Op-Ed: How Building A Better Brand Might Just Change The World
Founder and CEO of NYC-based marketing agency Renegade, Drew Neisser explains how brands can take inspiration from two speakers at PSFK's CX Conference who marshal the potential to improve the world as part of their brand strategy
Tracking marketing trends and innovations has been a staple of PSFK since its inception. At its 2018 Consumer Experience Innovation conference in May, speakers Jordan Schenck of Impossible Foods and Amber Case, visiting researcher at MIT and founder of Case Organic, sat down to explain how their brands' innovations help foster not only better consumer experiences, but also a better world.
On the surface, Jordan and Amber appear to be from very different worlds: Impossible Foods is a consumer food ingredient brand, while Amber is a researcher in the world of high-tech. Yet, both are taking an approach to promoting their offerings that have the potential to change the very world in which we live. The insights they offer need not apply solely to these brands, however. By taking note of what they’ve done and applying these strategies to one's own brand marketing, who knows, a Nobel Prize might be in the offering.
Impossible Food’s most recognizable claim to fame is the development of the “Impossible Burger”—a hamburger made from a plant-based meat substitute that looks and tastes like the “real thing.” Of course, meat-substitute foods are not an innovation themselves. They’ve been around in many forms for a number of years and the quality has consistently improved over time. The innovations in Impossible Food’s marketing approach, however, are twofold. First, it is tying the concept of reduced meat consumption with a more environmentally friendly earth. (Did you know that 50% of the world's usable land, and 25% of its freshwater, goes to animal farming?)
Second, and perhaps even more striking, is that Impossible Foods is targeting the mass market of existing meat eaters in its campaign. Typically, meat-substitute products (and even more so for products with an “earth-friendly” message) are targeted to a narrow niche of consumers who are explicitly interested in this type of socially conscious product. As Jordan Schenck of Impossible Foods puts it, “Research would tell you to go straight for the vegan Whole Foods consumer. But since we're a mission-led company, we're not so much worried about the 7% that only eat plants. We’re more interested in the 93% that love meat.”
Continuing with its innovative targeting, Impossible Foods has built awareness for its product across the entire spectrum of the culinary experience—from gourmet chefs to fast food stalwart White Castle—in order to promote the brand. “We wanted our brand to be playful,” says Jordan, “and not just for the few that can have it. It should be just a burger, you know?” Jordan adds that the key takeaway for Impossible Foods (and for any brands that rely on mass-market appeal) is that you can’t be too “precious” with your brand, you just need to get it out into the world and see what people do with it.
Switching focus to Amber Case, when we consider the technology space in which she works, we may envision an army of computer programmers, slumped over desks in a research lab, committed in their quest to build the “Next Big Thing.” And while there are programmers and tech projects that fit this mould, Amber Case is taking a completely opposite tack, espousing what she calls “Calm Technology.” In a nutshell, this methodology supports the concept that technology needs to be in support of humanity, as opposed to enslaving it.
Referring to herself as a “cyborg anthropologist,” Amber studies the interaction between humans and computers—and how our relationship with information is changing the way we understand our world. Even in the midst of this technological world in which we live, we should focus on being human instead of focusing on machines all the time, according to Case.
She notes, “computer notifications have gone from being in the background and helping us to focus—to taking our focus away—which means we no longer have a lot of time left to be creative, or silly, or human.” Amber recommends that quality brands should design their products for optimum human use. Although building and using such human-centric products can take more time, these types of systems (that allow us to disconnect from technological “enslavement”) can help people do tasks in a more focused, efficient way. An example she often talks about is corporate AI. “If you’re going to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) in your company,” she says, “understand that AI systems still require human insights. If not, your data will be flat and not as useful as it could be.”
So, take it from the meatless food product that targets hard-core meat eaters, or the technology innovator that cautions against too much technology: what appears to be a contradiction on the surface can actually be turned into a unique selling position within your marketplace. By having the courage to represent your brand in a completely new way, the implications are vast, and might even change the world.
The interviews with both speakers are available below in the Live from PSFK podcast episode:
“CMO Whisperer” Drew Neisser, is the Founder/CEO of Renegade, the NYC-based marketing agency that helps B2B CMOs cut through their content nightmares. He is a recognized authority on non-traditional marketing techniques, is the author of The CMO’s Periodic Table: A Renegade’s Guide to Marketing and hosts the popular CMO podcast series, Renegade Thinkers Unite.
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