Shift Happens

Musicians Imogene Heap and Little Boots are active in social media. Their proficiency inspired Ian Tait to write about them, which in turn led Ed Cotton to ponder why brands and the agencies that assist them can’t come up with something authentic to say.

Somehow we’ve gotten into our heads that business should only talk when it has something to sell and beyond that there’s nothing really that they can or want to talk about.
Personally, I think this is a lame excuse that stems partly from imagination failure and the desire to control.
Every planner working on any piece of business should be continually asking themselves two questions.
– What interesting things does this company have to say?
– Who’s interesting who works at the company?
Perhaps if we regularly conducted INTERESTING AUDITS, we might have a pool of ideas from which to create interesting, relevant, timely, real and honest content that would force us away from having to rely on fake entertainment to get the point across.

I think it’s clear that many brands do have something important to say. Have you ever read Patagonia’s blog, The Cleanest Line? Patagonia is a leader in just about every area, but a firm needn’t be a trail blazer to benefit from telling authentic stories.
My suggestion to brand managers is tell stories about something other than your product or service–that’s advertising. A brand that creates its own media can choose to talk about things that are important to its customers. I just spent two and half years talking about rock and roll with Camel smokers, so it’s a subject at the center of my work universe.
Every brand has a story to tell. What every brand does NOT have is a content strategy to help them map out and execute their storytelling plan.



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.