At Ngrane, we’ll take any chance to get inspired. So naturally, there was no doubt about going to the OnBrand event last week Thursday. A jam-packed day, full of inspirational talks and hugely relevant branding insights. Our main takeaway? It’s one thing to brand something, it’s a whole other to go beyond branding. Finding your calling rather than acting on that of consumers, embedding yourself into culture and weaving innovation into your values.

Ben & Jerry's: Beyond cause marketing: How businesses can be activists and help change the world

Jay Curley
Senior Global Marketing Manager
Ben & Jerry’s

Turns out the geniuses behind cookie-dough ice cream have a lot more on their plate – or should we say ice cream bowl? – than your favourite dessert. Since their start in the eighties; activism has always been frozen into their DNA. And Jay Curley tells us how it’s been good for business, but not the reason why they’re doing it.

Brands should go beyond cause marketing: a customer led approach to ‘doing good’. Which is all about making decisions on what the consumer wants, how you can connect with them emotionally and how you can align your brand with their cause. Nope, Jay tells us that simply won’t cut it. He explains what Value Led Activism is, how instead of the customer it puts the values of the brand first. So, brands should use what they believe in as a starting point, being the change they want to make and inspiring others to take action. In this way, you’re enlisting fans to join social movements. You should feel like part of the ‘people’ not the business suits on the eleventh floor of some building. You’re there on the streets because you care just as much as the people you sweep up with you. And sweeping people off their feet means a special kind of loyalty between them and your brand and product. No matter how sweet your ice cream, you’re just another brand selling stuff if you can’t connect with others in a meaningful way.

We personally loved the campaign Jay Curley showed that was promoting the Paris Agreement of 2015. An immersive video of melting ice cream, that cleverly links what the brand is known for with something they believe in. Check it out here.

Platform 13 Beyond: Thinking outside the box

Leila Fataar

Put street-level know how, a digital devotion and endless experience together and you’ve got Leila Fataar: a London based branding veteran and founder of Platform13. Fataar has put all her cards in culture. She claimed that brands should go beyond just thinking outside of the box. In order to create activity that matters, brands should know the box first.

Traditionally, advertising is embedded in the idea of pushing. Pushing catchy one-liners, pushing commercials and pushing empty messages. The opposite should be the case, brands should be pulling. Organically feeding consumer advocacy and relevance by creating cultural value. You want to be the influencer, not pay a couple of influencers to push a few messages for you. You want to be part of the conversation, slip into the ‘Dark Social’ by naturally being talked about. Having your product as the topic of conversation, in places like WhatsApp – where you can’t advertise – will mean more than any Facebook Ad could ever be.

Fataar points out brands suffer from a severe case of ‘FOMO’ when it comes to digital trends. Popular influencers or new brand experiences are like party boats brands need to hop on in a hurry or else they’ll miss out. The result? Super-generic ideas and executions. Before leaping towards the newest innovation, you have to create a cultural value. That VR stunt will mean nothing unless people are talking about it.

In her words:


New York Times : Transformation at The New York Times

Sebastian Tomich
Senior Vice President
Advertising and Innovation
The New York Times

How do you embrace change when you’re rooted in 150 years’ worth of tradition? The New York times have turned a new page into their success by thinking less like a print newspaper and more like a creative agency. Sebastian Tomich leads the Advertising and Innovation department, The Times’ T Brand Studio, and they have since taken publishing by storm.

NYT is a perfect example of turning your own age-old legacy into something relevant for our demanding digital age, without deluding what the brand stands for. Traditionally advertising for publishing companies meant selling ad spaces and pages in the newspaper. Now they offer coercive brand experiences, for both the advertisers and for themselves.

NYT is inherently about telling important stories. To translate this to an online platform, Tomich tells us the company had to become a subscription business first, creating content that is worth paying for. This then set them apart from other online sources such as Buzzfeed or Mashable. Moreover, they use innovation to emphasize this identity. For example, they launched a VR app and sent one million Google Cardboard headsets to subscribers, creating an immersive edge to journalism. Or their popular podcasts such as ‘The Daily’; which translates power storytelling into a compact, authentic and well-informed 20 minutes of breaking news.