This is an edited transcript of the conversation between Colin Chow, TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, and Ann Marie Kerwin, Americas Editor.

Ann Marie Kerwin: Welcome to the WARC Podcast. I'm Ann Marie Kerwin, America's Editor and this is the second in our podcast series, Marketing Truths. Here at WARC, we've been advocates for marketing effectiveness for more than three decades. And what we found, thanks to numerous research studies, is there is a set of principles of marketing effectiveness that have been proven again and again to work.

This week we’re exploring our second marketing truth, which is that strong brands have an effectiveness advantage. In this episode, we’ll be talking about how to balance long-term and short-term marketing needs and how brand equity campaigns can improve the results in all your marketing channels, including performance marketing.

My guest today is Colin Chow, Global Managing Partner of TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, a brand consultancy that delivers premium strategic services blending commercial creativity, inspirational narrative and actionable application. TwentyFirstCenturyBrand partners with clients such as Pinterest, Lego, PepsiCo, Instacart and financial services companies such as Facet. It is the first-ever brand consultancy to receive IPA Effectiveness Accreditation.

So given your background on brand power Colin, I'm glad you're here to discuss this marketing truth with me. Thanks for joining me.

Colin Chow: Thanks so much, Ann Marie. I'm delighted to be here.

Ann Marie Kerwin: It's really exciting to be talking about strong brands today. And one of the things I wanted to just hear from you first is tell me how you got started working on brand as a driver of growth.

Colin Chow: Well, you could say, depending on your perspective, I'm either the most qualified or the least qualified to talk about brand and impact. As an undergraduate, I studied art history, which is the most subjective discipline that you could think of. So completely unqualified. But then I did go to law school and got a law degree. And I think there I really learned to build a case for something with logic and with evidence. My first job was at McKinsey in the management consulting role, and there I got a very deep foundation in business fundamentals and really got trained in the rigor of data-backed analysis. And so when I shifted into the brand strategy, that felt like the right place for me. It's right brain and left brain together. It's strategic rigor, but also creativity. But from my background, I always brought with me the belief that brand has to be rooted to the business and it has to be measurable in the impact.

And so really my whole career, I think, has been based on this idea that brand is not just something we do because it's fun, which it is sometimes, but it's also a really powerful driver of business growth.

Ann Marie Kerwin: That's great that you have that art history in your background to really recognize great creative when it comes across. So let's start with the very fundamental goal of marketing, which is to lead people to understand why a product or service is superior, to differentiate it, to trigger customer action. So short-term marketing activity or sales activation will trigger short-term sales lift, but long-term marketing activity like brand building will support and sustain long-term growth and ensure the business has that steady supply of future demand, which is new and returning customers. So finding that balance between short and long-term activity is the key to building and sustaining thriving brands. And getting that balance right, I think, has gotten harder as we've moved into digital channels. So with your work,at TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, how do you frame that idea of brand for your clients and how does that inform how you build a brand strategy framework?

Colin Chow: I really love how you use the word balance because I think the word balance is so key to building brands today in the 21st century. And as you can tell by our name TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, we have a very strong point of view on what brands need to do to thrive. Our ambition is to build the most influential brands of our time. And when I say influential, I don't just mean commercial success or fame. Those are great symptoms of influence. But we really believe that in any given decade, there's two hundred to three hundred brands around the world that are going to shape the way that we as humans work and live and play and communicate. And we want to help build as many of those brands as possible. And it's more urgent now than ever, this idea of balance, because I think we can all say in 2024 that leaders, not just marketing leaders, but leaders period, are feeling intense pressure to balance these conflicting agendas between profit, people and purpose.

And we believe that brand actually is the thing in the business context that has the power to align or balance these competing priorities into a flywheel for growth. And so based on decades of not only our research, but external research as well, we've seen that an influential brand drives real value for companies on four dimensions, employee, community, financial, and cultural.

