An ideal brand story is the relevant truth. Relevant to the target and truthful about the product or service. 

These days, nothing will bring down a dishonest brand faster than Yelp or Amazon reviews.


Brands that can draw a straight line from the promise of the product all the way through the customer journey–across all marketing and CRM touch points–are truly maximizing brand value. The human brain constantly seeks out patterns to form its world view. What people experience in advertising, on a website, and when they open the box should feel like a consistent pattern. This creates a brain-pleasing aesthetic and an engaging brand experience.



The brand story has to be relevant in two critical ways: rational and emotional. Neuroscience research tells us that purchase decisions are driven by emotion and supported by reason. Whether it's buying a home or a stick of gum, it works the same way. We fall in love (or like) with it, then come up with rational justifications for the emotional decisions we've already made. This applies to marketing when we focus the mainstream advertising and social messaging on emotional appeal, then use rational arguments to pull people through the digital purchase funnel.


Developing brand campaigns is a negotiation–a delicate balancing act between competing interests. Clients have stuff to sell, agencies want the freedom to do their best work, and both need to grow business. The best negotiation results in all sides getting 100% of what they want. It’s not a 50-50 compromise leaving everyone half happy. It’s not always possible, but it’s always a noble pursuit. Below are some of the principles and tactics I've used to achieve success.

This Creative Circus podcast interview sheds some light on how I look at things.

Please take a listen and/or read on.


A Useful Cliche

Hire people you trust. Trust them to do what they were hired to do. It’s what agencies want from clients, staff needs from supervisors, and we look for in suppliers. It builds morale and makes organizations much more efficient.




Over the last decade or so, agencies have attempted to cultivate business by expanding digital capabilities, or traditional ones, or both. It’s been a rough road that has created friction and nuked relationships. I’ve witnessed it, and unknowingly contributed to it. I’ve also come away with solutions. Solutions that leverage the best of what traditional agencies and technology start ups have brought to the creative process.





When Two Worlds Collide

In my decade and a half at BBDO, I learned a lot about making world-class creative advertising. At Modea, I took a deep dive into the digital space and developed a process that coordinates agency capabilities and staff, and generates a lot of cross-platform ideas very quickly. Ideas that get everyone excited. It builds morale and gives anyone with the predilection to take it, a shot at the big idea. I call my ideation process Three Rooms. It’s a proprietary process that can be merchandised to give an agency a competitive advantage.





The difference between good and great is a full trash can.

It applies to beginners and seasoned vets alike. If you make 10 ideas, the chances of being brilliant are so-so.

But if you make 50, the odds of reaching greatness go way up. 

Client killed the idea? That’s fine, because we’ve got a million of ‘em. The most awarded Art Director in the history of One Show, Bob Barrie once said, “Sometimes your best ideas come after your clients kill your best ideas”. That doesn’t mean it's not painful when someone kills your babies, but resiliency is one of our best assets for making great work and building great client relationships.





Managing Up

The key to building great relationships with clients, supervisors, and other departments is creating value. The way to create value is to understand their goals and come up with ideas to help them achieve those goals.


Managing Down

See Managing Up. It works the same in both directions. A good leader will identify the venn diagram overlap between an employee’s career goals, and organizational goals, then put practices in place to achieve both.




We birth the ideas, but clients live with them. I had this epiphany when an architect working on my house proposed an idea I didn’t care for. He defended it by pointing out the overall aesthetic would suffer without it. I objected,

“But you don’t have to live with it”.

The moment those words came out of my mouth, I understood my clients much better. Agencies develop and sell the idea, then move on. The client lives with its impact much longer.




It's hard to know what it's like to run a company unless you been in that position. It's hard to understand why certain decisions affecting marketing are made unless you've been the one making them. I've been a partner in a motorsports company and a medical device start-up. I've learned what's at stake when you have skin in the game, That's made me more empathetic towards clients, more effective as a marketer, and more focused on how my decisions can affect the bottom line.


Books that helped shape my philosophy.

In the advertising industry, creative people don’t get a lot of training for becoming good managers. They make famous creative campaigns, win big awards, get promoted to management, and hope for the best. Those who want to do well as leaders have to educate themselves. I've worked closely with a personal business coach and done a fair bit of reading to develop my leadership philosophy.


It’s Your Ship

The youngest captain in the history of the Navy recounts his two-year journey transforming one of the worst performing ships in the fleet into one of the best. Along the way, the ship Benfold, broke long-standing Navy records for performance. There wasn’t a dry eye on the ship when this captain rotated out. The key to his success? Empower the crew to initiate positive change and recognize them for it.


Love is the Killer App

Tim Sanders, Chief Solutions Officer at Yahoo during its heyday, extols the virtues of a unique approach to success: something he calls biz love. It means you strategically give away your knowledge, network, and humanity to people with whom you want to build great business relationships. And you do it with no self-interest attached. Tim details the steps involved and the amazing results, as benefits return tenfold.


The Buying Brain

Dr A.K. Pradeek, a leading neuroscience researcher in the field of shopper marketing, introduced me to the practice of using brain science to gain insight into the subconscious influences at work when people are making purchase decisions. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FMRI) observes what happens in the brain and formulates well-reasoned conclusions that make for more effective marketing. It yields a fascinating and surprising set of actionable insights I have used to create and deploy more effective campaigns. It turns out that science is a powerful tool for informing and supporting otherwise subjective creative decisions.


Strength Finders

By now, many of us are familiar with the organizational strategy of building on the strengths and passions of team members, rather than their weaknesses. When the team’s collective deep dive skill sets cover all the bases, it performs amazingly well. I’m a big believer.