to produce a spot. The product idea got better because of the approach to thinking about it. Smart. (more…)

In The Power of Habit, New York Times writer Charles Duhigg reveals a fundamental truth: “When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making…so unless you fight a habit–unless you find new routines–the pattern will unfold automatically.”

Such is still the challenge for so many brands today with their digital marketing investment. Planning a year’s worth of media and creative follows a comfortable pattern of brief-to-boards (traditional TV, that is) in lieu of integrated planning across paid, owned, earned and shared media. All because of the ingrained habits of agencies and marketers alike–whose brains have shut down and fallen back on what’s familiar.

To be sure, old habits die hard. Whether it’s smoking cigarettes, or biting your nails, or visiting the freezer each night for a bowl of ice cream. Brand planning is no different. To change these habits, we must become more self-aware and understand the three phases of Duhigg’s habit loop:

Cue: the trigger that tells your brain to go on auto-pilot
Routine: the actions you take
Reward: the satisfaction that results after a routine is completed

the-habit-loop2Apply this model to traditional brand planning, and you get something like this:

Cue: “Time to plan for 2013.”
Routine: Consumer Insight. Brief. TV Boards. Bolt on everything else.
Reward: Job security. Business as usual.


This planning habit is the root cause of why so much digital marketing today is uninspired–and worse–fails to move the needle. Brands struggle to do better by their digital investment and still deliver on their financial goals under this routine.

To effect real change, marketers must form a new planning habit to replace the old one. They must demonstrate leadership and have the willpower to deliberately fight this habit. They must find a new routine before the same pattern unfolds again, and challenge their partners to work differently. For example:

Cue: “Time to plan for 2013.”
Routine: Consumer insight. Brief. Integrated planning. Integrated activation
Reward: A big idea that connects across the connected media landscape


You have the power to change old habits! Resolve to start a new routine!  Take your brief and bring your channel partners together to develop integrated programs that engage consumers across the connected media landscape.

Hurry, before the TV boards show up.

Originally published in iMediaConnection:

Shaun Quigley is VP, Digital Practice Director for Brunner. Follow him @squigster.

Illustration style courtesy charlesduhigg.com

As a marketer knowing what to focus on can be tough. It’s just Like That today. It’s like knowing when the old style is the new style. The guy that sits next to me rocks a different pair of Adidas just about every day. The old school shell-toes - he literally color-coordinates his Gazelles with his outfit. Reverend Run’s got nothing on him. Everyone knows that fashion is cyclical to some degree. Apparently, that’s not the only thing. adidas_run_dmc_shoe2

I save things. I’m not at the hoarder level, but I do hang on to things that interest me. Links to work, screen grabs of ads or images, videos, blog posts, etc. Recently I came across an email I had saved -the topics of the three feature stories?

  • Content
  • Search
  • Mobile

Now that may not be terribly surprising but perhaps the fact that the email was from 2008 might be. As I scanned the articles it became clear why I saved the email, it was good stuff. The importance of having compelling content was prevalent. It talked of content strategy, even though it wasn’t called that. The search piece had a familiar refrain to it as well; search should be part of the fundamentals, smart creative and have a call to action, pointing in the right place. Even the mobile struck a chord - albeit a different one than today - but still pretty on it.

So flash forward to today, that email (or those topics) are probably landing in your inbox daily. When you read whatever you read today it’s the same general topics. Maybe the details have changed a bit and we know more about the impact these three things can have independently or collectively (that was not at all referenced in any of the older articles). Here’s the question for marketers; what have you done, really done, to advance yourself or your brand(s) in these three areas over the past four years? We know more. We talk about it more. You read more about it. But do you truly have a content strategy, a search strategy, a mobile strategy - heck a mobile search strategy?

A couple of things you should do quickly:

  • Take stock of the content you already have. It might not be perfect, but see what you have and use it to tell your story.
  • Create content that has purpose for different mediums.
  • Look at your web site on a mobile device. Would you use it the way it is?
  • Search yourself. Check out your brand and don’t just drop off if you see yourself, explore, see where you go - navigate like your customers - dig in.

You may have heard all of this before - perhaps even dating back to 2008 - but if you are still having the same conversations or are confused about what to do, start simple and build to the bigger programs. There are lots of things that can be a distraction and you can make it complex quickly - but you don’t have to. Back to my colleague…I’ve now noticed all manner of people wearing the new/old Adidas. I see it everywhere. Apparently it’s back….maybe it never left. Knowing when things are back in fashion is a matter of timing but focusing on content, search and mobile is never out of style. It’s Tricky…..just ask the boys from Hollis Queens.

Today, agencies and client organizations all over the world are having the same conversation. How do we prepare ourselves to deliver on the never-ending deluge of digital options? How do we grow our existing team to get there? Is that even feasible, or do we need to find new digital talent? But, if we do that, then are we prepared to lose good people with other skills that are important to us?