So on the employee side, we know that strong brands drive higher employee morale, they boost productivity and retention. All of that has cost savings and impact. On a community level, strong brands influence choice. They help you sustain price premiums. They create loyalty beyond reason. So it drives growth and efficiency across every part of the marketing funnel. From a financial standpoint, just one example, there's a there's a very clear correlation between brand strength and stock market performance. And then from a cultural standpoint, culturally resonant brands have a disproportionate share of voice, which drives not only PR narrative, but attracts higher quality partners at a lower cost. And so if you are able to use brand to balance short-term and long-term to navigate all of these conflicting agendas, you will see demonstrable benefit across employee, community, financial, and cultural perspectives.

Ann Marie Kerwin: I love that idea that a brand is driving across so many factors of business success. When WARC did the report last year, “Building a culture of creative effectiveness,” one of the tenets is to align internally and externally with your partners to ensure everyone understands how the creative is contributing to brand building. And I think your four dimensions kind of get at a lot of those core constituents. Tell me how you turn that alignment at your clients into a strong brand-building effort.

Colin Chow: It's so critical to ensure that brand is not just seen as a marketing or communications object. Of course, it needs to drive powerful creative. But really where we see brand taking hold and being the most successful is when it's seen as a cross-functional effort. We really do believe that brand is the foundation for the entire company. And that's reflected in our approach to building fundamental brand strategies. We call them brand blueprints.

And the blueprint is intentional. We are helping to create or co-create a blueprint, but it's the responsibility of everyone in the company that actually build the structures and frameworks on top of that. So the brand blueprint is a unique strategy resource we create for every client. It articulates what your brand aspires to stand for in the hearts and minds of your consumers, your communities. And it serves as a foundational reference for everyone in the company who interacts with the brand to help them deliver on it consistently.

So very much we see our client not just as a chief marketing officer, but also the CEO, the CFO, CPO, all the Cs. And that's really in some ways the best feedback that we've gotten when we share the final brand strategy, I would hope the CMO is jumping out of his or her chair ready to run at it. But I love when we get comments from a CFO who says that's the most logical marketing presentation I've ever heard or the CPO says, I can't wait to pull this into the product roadmap. In some ways, those are equally, if not more validating than just hearing the marketing world get excited for it.

Ann Marie Kerwin: It's great when that alignment happens. It's really almost like a magical moment for sure. So how does that holistic approach you have toward the organization's brand shape how you and your clients try to balance short and long-term goals when you move to the brand activation stage?

Colin Chow: It’s so critical because strategy can't end on a page. It really has to get not only activated, but then also how do you know if you're successful? And so we've put a lot of thinking into this over the past year or so. And as part of our accreditation process with the IPA, as well as our ongoing efforts to help clients maximize marketing effectiveness, we've developed a framework that balances these short and long-term goals. And really you have to track both leading and lagging indicators. Because what we have found is it's sometimes the impact of these things, they have different timelines. And that doesn't mean it's not working, it just means you have to look for the right things. As leading indicators are usually correlated with short-term goals, lagging indicators obviously with longer-term goals. You need a mix of both to be successful, right? And it's also a mix of what are more qualitative measures, but also more quantitative measures. And so it's art and science.

And so we look at leading and lagging indicators against those four dimensions I mentioned earlier: employee, customer, financial and cultural. And there's a bit of a sequence to them too, if you think about it. If a really strong brand starts on the inside, it really energizes your employees, that should create greater impact when you go to market and it gets greater customer impact, then you'll see financial return. And ultimately, if you do all of that well, you'll see cultural impact. And so there is a bit of sequencing in there.

But that framework, our measurement effectiveness framework is something, it's not proprietary to us. We've shared it publicly on LinkedIn because we really believe our entire industry of brand strategy, brand marketing needs to have a greater emphasis on marketing effectiveness. So it's a bit of a gift to everyone. We want all of our, not just our clients, but anyone who undergoes a brand strategy effort or is building a brand to think about how do you do this against these four measures?

