Innovation Lab

Brunner’s innovation lab, BHiveLab is recognized as one of the first true agency innovation labs.  At our 2013 industry creative technology conference sponsored by the 4A’s, we were asked to chair the innovation lab session which took a look at various successful innovation lab models.  During the 1 hour session there was one question that was asked repeatedly of the panel – How do I get started?

This Slideshare deck contains my personal top 10 steps to starting a successful agency innovation lab.

Smarter, faster brands today are looking at the mix through a new lens:  the customer (or user) experience. Because the ability to continuously engage consumers to build brands, drive sales and increase customer loyalty requires a new mindset. And better content to satisfy that experience.

The velocity at which consumers move through the purchase path is faster today than it used to be.  That’s why mapping the customer’s journey—across all media touch points (paid, owned and earned)—is so critical. Defining a clear role for each communication at each stage of the journey will help guide companies (and their agencies) on tactics and connections that move consumers closer to desired outcomes.

Brands today are increasingly content driven. The brand itself is content. Big brand ideas still connect with consumers at an emotional level, but at the heart of brand activation today is content. Content that meets their emotional and rational needs. Content that creates utility and meaning. It may be created, curated or sponsored by the brand, or perhaps generated by consumer.

Hello, brand marketing? Meet brand publishing.

Great content marketing requires the proper attitude, vision and strategy. Your compass is still your customer but their attention is the new currency. There is no completion date for content, especially in the age of the connected consumer. Above is a tool to help you get organized.

fox-in-hen-house1I recently read an article in Ad Age* about the need for agencies to defend their turf against ad-tech companies who are moving in on clients. As programmatic buying and the real-time bidding space have grown during the past several years, agencies have been adding this capability to their services in different ways – by either building their own solutions, acquiring technologies to enable execution, or creating licensing agreements with third-party suppliers.

The new trend is toward ad-tech companies going directly to clients with a sales pitch that offers them cheaper alternatives so they can cut out the so-called “middle man.” The result is a sense of heightened competition. But, I have to question the practicality of it all.

This might be fine for companies, such as P&G or Kellogg’s, which can fund the in-house resources necessary to work directly with ad-tech companies. But, most companies don’t have the kind of marketing resources needed to set up such a specialized in-house operation. And, should mid-sized to small companies really put their trust in the ad-tech companies themselves to monitor, optimize, and price inventory? Isn’t that kind of like having the fox guard the henhouse? (more…)

With fragmentation comes complexity. And with complexity comes an appreciable amount of misguided perspective, including sweeping statements about tactics and technologies that derail smart approaches in digital marketing.

The decision to use or not use responsive design is one of the more recent debates where the facts are getting swept under the rug. So we wanted to bring some clarity to how brands should approach this important choice.


Quick refresh:

Responsive Web Design (RWD) is a web design approach aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience across a wide range of devices (from smartphones to tablets to desktops). A site with RWD adapts the layout to the viewing environment by using fluid, proportion-based grids, flexible images, and CSS3.

Thanks Wikipedia! In short, your site’s design—and it’s content—responds to the user’s device.

SEO & Responsive Design: Perception

Here’s a sampling of what we’ve heard in clients’ hallways and some industry conferences:

  • “Google prioritizes sites that have responsive design.”
  • “Your site will not be found in Google unless it’s responsive.”

SEO & Responsive Design:  Reality

This is not true. (more…)

129252537 Media planning and buying professionals have been talking about Addressable TV for decades. Yes, decades. The first mention of it was back in 1980, when the dream of delivering a specific TV spot to a specific TV set based on the profile data contained in that set’s cable box started to look like it could become a reality.

Addressable TV is, indeed, here. It delivers efficiency, performance tracking and actionable insights. And it provides for greater accountability overall for a medium that historically has been a one-way communication vehicle.  But I have to ask the question: “What happened to television’s main role in the media mix?” With all of this applied data targeting, what Addressable TV may not deliver is the thing we always looked to television to deliver: mass. Take away “mass,” and I have to wonder what television offers that other digital media options don’t.

With about 66 million households, it is true that Addressable TV has come a long way from its earlier days of 8,000 Households in Huntsville, Alabama.  So now the technology is here, and we have some scale. But the fact remains, Addressable TV is a “precision-play” in a world with a lot of other precision-play options. In the new digital and mobile media landscape, what platform doesn’t enable data-driven hyper-targeting and the ability to track and measure results?

