From talking to doing

Leigh Baker
Executive Director of Brand Partnerships
Humble TV


A strategically driven business leader, Leigh has more than 20 years of agency experience running both global and local client businesses in London and New York.

How defining brand behaviour and building meaningful experiences has changed the agency mission

After 24 years in the ‘business’, having worked on both sides of the Atlantic in London and New York, starting in creative advertising agencies and then more laterally in the digital and start-up worlds, two things are clear to me: (i) the power of the idea is as important as it ever was. But also that (ii) the way we evaluate ideas, and what we ask of them, has changed.

And continues to change. And it isn’t just because of technology or new channels. No, it’s because of consumers’ expectations of brands, and how they want to consume them.

Or experience them more the point.

When I started out in 1993 as a strategically curious account guy, I’d spend my early days trying to write a great creative brief ‘proposition’ for my planning director. That pithy encapsulation of the marketing problem, one we wanted the creative to spring from to write some great ads. It defined what we wanted to say, and why we wanted to say it. Literally, what were we going to ‘propose’ to the consumer?

The power of the idea is as important as it ever was, but what we ask of ideas has changed

In many ways that was it. And, in many ways, that was how I approached communications challenges with various client and agency teams until I joined my first digital agency, SapientNitro, in 2011. At a marketing conference arranged by the agency there were two keynote speakers, one I’d heard a lot about – Malcolm Gladwell – and one I hadn’t – Joey Reiman. It was something Reiman said that stuck with me and totally re-framed my view of how we, as marketers, needed to approach clients’ brand challenges in the modern age.

What he said was simple:

Brands need to BE – DO – SAY in that order.

Figure out what you want to BE – what you stand for, your purpose. Define what you need to DO – how you behave and what kind of experience you want to create for the consumer.

Then figure out what you need to SAY to engage and talk about it with the world.

This type of strategic deconstruction gave agencies a new game plan led by a focus on brand purpose, belief, behaviour and experience, as opposed to one led by what we were going to say and who we were going to say it to.

The brands people are talking about are increasingly those that have brand experience at the centre of their long-term plan

Two recent brilliant examples come to mind and both by, quote, ‘traditional advertising agencies’.

The first is the adidas Jump Store by TBWA\London. They created a pop-up store in Hackney, East London, and told the locals that NBA star Derek Rose would be there and that all the sneakers would be free. Only the catch was… the sneakers were all set on shelves ten feet high, and you’d have to jump to get them. People were invited to have a go and share their experience.

The second is Lockheed Martin’s virtual reality experience – ‘Bus to Mars’ – by McCann New York. A select group of school children were invited onto a real bus that had been kitted out with window-to-window VR screens to take a ‘trip’ around the surface of Mars. Lockheed Martin utilised GPS with VR to map the kids’ local neighbourhood onto Mars' terrain to create a unique experience, and a ton of engaging content.

Both examples leverage the opportunity the convergence of the physical and digital worlds presents. Both provided a content engine leveraging paid, owned and earned media.

I guess, in summary, if you look at the brands people are talking about – the ones with the best work, that win the awards – it’s increasingly those that have brand behaviour and brand experience at the centre of their long-term plan. It also makes the ads a ton easier to write!


A splash of drama


Big game fishing

brand-they're just like people - MBNA - thumbnail

Brands… they’re just like people