Ann Marie Kerwin: The point about it starting from the inside, if every employee sort of understands what the brand promise is, it's easier to make those decisions, right? What the right thing to do is in the moment and really make sure that you're delivering on what the brand stands for in your consumer's mind.

Colin Chow: That's so right. And the most successful companies are our clients that get the most out of the work that we do, or the ones that really understand that. And that the investment, not money, but of time and executive attention happens after the strategy has landed. So just one example, we worked a couple of years ago with a company called Facet, high growth startup doing incredible work to modernize financial planning, which has traditionally been very elitist and inaccessible, to make it more approachable for more people using technology and humans together as a platform. So we did brand strategy, we did visual identity for Facet, and we've been tracking their impact against these four dimensions that we just discussed. And we've seen really positive outcomes.

Employee, one of the first things the CEO said was that the brand blueprint has been instrumental in making key leadership decisions. What used to take hours and days has now become really quick discussions with real clarity because the brand has created clear understanding and alignment. The president of the company, who was the one who actually hired us, she said on the record, it's the best money I've ever spent. And they've to their credit now use the brand blueprint to develop an employee value proposition, which has made their talent one of their key strengths. So that's on the employee side.

On the customer side, they've seen 22% growth in clients, a 30% year-on-year reduction in customer acquisition costs. You're starting to see hard-hitting financial measures against that. On the financial front, they've seen, it's interesting, they've seen a direct margin increase just from streamlining. So part of the power of a brand is also what do you not do, right? Get rid of the distractions. So it's a direct margin increase and then an incremental 10% to 20% margin opportunity from digital transformation ideas that are identified by the brand work. And then cultural, the payoff, just as one example, Facet was awarded the Real Simple Smart Money award last year, which is getting them larger share of voice.

You see all of these things, each pillar, if you can prove the impact is powerful, when they all start working together, then that's when really when you have this flywheel of growth that pays off.

Ann Marie Kerwin: I'm really struck by the clarity you said that it brings to making those quick decisions, making the decision so much quicker. I just think it's so interesting how useful brand is internally and externally. And I think most of the time we just think of it something we're sending out into the world.

Colin Chow: It starts with clarity on the inside and those things can be measured. Those are things that can be tracked and can be quantified as well. So it starts there, but the ripple effect of measuring effectiveness is something that we're really trying to celebrate and inspire our clients to do more of.

Ann Marie Kerwin: One of the things I've noticed since I joined WARC last year is that when you talk about marketing effectiveness, often I hear people say, well, that's a CPG thing, or it's like established brands can do that, but not new companies. But you work with a lot of digital first companies and there are new brands being established. So how does a strong brand help those newer companies maintain growth?

Colin Chow: That's such a great question. And it's a myth I'd love to dispel because I think more mature companies certainly have more resources, they have more time to be able to track marketing effectiveness. But I think it's almost more important for a company that's just starting out to define it because it's a muscle memory that you have to build over time. The way that we see it at TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, we work with both rising stars and purposeful planets. The rising stars are those high-growth startups, the Pelotons, HeadSpaces, Instacarts of the world that are really creating new ways for people to interact, new ways for people to buy, and they're looking for us to help them cross the chasm to the mainstream.

We equally work with purposeful planets, larger legacy multinational global companies often born in the 20th century, and they're looking for us to help them disrupt themselves before they get disrupted.

So the rising stars, these companies that you mentioned that are kind of earlier stage, they're growing, they're tech companies, they often come to us at a point where they've hit the performance plateau, right? So they've had strong initial success using short-term growth tactics, performance. So their business has reached a certain level of scale, but they're starting to see efficiency drop and they're seeing a lower return and their customer acquisition costs is going up. And this is a conversation I've had so many times with tech CEOs and founders.

