Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.
So said Jeff Bezos.
It’s a good definition.
People say Amazon is easy and quick and convenient and has good prices, fast deliver and good service.
It would be “off-brand” for Amazon to have a “Just come over to the warehouse and pick it up” policy. It would be off-brand for Amazon to buy Sears and just leave the stores the way they are. It would be off-brand for Amazon to get into any traditional business and keep it traditional.
People say Apple has cool, sleek, well-designed, premium-priced products that are super-easy to use.
It would be “off brand” for Apple to launch complicated product that requires a think manual. It would be off-brand for able to sell something cheap. It would be off-brand for apple to degrade customer experience in order to collect data or externalize cost by getting partners to do more of the work.
People say Peloton is sleek, expensive, amazing, motivating, effective and high-quality. It would be “off-brand” for Peloton to offer a super-cheap, use-it-once-and-it-breaks home exercise bike for people on a budget so that “Peloton can tap into the much larger mass market for home exercise devices.”
People say Dollar Shave Club is cool, fun, reliable, convenient and super-inexpensive. It would be “off brand” for Dollar Shave Club to come out with super expensive, high-end razors that you can only buy in upscale department stores so that “Dollar Shave Club can reach a more upscale target.”
People say Tesla is premium, futuristic, electric, well-designed, good for the environment and on a mission. It would be “off brand” for Tesla to come out with a gas-guzzling car so that, “more traditional drivers can also enjoy the Tesla brand and style.”
People used to say Avis “tries harder.” It would have been off-brand for Avis to give poor or even normal customer service. But, unfortunately, Avis has developed that reputation. When you say your brand stands for something, it is “off brand” to do the opposite.
The art of the brand leader is to build and reinforce the intended meaning of the brand – to get people to say the right things. Actions are “on brand” when they inspire people to do that. Actions are “off brand” when they prompt people to say the wrong thing about the brand.
Their original film, Roma, was edged out by Green Book for Best Picture.
The loss was likely met with cheers from legacy studio heads and traditional media elite.
But the nomination speaks volumes for Netflix’s surging influence on the industry.
An influence that is only growing by the day.
Roma has Hollywood shaking in its suits.
A foreign black-and-white film, not likely to be greenlit by the major studios.
In theatres for just a few weeks before Netflix made it available for streaming online.
Much shorter than the 90-day exclusive window used by the old guard.
Roma had an A-list director in Alfonso Cuarón.
Putting Netflix’s power to secure Hollywood’s top talent on full display.
He would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Director.
Roma proved what many already knew to be true.
Netflix doesn’t just belong.
Netflix is the future, and it’s completely flipping the entertainment industry on its head.
Like a true challenger, they did it their own way.
The way of the master change agent.
With a direct-to-consumer business model, the user is the customer and the focus.
Not pleasing middlemen distributors or networks.
This model holds them accountable.
Cancelling a subscription is just one-click away.
Netflix knew the where was global.
Netflix knew the when was on-demand.
Netflix knew it was a membership-economy.
Which meant community and creating the right change for the people who care – their customers.
Netflix knew that content was king.
Lots of it.
Netflix knew that technology would bring these engaging stories to their audience.
And they knew the audience was everywhere – in their living rooms, on their laptops, or on their phones.
Netflix understood behavioral science.
Ease beats motivation.
Faster is better.
Netflix knew the power of experience and intervention design.
And revolutionized the way consumers watch television.
Giving them the freedom and control to binge entire seasons or watch at their convenience.
Netflix invented their own advantages.
By moving fast, and experimenting without the constraints of a legacy system.
Netflix is the reason Disney, WarnerMedia, CBS, and almost all of the other traditional media titans are now introducing their own direct-to-consumer business models, which will be costly.
For these Goliaths, the time is now, and the stakes are high.
Each of them will have to grow a new business.
While managing the decline of their traditional business.
But these mega corporations are now playing in a different marketplace.
One in which Netflix is the standard of greatness.
With smart data, savvy marketing, and 139 million strong.
Netflix has more than a head start.
The rest will play catch-up.
That little DVD rental business with nothing but a challenger mindset and an inspiring idea.
Is now both “what works” and “what’s great.”
An iconic brand that is defining an era.
When Affinity Federal Credit Union first came to us in 2014, the country was in economic disarray.