What’s all the fuss is about? (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…)

I have a confession to make. I don’t usually watch the Super Bowl. I don’t even care about football. (This is about the time I usually get weird looks from people.) But this year, the powers-that-be at Brunner requested that my colleague, Maria Bowers, and I watch the “big game.” As you can imagine (considering we work for an ad agency), they didn’t want us to watch for the hard-hitting, yard-measuring, rules-lawyering action, but rather for the advertisements. And, with Maria sitting in the creative department and me being on the technology team, they specifically picked the two of us knowing that we would have very different perspectives on what we saw. So, while the rest of you were busy getting beer and competing over who could eat the spiciest chicken wing, we were hard at work watching television and searching for stuff on the Internet. (Did I mention that I love my job?) Here are our observations about a few of the many advertisers who laid down $4 million in a bid to win over consumers.


show-us-your-heinzKyle: For their first Super Bowl (I mean “Big Game” – wouldn’t want any legal reprisals for a simple blog post) ad in 16 years, Heinz tries their hand at successfully executing the buzz-word that I like the least: “viral marketing.” They opened up showusyourheinz.com, which encourages fans of the ketchup masters to take photos of themselves with the product and submit them for the opportunity to win a prize. This is pretty standard fare for an online contest, but I found the connection to the television commercial to be tenuous. (more…)


What do Chicken Little and Twitter have in common? They both have a knack for prematurely stating apocalyptic doom.

I say this with much love for Twitter, as I’m an avid user who devours the 140-character nuggets on my feed. And I’m still awed by the role Twitter played in the Egyptian revolution of 2011.

So I guess what I’m irked with is not Twitter the medium; but rather, the over-reaction to how much negative impact will befall someone whose misstep lights up Twitter. Ugh, hearing “the Twitterverse is gonna explode” is nails on a chalkboard to me.

I was reminded of this by Bob Costas’ comments this week, calling Olympic snowboarding events “jackass stuff.” Well, that didn’t sit well with the rad, winter-sports crowd. Naturally, within an hour of his declaration, Bob Costas was trending on Twitter. And not in a good way. Irate fans of snowboarding pelted him with icy disses. (more…)

facebook-algorithm1One of the best articles I have read on Facebook’s News Feed algorithm change yesterday was published by Ezra Klein at the Washington Post. Facebook made the change to deemphasize memes and prioritize “high quality articles.” Too many Buzzfeed lists and too much Upworthy tearjerker content hitting feeds. Why? According to Klein:

But hitting “like” isn’t the same thing as actually enjoying the content. And collectively, everyone “liking” and sharing this stuff to show that they love babies and believe in gay marriage and oppose bullying and appreciate Will Ferrell and all the rest of it could mean news feeds fill with content that users don’t actually want to see so much of.

There is something critically important for clients and their agencies to consider when developing Facebook content-we are at the mercy of Facebook engineers. As Klein reminds us:

Facebook can tell the difference between content people automatically share and content that they actually watch, or comment on, or otherwise seem to engage with. So if and when Facebook begins to ratchet back on this new wave of viral content it can do so in ways that separate the really manipulative posts from the ones people actually enjoy.

It’s about engagement, Stupid. We should focus more on content users will truly engage with (read, watch or comment on) rather than content designed simply with a sharing objective. We must remember that if the content is crafted with engagement in mind then it will ultimately be shared. In fact, this is how we should be thinking about brand content for Facebook in the first place.


A few months ago, Yahoo! announced the acquisition of the social media platform Tumblr. At the time, investors questioned the $1.1 billion purchase of what some saw as essentially a fanboy picture-sharing site with a trickling revenue stream.

But what struck me was the immediate response from the Tumblr user community. They erupted with a barrage of snark, mostly aimed at Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer in the form of sophomoric GIFs and LOL memes. But layered in the predictable outrage and threats of user boycotts was something else. These people were hurt. They were betrayed; jilted by a brand with whom they had a deep relationship that dates back to, oh, 2006 or so.

It was actually rather sweet. In a millennial hipster sort of way. And it made me feel nostalgic about brands that I used to love.

I was loyal. They reciprocated that loyalty. And each relationship was special, in its own way. Until that relationship ended.

We parted for various reasons. For a few (Doc Martens, Ben&Jerry’s), I can honestly say, “It wasn’t you … it was me.”  But most of the times the break-up was a result of betrayal. Budweiser, my hometown beer and one-time client, abandoned us for a new sugar daddy in Belgium. Levi’s made me feel cheap and used. Even my beloved Apple has strayed, falling into the “friends with benefits” category of relationships.

So the question is, are consumers capable of brand love anymore? (more…)