Ann Marie Kerwin: Right, because they've already talked to their natural audience and now they need to go beyond that.

Colin Chow: That's exactly right. And so you start to see this dawning realization, oh, I think we need this thing called brand. What's brand? We've never needed it before. And sometimes what has been dismissed as not important in the early stage becomes critical. And that's where you can really have that conversation around the need for balance of long-term goals and short-term, because all the research that WARC has done, which has been so helpful, demonstrates that when these two things work together, that's when the top really comes off in terms of your business growth. So those conversations around the performance plateau, those are a really good moment for a platform to have the conversations around the need for brand, the need for a stronger brand. And it goes hand-in-hand with other challenges that often are faced by these digital-first companies. They need to expand to a broader audience. They have to evolve from one product to a whole platform or suite. Sometimes it's M&A driven. They've gotten acquired or acquired someone else. So for a lot of them, what was once a very simple, clear story has become very complex. And what our clients need, what a lot of these digital brands need is a clear brand strategy that gives them a unified narrative that ties all of that together.

Ann Marie Kerwin: That clarity you were talking about earlier.

Colin Chow: The clarity and clarity sometimes I think can sound a little bit abstract in a way, but what I mean by clarity and what it gives you, the clarity of a strong brand helps you maintain growth because it defines a clear North Star, right? With both for the internal org as we've talked about, as well as for your consumers and customers. Importantly, it aligns the marketing and product orgs. That's one of the most critical relationships within a tech startup.

And a lot of times brand is the interface between marketing and product. It has to be. And so defining your brand drives growth by getting your marketing and product or it's aligned. It creates difference in a very crowded competitive landscape. And it gives you a cultural role that ensures that you connect with audiences, not just functionally, but through ongoing and emotional connection. That's often something that a digital-first company is struggling with. They've built a product. It works. It's successful. People are adopting it, but it's a very functional relationship. And we all know that building the emotional connection is going to create that moat of loyalty that's going to prevent them just going to the next hot startup.

A great example from our experience is working with Pinterest. They're one of our early pillar clients and we worked with them to define their brand blueprint, their brand strategy before their IPO. And that led to a really clear and confident positioning that inspired their leaders and brought them to this to introduce them to the world as the world's inspiration company, bring everyone the inspiration to create a life they love. And that was literally on the cover of their S1. It was all over the stock exchange. But it wasn't just the optics of it. It really created clear alignment. It created clear growth. We also work with them on what we call a playbook, which is defining behavior principles and actions to activate and sustain that brand growth that you talk about. And again, not just in marketing, but in the product and some of the things that came out of the work from their team was a daily inspiration tab. If one of your business goals is to drive greater frequency and engagement, how can you pull people back in and you give them daily inspiration, they'll come back more frequently because they come to understand, I'm going to come here for inspiration. Another one that I love is the recognition that in the past, a lot of the search filters would not be inclusive for people of color. And so the Pinterest product team has created a skin tone search filter, a hair texture search filter. So you get results that are actually relevant to you if you need something specific. And so those are great examples because it impacts not just marketing, not just product, but some of those things have gotten great PR coverage as well, which drives again share of voice. Five years since that initial work, almost five years, the CMO there, Andrea Mallard, she says she still goes back to it. She constantly goes back to the playbook, to the blueprint. And it continues to guide her teams. They have an incredible brand campaign out recently, Don't Don't Yourself, which is driving a lot of awareness and relevance and growth. And financially, you've seen Pinterest outperform its peers. They just released their earnings report. The revenue is up in Q4. It's up year on year. And their global monthly active users has increased 11% year on year. They're almost at 500 million, which is incredible when you think about where they started.

Ann Marie Kerwin: That's really impressive. And I actually did see the skin tone search presented earlier this year and I was very impressed with it. It's such a smart idea. When you have conversations with your clients about achieving the balance, what does that sound like? What are clients struggling with as they work on finding the right formula?