Following the second-worst financial crisis in U.S. history, seven million people had just lost their homes. More than that had just lost their jobs, and many lost both. Trust in financial institutions had plummeted by 50 percent, while trust in banks fell even more.
Still, the largest credit union headquartered in New Jersey needed new members, and quickly.
The challenge: Help Affinity grow in a post-recession economy where disillusionment with financial institutions was at an all-time high.
Together with our client, we needed to build an iconic brand, change behaviors, and inspire a new movement — and for a fraction of the cost of the marketing budgets of big banks on Wall Street.
We got started with a strategic exploratory of all the key messages that might help Affinity Federal Credit Union achieve its goals, and we found a key insight that did that far better than any other.
Affinity Federal Credit Union isn’t a bank.
You can, however, get a checking account, business loan or credit card there.
Our planning team talked to credit union members and discovered their desire to not see themselves as the victims or enablers of Wall Street. Instead, these members prided themselves on investing in their own community.
And unlike a bank, it had an inspiring idea above commercial intent — a not-for-profit public service mission that aimed to help people and small businesses.
We had our single thought …
“We’re not a bank, we’re Affinity”.
The creative message? All the financial services of a bank, but 100% Fat Cat free.
This was a brilliant example of reframing — positioning a company, a Credit Union, while at the same time de-positioning your competition. And it was based on a single compelling insight, which is way deep into our psyche: We consider all banks the same Fat Cat.
To really position the credit union apart from the bigwigs on Wall Street, Affinity needed to take this inspiring idea and dramatize it through a small number of iconic actions.
First, we created commercials that could never, ever have been done by any uptight bank.
Our major character was a real fat cat behind a desk. The response was so tremendous that the spot ended up catapulting Affinity to a national story and was featured on Spike TV’s Funniest Commercials of the Year — twice.
The campaign went viral on social networks, dramatically increasing the efficiency of the advertising. It was iconic.
Next, to showcase Affinity’s low checking fees, we took the drama to an entirely new level.
Together with our client, we conducted a social experiment with real people, but one that took a turn for the extreme. We brought elite athletes and fat cat banking customers into the same gym.
Then, to demonstrate how commercial banks clobber their customers with enormous fees, we printed “ATM fees” and other fees on dodgeballs, blindfolded the customers and then let the athletes pelt them mercilessly. (Of course, our lawyers were present with ironclad releases and videotaped disclaimers.)
This insanely lopsided dodgeball game turned into a fully integrated campaign including digital banners, a landing page, and extra outtakes. Talk about an in-your-face advertisement …
It too went viral.
After a couple years, our client’s challenge had evolved.
We had helped Affinity successfully define who they weren’t — a fat-cat-run bank — but now, the credit union needed help defining who they were.
We looked deeper, conducting extensive primary research to learn all about what makes Affinity unique. We spoke with members, employees, stakeholders, and prospects and learned that Affinity members and employees feel proud to belong to something better. And that their tagline, “Belong to something better,” was the core of the brand. The message was authentic, and the sentiment was there, but the members weren’t embedded in the journey enough for this to be showcased to future members. All we needed to do was tell their story by bringing clear meaning to the tagline in a way that allowed every audience to relate to the brand. We needed to showcase the trustworthy human connections that make the Affinity experience so authentic, and who better to tell that story than the members themselves?
The new campaign, titled “A Community Connected,” was co-created with Affinity members. Through a series of regional OOH, display, radio, and TV spots, this innovative approach to advertising brought the brand’s mission to life in a transparent and iconic way. Using our patented Selfifesto® technique, we placed the members at the center of the marketing message and couldn’t be happier with the result. We asked members to record selfie videos detailing their inspiring experience with the credit union, and we worked to compile these videos into powerful ads.
The success wasn’t only measured in accounts and loans, but also by its ability to rally the brand’s employees under one flag. We helped throw a company picnic to celebrate them and build on the idea that they help make Affinity what it is. Our rebranding campaign brought the brand to life and educated audiences about what a credit union is, which is a huge barrier for the category. The campaign worked to tell Affinity’s story to prospects, members, and employees in a unifying way.
When Weight Watchers first came to us in the spring of 2015, the brand was in an alarming state…
The previous months had been some of the worst in the iconic company’s history, with substantial dips in subscriptions, sign-ups, and revenue, leading to the stock plummeting from $25 to $7 per share.
