TBWA’s top creative says brands must resonate emotionally across media or face the consequences.
A year ago, Lee Clow gave up the title of Chairman and Global Creative Director of TBWA Worldwide and designated himself Worldwide Director of Media Arts. In his first major interview since adopting the new role, he explains why brands must take an emotional approach to communications.
Lee warns that brands face becoming “irrelevant” or even “the focus of online contempt” if they fail to express a consistent identity every time they come into contact with consumers, whether it’s via advertising, packaging or the store experience.
“Finding the disruptive idea for a brand, which usually comes out of its emotional centre, and which we call the ´brand belief`, is the first step to creating a powerful multimedia brand”, he explains.
It used to be very simple.
Brands did advertising: they talked at people; they bought television commercials and held you captive. Now they must interact with their audience in a multifaceted but coherent way.
Everything a brand does is basically a medium and a message. And it needs to be true to a simple, single-minded idea. Using the example of Apple, Lee observes: “There isn’t a single thing Apple does that isn’t a message that confirms or reinforces how you feel about the company. I often tell people that the best ad we ever did was the Apple Store. We do great TV commercials, we do wonderful billboards, but you walk into an Apple store and you’re now immersed in a brand that’s going to change your life.”
“If you buy a product, even the process of opening it becomes a brand experience,” Lee emphasizes. “Think about any brand that you like; any brand that you spend time with; any brand you go online and check out. It’s usually a brand that has touched you from a number of different points. Because it’s true to its character, you like and admire it. You actually want to go online and find out what’s going on, or if you drive by a billboard it reinforces how you feel about the brand.
“Successful brands are not cold: they have a soul, a character. But thanks to the power granted to consumers by the internet, brands that betray their characters risk getting slapped around”, says Lee.
“The reality of the new media world is that if your brand does not have a belief, if it does not have a soul and does not correctly architect its messages everywhere it touches consumers, it can become irrelevant. It can be ignored, or even become a focal point for online contempt. This insight lies behind the expression Media Arts. You are studying the science of how to bring brands to market. But I think you’d better keep your intuition, your instinct, and your emotional compass intact. Because the emotional centre, the belief of a brand, has to inform its behaviour, and this can’t all be done with the left side of the brain.”
“Ultimately”, concludes Lee, “You’re going out into the media world and creating something that I call art, it happens to be the art of communication. It’s storytelling.
“Great brands have a story, our job is to tell them.”