Colin Chow: It's easy for us to talk about, you just have to get it in balance. Just do it. Just get it in balance. The reality is it's hard. And we see clients struggle with two things. One is calibration and one is measurement. Calibration is, okay, you've convinced me. I need to have some kind of balance of short-term and long-term growth. But what's the exact right ratio specifically for my industry? And for my brand, is it 50 -50, is it 60 -40? And so these benchmarks are gonna be very different if you're in the financial services space versus an automotive. They're gonna be very different if you're a high-growth startup versus a very established, mature brand. So that calibration, right? Great balance, what does that mean?, is important. And then the other is measurement. How do you, after you've calibrated, after you've gotten everyone to agree that we need a balanced approach, how do you know if it's working? So what are the actual KPIs that really matter?

On the calibration point, I've actually found works research and data here to be really helpful. I've actually sent it to a lot of clients. Like, look, yeah, this is a really good bet. Now, of course, you have to do the work internally to say, how do I want to differ from that? But when you look at the distinctions between industries, as well as the difference between new and established brands, I think that's a really good starting point. One thing that we do at TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, a standard part of the approach, is to define what we call the business case for the brand within the client organization. Meaning what are the jobs to be done for brand? How do they connect to business related KPIs? Again, this is about creating a greater connection for brand strength and business strength. So this makes an internal case for continued brand investment, not just one and done, we ran a brand campaign, great, now we sit back and wait for the results. You have to continue to invest across both long and short-term horizons. This also helps set the overall direction for a balanced approach, which again, then you have to continually calibrate it and you have to measure it to prove impact. So all of those things have to come together. And that's often, you know, you asked about the struggle, that's where it's hard, right? Because it's easy to agree with this in theory, to say we're going to strike a balance, but the constant calibration and measurement, that is very specific, not only to industries, but to your specific company.

Ann Marie Kerwin: Well, that's where part of the “Building a culture of creative effectiveness” that aligning with the C suite is why it's so important because while you're working this out, while you're working out the calibration, figuring out what the balance should be, if everyone understands what the trade offs are, if you're pulling back on one or increasing another, then you can make better decisions, right? If everyone knows what levers are being pulled and why.

Colin Chow: Yeah, that's right. It's the open alignment and the transparency and the ability for the marketing leaders and the marketing team to speak the language of the rest of the C-suite. If all we talk about are impressions or ratings, I think sometimes CFOs will look at that and say, but what does that actually mean? But if you start talking about metrics like daily active users, you start talking about OKRs, KPIs, now you're talking CFOs, love language, right? And so you really start to see the outcome is trust, but a marketer can't say, trust me, right? You have to demonstrate your ability to calibrate, to measure, and then deliver on those things. And then the outcome then is a trusted, okay, you've proven it. We can then invest in brand.

Ann Marie Kerwin: So many conversations and articles that have been coming into WARC are really talking about how do you get that balance right between brand and performance and how the two should be integrated, but how integrated. And we know that companies with strong brand campaigns see greater results from performance campaigns. But what's your view on how when you are talking with clients and companies. How many people do you see who have those two functions siloed as opposed to talking together and how do you work through that with your clients?

Colin Chow: So first of all, absolutely right. Brand and performance need to be integrated. It's hard to believe that there's any real cogent argument that they should be separated. So most modern marketers understand and accept this in theory, but it's the ‘in theory’ part, I think, that we really struggle with because everyone agrees with it in theory, but we find that sometimes what happens in real life, it's hard to put it into practice. And in bigger organizations, this can be because literally the performance team and the brand team are siloed. They might be owned by different leaders and those leaders sometimes have competing agendas. So that's one issue. In smaller orgs, it's a different issue. It's often that the CMO or lead marketer comes from a background that is either brand or performance and it isn't as fluid on the other side of it. And so you have what you would expect, which is if you come from performance, well, I'm just going to keep hammering performance or almost the opposite, where it's like I come from performance, so actually I'm gonna overinvest in brand because I'm insecure about that. So you see it both ways. It goes back to the need to balance it and really see that.

