Ditch The Portfolio. What You Need Is A Scrapbook of Cultural Activity.

I happened to stumble upon the following passage from Douglas Holt’s book, How Brands Become Icons: The Principle of Cultural Branding today.

To systematically build iconic brands, companies must reinvent their marketing function. They must assemble cultural knowledge, rather than knowledge about individual consumers. They must strategize according to cultural branding principles, rather than apply the abstracted and present-tense mind-share model. And they must hire and train cultural activists, rather than stewards of brand essence.

Heady stuff for a Friday afternoon. But it leads me to reflect on my post from Wednesday about Wieden + Kennedy’s search for 21st century artisans, et al.
After one interacts with the W+K interface, the challenge is revealed in a follow up email. The Portlanders don’t ask for one’s portfolio. No. That would be so lame in ’07-’08. Instead, the task is to make a 20-page (or less) PDF that can contain anything one desires to share with them. In other words, something more revealing than one’s portfolio.
I’ve long marveled at how intelligent Dan Wieden and his team is. It’s been clear to me from my first encounter with them in 1995. Their mission is much larger than making the best ads in the business, although they consistently do that. Rather, they are out to change the world by creating culture. That the brands in their stable also benefit from this approach to the work is brilliant.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.