At the same time, the category was facing fierce and unfamiliar competition in the form of wearable tech, free fitness and calorie counting apps, and niche diets that were sweeping the internet. The consumer was now living in a choice-filled world, which led to powerful defenses. Inaction is exacerbated by the unprecedented level of emotional distance and skepticism that people are feeling, primarily because they are overwhelmed.
The conversation shifted, and no one was talking about Weight Watchers. With the brand on the “brink of irrelevance,” they needed more than just an agency – they needed an ally.
That’s when they came to us to inspire action.
The client couldn’t afford to be patient. Like any true change agent, our client couldn’t sacrifice brand for revenue or revenue for brand – they needed both, and urgently.
The challenge: refresh the brand to drive both recruitment and brand value.
The timeline? One month.
30 days to diagnose the previous failed strategy, create and choose offers, plan channels, agree on a brief, conceive and write scripts and concepts, and then produce, launch and traffic two television commercials and a digital campaign.
We accepted the challenge, and with confidence. From our work with Reader’s Digest, Netflix, eBay, Fresh Direct, and many others, we knew subscription-model businesses. We knew the health and wellness category. We knew the immense pressure and responsibility our client felt. We knew we could help.
Executing a process that most agencies require four to six months to complete in just 30 days would require all hands on deck and inspiring collaboration with our client. With both teams excited by the new partnership and the challenge ahead, we immediately went to work.
There are two ways that we can change behavior: by increasing motivation and by making it easier for our audience to take action.
Weight loss is one of the toughest behavioral challenges of our times. Sometimes people might be very motivated to lose weight, but lack the skills to do it. They don’t know how to do it, and the environment does not make it easy for people to lose weight. Life gets in their way.
To overcome these challenges, Weight Watchers needed to hit both, motivation and ease.
With our first campaign, we tapped into people’s natural desire to change by modeling behavioral change. People learn new ways of behaving by watching others. Modeling can be very powerful when it creates a new social norm. And there’s generally a tipping point when not participating in the action becomes the odd behavior.
In a four-week sprint, and with our client involved at every step, we conceived, developed, and went to market with a winning campaign that focused on the brand’s secret ingredient – its members – while highlighting the special offer of a free starter kit to increase ease.
The starter kit was a key. Everyone’s journey to weight loss is unique, but almost always, making the commitment to start is the hardest part. Most diets only last a few days because results don’t happen overnight.
With a free starter kit, the consumer now had something tangible to symbolize this new chapter of transformation. It gave them the tools they needed to succeed, and made them feel confident they could stay the course. It was a constant reminder of the empowering path they were on.
The campaign generated excitement and restored consumers’ motivation to act, leading to the first up quarter of recruitment in years. The stock price went back up, and for the first time in a while, the future was hopeful. Still, our work was far from finished.
In 2016, our brand planners helped us strategically prepare to launch a campaign around Weight Watchers’ new program, SmartPoints, one of the brand’s biggest innovations in 50 years.
Understanding the human behaviors that would ultimately drive action, our client doubled down on our consumer-centric approach and engaged the members like never before. We worked with Weight Watchers to cast real members talking about their experiences, capturing the values of the brand and its audience at the same time.
New signups surged, with increases in subscribers, meeting attendees, and an immediate 5% North American revenue lift.
With a new program in place, our client had something others didn’t – real results with real people.
Our Fall 2016 sprint started with a happier problem; Members were losing 15% more weight on beyond the scale.
How could our client get the news out in a way that would get noticed? Once again, the client inspired action, reaching out to real members and super fans. But this time, through Weight Watchers’ own app, Connect, which has been called the most positive social network on earth.
We asked members to film themselves telling us their success stories and living the program. A technique we’ve dubbed, the Selfifesto®.
And like the program, the campaign worked, inspiring the audiences to act in ways that benefit them.
During our over three-year partnership with Weight Watchers, our client achieved 10 consecutive quarters of recruitment growth. The stock grew from $7 to $107 per share, and Weight Watchers reached its highest marketing efficiency since 2008.
Together, we helped revitalize the brand, breaking down the barriers to motivation to gain over 1 million new members a year. We increased their commitment, made the path easy, and helped them each make more inspiring decisions and form more empowering habits.
That’s the master change agent way. That’s inspiring action.
Following last year’s list of behavior change marketers, we’re bringing you a new and updated list of 2018’s most inspiring action brands and people. If there are any brands you think deserve to be added to the list, tweet us here and let us know!