[For the full article as posted on iMedia, please click through below]

The Digital Hunger Games

The Digital Hunger Games

The 2012 South By Southwest Interactive Conference is over, and I would have to say that this year stands out as one of the better SXSW conferences that I’ve attended. The team at Brunner has spent the last  five days immersed in information, creativity and inspiration which we are all excited to share with our agency and our clients, as well as weave into our work in the coming months. And that is really the reason that I’ve come here over the years - to find inspiration.

This year, as every year, a number of key messages have been echoed again and again by the speakers, panelists and attendees of the conference. So here are a few of the main ideas that I’m leaving Austin with in 2012:

Business as usual has ended: there is a New World Order.

I heard Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins say it about music, Anthony Bourdain say it about TV, and a number of smart advertisers saying it about advertising and marketing: the legacy business models that shape the media world are dead. As Bourdain put it, “Everyone knows it. The body is dead but the brain keeps kicking, refusing to recognize it.” We, and the brands we represent, keep doing the same things today that we did in the past and wonder why we don’t get better results. It’s time to change not only the things we do but the way we do them to remain relevant to consumers.

Digital isn’t a medium, it’s age in which we live.

This is one of the primary themes that was present in just about every talk that I attended. Digital is not a channel in which to run adds. It is a way of thinking, and a state of being, that pervades all of our lives. Brian Solis called today’s generation Generation C - Generation Connected, and it encompasses the majority of us, regardless of age. So much of our lives have been affected by digital connectivity and we have discovered so much control in the messages we receive, the media we consume and the media we create that we have largely begun to reject anything that doesn’t fit into this culture of connectedness and consumer control.

Just go make things.

This was repeated again and again, panel after panel at SXSW this year. With so many possibilities in front of us to connect with consumers these days, we as an industry of communicators seem to freeze up and struggle to communicate. And when we finally work up the courage to produce something, it’s often a retreat back to what we are comfortable with: print ads, TV spots, banners and landing pages. It’s time to be more agile, to stop talking ourselves out of action and just go make this that aren’t necessarily ads. Make apps, make prototypes, try new ideas in social and mobile. Make products. We will never know what works unless we pick up the tools, make things and put them in front of people to get a reaction. If it works, invest more there. If it doesn’t, move on. The age of planning a campaign for 18 months is over. The age of failing fast in order to succeed is here, and we need to embrace it.

Combining these three key points and a new model for the advertising and marketing industry begins to emerge. Our old way of doing business has ended, and we need to recognize it and stop trying to do things the way they were even 5 years ago. The connectivity and control granted to society through the growth of digital technology has fundamentally changed the way people live, and has altered their relationships with media and brands forever. So advertiser and their agencies must become more agile, try more things more quickly, and make things that people want rather than try to make people want things.

It’s the way things are, and SXSW is not the first place that it has been said. But our industry, and our brands, will need to stop talking about this new world order it and actually start living up to it in order to truly move things forward.

It’s 4:30 in the morning and I’m on my way home from my first SXSW.  I’ve been dazzled by new technologies, pondered the role of the ad agency and found new ways to think about how we brand products for our clients.  But perhaps the most interesting take-away was the under-current of spirituality.  As we continue to push our socialization, experiences and identities out to the web, there is a stronger awareness of what’s left behind— our physical consciousness.

As we continue to push our socialization, experiences and identities out to the web, there is a stronger awareness of what’s left behind— our physical consciousness.

Thousands of attendees walked the halls of the SXSW campus with devices in both holsters, faces constantly peering into tiny screens watching the latest blow-by-blows through Twitter and GroupMe.   This persistent immersion has the most technologically advanced people in the country and from around the world worried about getting lost in the same technology that empowers them.

Into my first day, I listened to the Chairman & CEO of Aetna, Mark Bertolini.  He talked about technology that helped Aetna members manager their health care, but he also talked about meditation as an important part of his own health regimen.  

Amber Case, a cyborg anthropologist, spoke about the importance of location based content that enables us to live more in our physical selves. “I don’t want to miss all of my life when I look at the screen all the time,” said Case.  “The best technology is invisible and gets out of the way… enabling us to live in reality.” 

“The best technology is invisible and gets out of the way… enabling us to live in reality.”  — Amber Case

Actor Rainn Wilson espoused the importance of having a discourse of life’s big questions which he carries out with his followers on SoulPancake.com.  

Technologists Julian Bleecker and Nicolas Nova showed the present and the future where the mind is the interface with technology—a point where our own thoughts will activate the technology in the world around us.   We saw bikes and skateboards already using fMRI technology to do this.  This raised the question of the power of our collective consciousness. 

Legendary inventor and futurist, Ray Kurzweil spoke about biotechnology and a concept called singularity.  Artificial intelligence like Watson and Deep Blue and the convergence of machines within our own bodies are changing our view of what it means to be human.  Today, Scientists are placing blood cell sized devices in animals and Parkinson’s is being treated by placing technology inside the body. 

Technology raises big questions.  As we continue to design communications and engagement for consumers, it is important to recognize the importance and deep rooted desire in all of us to stay grounded in the outside world.  Let’s find ways to help our customers and get them back to their lives.  Intuitively, SXSW knew we would all need a little more soul after these heavy discussions.  The conference offered daily Yoga sessions to get folks back in touch with their higher selves!