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How One Agency Created A Brand Strategy Toolbox Inspired By The Need For Change

PSFK chats with Leo Burnett's Chief Strategy Officer, Stephen Hahn Griffiths, on how his new brand strategy framework, HumanKind, could provoke...

Plus Aziz
Plus Aziz on October 24, 2011. @plusaziz

As Chief Strategy Officer at Leo Burnett, Stephen Hahn Griffiths runs one of the largest strategy and planning groups in the advertising world. Having worked at a range of agencies including Mullen and Saatchi/Saatchi, his experience has pointed him toward a number of growing needs in the advancement of brand strategy and account planning.

Agencies have a long history of developing strategic tools and intellectual property. According to Stephen the challenge today is to make it more real-time, collaborative both internal and external facing, and something that can house different disciplines.

We wrote previously about Leo Burnett’s approach to data, but their HumanKind idea is much broader. It is intimately tied into a quality control mechanism called the Global Product Committee that brings together an international team to assess the year’s work on a 1-10 grade scale (you can follow on Twitter @TheLBGPC). Here is a video that explains their thinking process and overarching philosophy.

PSFK caught up with Stephen Hahn Griffiths to get the inside scoop on developments at Leo Burnett’s offices and their latest endeavors in developing their strategy toolbox.

Tell us about yourself and what you’re doing at Leo Burnett.

I’m from the UK, worked at Saatchi & Saatchi in the UK and different parts of the world. I moved to the US in 1997 to head up strategy at Grace Rothschild. Very proud of what I worked on over there and before Leo Burnett I was at Mullen in Boston.

At Burnett, I work to contemporize our strategic product . We’re working to make it more dynamic by making it more collaborative, interdisciplinary, and rooted in real-time. The challenge is to take all the disciplines and fuse them in an optimal way. We have our traditional planning group, we have our researchers, and we have a digital strategy group. Going beyond ‘the consumer’ we try to pull together the disciplines to birth behavioral insights in a compelling and exciting way.

Tell us about Leo Burnett’s Human Kind philosophy.

It works as an internal way of thinking about the world and has a whole measurement system built around it. Our Global Product Committee (GPC)–which is comprised of our leading strategic and creative brains from around the world–set up a very rigorous set of assessments for work that we believe will change people’s behavior. Maybe it’s not so ambitious to shoot for a brand that can change the world, particularly if you structure participation effectively.

It’s an internal barometer that’s not just a self-serving tool. We go out to talk with people and have what we call a Human Kind Quotient, which is a way of assessing the true impact of brands in the market. Our quotient is based on the potential to drive behavioral change.

There are two axis, the purpose of a brand vs the brand’s potential to invite you into its ecosystem. Our mission is to have brands with high purpose and deep levels of participation.

Tell me more about your framework for participation.

To win people’s involvement, you need a compelling purpose-driven idea that gets people to pay attention. We don’t even use words like ‘engagement’ or ‘touch points’ or ‘connections strategy,’ all of these things are still very monologue-focused.

We talk a lot about the evolution of planning (strategy is a better word) and how it points to behavioral insights, which in turn gives you permission to tap into other aspects of life that they’re consuming, like media, content, and technology, rather than simply what they are buying.

Case Study: Photo Chain with Canon, create a community of people who are inspired to share their self-expression and creativity with others, rather than just people that own the physical product. Check out the video below for the full case study.

The most successful campaigns become a part of the social fabric, an extension and enabler of who people are.

Why does your framework focus so heavily on change?

It’s not that we make people feel and think differently, we drive action and behavior change. We get people to rise to the challenge with a deeper level of conviction and inspire them to act on behalf of the brand. By driving participation we become a part of their lives.

Thanks Stephen!

You can follow Leo Burnett on Twitter @leoburnett and Stephen @shahngriffiths

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