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How To Be a Brand Innovator

How To Be a Brand Innovator

March 20, 2014

I had the opportunity to attend the Brand Innovator awards, honoring the women leaders in marketing and media in NYC. The breakfast, held at Michael’s restaurant in the heart of midtown Manhattan, was put together by the founders of Brand Innovators, Brandon Gutman, Marc Sternberg, and hosted by Ted Rubin.

The coffee-fueled morning was filled with intelligent conversations about innovation, technology, media, and marketing. The CTO of Webgrlls International, Nelly Yusupova (known as @DigitalWoman on Twitter) kicked off the morning, followed by Vicki Draper, the Director of Consumer Analytics and Research at AOL. Aliza Licht, the SVP of Global Communications of DKNY and the creator of the @dkny PR girl brand, keynoted the event.

Amidst the bacon-fueled banter and captivating conversations was a common thread. Many of these huge Fortune 500 companies (and the women who run them) successfully cut to their core of their brand to build something strong, human, and real. After all, the relationship is the most important thing in social. And as Aliza revealed (and the CMO of Sbarro, Sarah McAloon tweeted) “People cared more about the conversation that they were having with @dkny on social than the new handbag collection.”

Whether you’re starting small with a part-time side business, or you’re running a multi-million dollar company, learning how to listen, explore, and evolve your conversations helps you grow. Discovering how to cut to your core to create meaningful conversations around your industry is crucial to you and your customers. It’s information that drives your business.

But that’s not the only way to follow the lead of these 50 fabulous women. Here are some other ways to be a brand innovator:

1. Lead with technology

As Nelly Yusupova pointed out during her talk, technology is sexy. And it’s important to lead with sexiness to drive innovation.

With content, marketing, technology, and media colliding, you can understand the art of the possible. You can think more clearly about the human experience, and constantly iterate.

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The good thing is that leading with technology does not necessarily mean more work. It can often mean less. When you focus on what matters, you can effectively do less work. Technology is simply the catalyst that skyrockets conversations.

Look at Apple, for example. They make technology sexy by fusing simplicity and beautiful design. They encourage their customers to think differently. And they guide their customers through an experience that invites pure, unadulterated lust. Leading with technology often means changing the conversation. And changing the game.

2. Change the language

Apple changed the game by changing the conversation. But they started with changing the language. Remember when there was no such thing as an iPhone or iPad?

Leading with technology means changing our language around it. Since language is everywhere, we need to be more proactive about the news we consume, the blogs that we read, the music we play. We need to let slow media guide the way.

As I was getting dressed for the brand innovators breakfast, the local news playing in the background of my hotel room, the television news anchor said something that caught me off-guard. Now, maybe this is something I noticed because I don’t regularly consume local news on television (I’m a proud cable cutter). Or maybe this type of language is running rampant today.

She said get on social media. How do we effectively “get on” social media? And what does this mean?


The news anchor is likening “turning on” a television to “getting on” social media. And while they’re separate platforms, social media is a completely different perspective. So, the language around how we use social media must change in order to truly get to the next level. In order to truly understand how to best use technology to innovate, we must become more mindful of the words that we choose.

The web is built on the premise of “always on.” As each new electronic demand calls on us to actively participate, we need to change the language to evolve – and innovate – accordingly.

3. Create content

Creating content curates the process of change, and can effectively change the language of your company. This is crucial for large companies, who may want to gradually change their culture. But they’re not sure where to start.

Starting with content is the most cost-effective, fun way to change a company’s culture. Connect with your customers and change the culture of your brand. Entertain and educate your customers with content marketing.

4. Connect content strategy to emotions

Emotions are how our brains decide which content is shareable. While anger spreads quicker than any other emotion, you’ll want to be careful not to use anger too much, especially if it’s not part of the core of your brand.

If you’re an angry bird, channel your anger into passion instead. Focus on the positive aspects of your industry so that you can instill a level of confidence in your customers. Find the emotions that support the vision for your brand. Make your vision platform-agnostic so that you can envelop your customers with emotions. And trust that you can be both emotional and show leadership.

5. Understand Millennials

You’ll want to treat millennialls like humans. More than anything, they simply want companies that work in innovative ways to fix the world.

According to Vicki Draper of AOL, millennial’s are not lazy. They are creating a more elastic workplace than we’ve ever seen. They want breathing room to do their thing. Because they’re the cultural evolutionaries 2.0. Understand them better and treat them with the respect that they deserve.

6. Get personal 

Aliza Licht’s persona for DKNY (@dkny) is now the singular voice on Twitter. Inspired by the CW show Gossip Girl, she wanted to engage with customers on a more personal level. Although many people were skeptical of this approach initially, it garnered a ton of loyal customers and fans. Her persona was Fashion 2.0’s Best Twitter winner for 3 consecutive years, and won Style Bistro’s Reader’s Choice Award for must-follow personality in social media.

Sharing information over the digital space helps you build a human brand. It helps you connect, and it allows you to engage with your customers on a deeper level. How’s that for innovation?