We had the chance to sit down with Chairman Emeritus of DDB Worldwide, Keith Reinhard, who will be our Keynote Speaker at the upcoming Transformational CMO and Retail East next month. Keith is one of the few agency heads to rise through the creative side of the business. As a working creative man, he is most remembered for “You Deserve a Break Today”, his transformational campaign for McDonald’s which was named best jingle of the 20th Century and for “Just Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is There.”
Throughout your impressive advertising career starting almost six decades ago, what are the most notable changes you have seen with branding then and now?
Perhaps the most notable change in branding between then and now is the sheer number of brands that exist today compared to the number of brands in the sixties. Back then, if you wanted a breakfast cereal you chose from Wheaties, Cheerioats (as they were originally called), Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies or Nabisco Shredded Wheat. There weren’t many more. Today, the cereal choices on grocers’ shelves are impossible to count. The same is true of laundry detergents and television channels. This has led to what researchers have termed “the paralyzing problem of too many choices,” causing Mark Ritson, the well-known marketing professor and columnist, to advise big multi-brand companies to “kill some of their puppies” and focus on their big brands.
Another notable change in marketing brands is the exponential increase in the number of media channels we have with which to reach consumers, a fact that leads to changes in how we use the media. In the sixties, with only three major television networks, we often favored “putting all our eggs in one basket”—spending the bulk of a client’s media dollars to sponsor a weekly television program. For State Farm Insurance, we sponsored the Jack Benny Program on CBS and we wrote live commercials that were performed by Benny’s cast members as part of the comedy show. Today we would call that branded content. But with the advent of cable channels that gave viewers multiple new choices to pick and choose their viewing patterns, we changed our ways and made mostly “self-contained” sixty- second commercials that could be placed on any or all channels. Now of course, users of media have myriad choices and one of the challenges for brands is the risk to brand integrity when brand fragments are served across so many touchpoints.
Finally, the Internet allowed us to change the way brands relate to consumers. Back in the sixties, brands had to create relationships with consumers by engaging reader, listener and viewer attention through brand-building ads in print, radio and television. Brands can now physically engage with consumers in two-way transactions, including information sharing and direct sales. Back in the day, we invited women to join the Betty Crocker Recipe Club. Today, we can download Betty’s recipes, including gluten-free, from a website.
Advertising is about connecting brands with people and people with brands. How does technology fit into this and positively or negatively affect the marketing industry today?
Technology helps brands better identify, understand and reach the most likely prospects for their products and services. And for years we’ve been hearing about addressable TV that can deliver a different message for the same brand to different members of the same family based on each individual’s demographic status and taste preferences. While we wait for that, technology offers a degree of targeting that was inconceivable back in the day.
But Byron Sharp, the well-known author of “How Brands Grow” and professor of marketing science at the University of South Australia, says we are over-targeted. His theory, which I believe is valid, is that before micro-targeting can be effective, a brand must be known and be both mentally and physically available in the larger society.
The most important negative effect of technology is that the almost daily introduction of shiny new tools tends to distract marketers from basics, like the importance of connecting with timeless human drives and motivation. We become obsessed with the tools themselves, but we need to understand and emphasize the profound difference between an algorithm and an insight into human nature and the important difference between a mere click and a true brand connection. And we need to acknowledge that there is still a big difference between big data and a big brand-building idea.
Your book, Any Wednesday, is a compilation of memos you sent to your staff at DDB Worldwide, with anecdotes, words of wisdom and inspirational quotes. How did this begin and where did this idea come from?
In 1980 I began issuing a one-page weekly memo called “Any Wednesday,” primarily for our agency’s staff. I stole the title from a Broadway play, not because my notes would have anything to do with that 1964 comedy about a businessman and his oddball mistress, but because I thought that halfway through any given week, most of us would welcome a bit of good news or an encouraging word from whatever the source. Further, by calling it “Any Wednesday” instead of “Every Wednesday,” I could skip a week here and there, or even two.
I soon realized that if I skipped writing a note for even one Wednesday, I would lose the discipline and never get back to writing the memos at all. And so, with the exception of a brief pause in 1987, “Any Wednesday” was published every week from 1980 until the end of 2003.
Many of the original notes were time-specific, or they pertained to a person or a client or an event of the moment. Others expressed ideas or shared observations that I hoped would be relevant or inspiring. This was all before we had e-mail, so the memos were all printed on ruled paper, but printed across the lines. This was to remind all readers that rules are prisons and the creative charge is to break the patterns of sameness.
We are excited about you joining us as Keynote Speaker at Transformational CMO & Retail East in Atlanta. What would you say are the benefits of a small, intimate program like ours at The Millennium Alliance, bringing together C-Suite executives in the marketing space?
The most obvious benefit of getting together with C-Suite executives from other companies is that you learn. By listening to how others approach and solve marketing problems, we are inspired to break outside of our own traditions and try ideas wildly different from our own. Listen, learn, lead. That’s the sequence. But sometimes the greatest benefit of such get-togethers is the broadening of one’s personal network of contacts and influences. In so many ways we are in the business of connecting the dots—previously unknown or unrelated resources. And the more of these “dots” one collects, the more dots one can connect.
About The Transformational CMO & Retail East Assembly
Digital marketing is a fast, dynamic landscape and for marketers to keep ahead of their competition, boosting brand awareness and sales they need to keep up to date with current trends, technologies, and strategies. Differentiating yourself and maintaining trust in the ever-changing marketing world seems to be getting easier, but only to those who are willing to adapt to the rapid-fire marketing. The more you can plan ahead, the better equipped you as an executive will feel in managing those changes when they happen.
In May of 2019, the Transformational CMO East Assembly is a unique event that challenges our attendees to learn how to anticipate what’s next for the highly complex marketing environment that has emerged throughout the year through a series of executive education roundtables, keynote presentations, collaborative and educational workshops, and networking sessions with leading industry experts and our coveted advisory board over the course of 2 days.
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