There were some very stimulating and fascinating presentations at the Brand Innovation Technology Conference (BRITE), held at Columbia Business School on March 4, 2019. Here are just a few of the event’s major highlights and my key takeaways:
1. Don’t underestimate the power of perspective.
My colleague Adam Galinsky gave a wonderful talk titled “Friend and Foe: When to Cooperate, When to Compete, and How to Succeed at Both,” based on his book of the same title. Adam explored the incredible value of taking other people’s perspectives when trying to determine when you should behave in a cooperative way and when you should be more competitive. One of the more interesting things he revealed was the fact that the more power you have in a particular situation, the less likely you are to take the perspective of another person.
2. Social robots can help create a better world.
In the session “A Quack for Good: Leveraging Technology for Authentic Social Purpose,” the design firm Sproutel introduced My Special Aflac Duck, a robot that helps comfort children who have been afflicted with cancer by giving them more control over their environment. This invention was their answer to the brand’s question: How do you make healthcare more playful?
As Aaron Horowitz from Sproutel explained, the major issue that they identified during the design process was that children feel out of control. So by playing with this duck, they’re able to mimic what they’re going through with the duck—the duck gets chemo and gets its temperature taken—and communicate their feelings by using tokens for different emotional journeys. The Aflac duck is just one example of the potential for the beginning of “social robots.”
Presenting the marketing perspective, Catherine Hernandez-Blades, Senior VP and Chief Brand & Communications Officer at Aflac, explained that we’re moving from the traditional “4 Ps” of marketing to the “4 Es,” which are: engagement, experience, exchange, and environment. By using this approach, Aflac has been able to leverage innovative technology for a better world. So far, the company has donated more than 3,000 ducks to hospitals in more than 40 states.
3. Everyone is competing for attention.
Colin Mitchell, the Vice President, Director of Global Brand at McDonald’s, gave a really interesting talk titled “An Emotional Free Sample.” In the talk, Colin outlined a shift we’re seeing in advertising today. To make his point, he quoted from an old advertising textbook: “Advertising is the art of getting a unique selling proposition into the heads of the most people at the lowest possible cost.” Previously, advertisers thought about salience, persuasion, affinity, and then a call to action. But now, as Colin observed, we’re living in a world where advertising is about competing for attention. And as an advertiser, you’re not just competing with other advertisers—you’re competing with all the content ever made. So the question you need to answer is: When attention is a finite resource, and consumers have infinite ways to spend that resource, why should anyone be paying attention to you?
In order to answer that question, Colin argued, you need to have a point of view about what your brand is really doing—and a model for how to communicate that. If you think about Nike, for example, they’re all about coaching—whether it’s by producing inspirational commercials, helping you in their retail shops, or creating running communities, they’re all about coaching you to be your very best. If you look at Apple’s brand, it’s all about product demonstration—the “Shot on an iPhone” campaign was all about the amazing things the product could do.
And while McDonald’s began as a very functional brand—the best fries at the lowest price—it’s now a brand that’s all about asking consumers to feel something. (Think about the 1971 tagline “You deserve a break today” or the more recent “I’m lovin it” slogan.) Colin cited Ray Kroc, who was responsible for rapidly expanding McDonald’s, who once said, “We’re not in the hamburger business, we’re in show business.”
Around the world, the brand has launched several clever advertising campaigns to communicate this brand positioning. For example, in Australia, they observed that customers would often sit at a competing restaurant to use their WiFi. So they changed the sign-on to: If all you want is free WiFi, well just stay where you are. If you want a good meal, come to McDonald’s.” In London, they celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Big Mac with an art competition. And in Brazil, they created a drive-through inside of a truck that drove around the streets on a no-drive day.
As Colin expressed, advertising has gone from features and functions to thinking about the promise you’re making, your purpose, and your presence in the attention spans of consumers.
All that was just session 1! Check out takeaways from the second session here.