Ann Marie Kerwin: You were saying it depends how it goes based on whether it's a bigger organization or a smaller organization, but we've had a lot of conversation lately about whether a US led team is gonna react differently than a European team based on the fact of how people understand marketing effectiveness that was highlighted in Mark Ritson’s op-ed saying that American companies have fallen behind. What do you think about that?

Colin Chow: Yes, that's another silo, right? The silo between American companies and rest of the world.

Ann Marie Kerwin: And your role is global, so you see both. Yeah.

Colin Chow: I see both. Yeah, my primary focus is North American, but my remit is global. And so I do see both and 21st century brand, you know, we kind of spanned a lot of global companies as well. I think, look, it's been a fascinating discussion. I think there's truth to it. I think the one thing I would add is I think some of the truth is that it's just very much in line with an American mindset that cycles between dominance and innovation. And I say this as an American. We love to win and we love to dominate and we don't innovate until we have to. And the fact is, and this will make me sound like the most stereotypical American, but we are still winning. If you define winning as, you know, just one example of Brand Finance’s, annual top brand rankings and value, U S companies are the top five. American companies are seven of the top 10. You don't get to, uh, I think the top European company is, is, you know, Deutsche Telekom somewhere around number 13. So until we aren't winning, American companies aren't going to feel the need to innovate on marketing effectiveness because that's just not the way we are. Look back at history. We were losing in the space race and then we jumped ahead. To be clear, I wasn't alive then. We used to send college athletes to represent men's basketball in the Olympics and then we lost. And then we said, you know what, we're going to send the Dream Team. Let's show the world. I think Mark Ritson has a really good point. If you get outside those top companies that have tons of money to spend, right, I do think there is a need for the American mentality to embrace more marketing effectiveness. And I think there's great marketers in the U.S. who already do and are shouting it from the rooftop. So I think there's truth to both of that.

Are you a baseball fan by any chance, Ann Marie?

Ann Marie Kerwin: I live with a baseball fan, so I'm aware of many baseball in and outs.

Colin Chow: Okay, so I'm not a baseball fan. I think it's a sport that needs modernization. But there was a great book and movie, “Moneyball,” that came out. And I go back to that, because I think there's some analogies with the whole discussion of marketing effectiveness. The Oakland A's, basically the premise is they couldn't compete with the big dollar teams, the Yankees, the Dodgers, the Red Sox. And so instead, they turned to analytics, which I think is similar to marketing effectiveness. And they found uncovered value and they really focused on hitting singles and doubles, getting on base and they were able to make it to the playoffs. And it was astounding because they were a small market team with a low payroll. I think what gets lost in the celebration of the Oakland A's is they got to the playoffs, but they actually never won the World Series. Right. So they got there, but they never took the big prize. I think just, it goes back to the theme we've been talking about is, you need both. Performance might get you to the playoffs every year, but you still need brand to win the World Series.

And I think that American companies are going to catch up. They're going to figure it out. But maybe we need a little bit of pressure in order to really innovate.

Ann Marie Kerwin: It's like the Avis we try harder, right? So what would you say are the most difficult conversations you have with your clients when it comes to how they understand what their brand is?

Colin Chow: There's actually three different types of difficult conversations and they happen before, during and after we typically engage with them. So before it's about commitment. You know, again, most people, CEO, CMOs, they understand in the abstract that defining and activating a brand is important, but are they willing to invest in actually doing it correctly? And I don't mean just money, right? I don't mean just the cost of doing it from a financial standpoint. The actual investment is the amount of time and executive attention that you're willing to give to it. We all know for a strategy to truly take root, getting your stakeholders involved and engaged is perhaps even more important than just getting to the right answer on paper, which doesn't need to take that much time, but it's bring everyone along. So that's one thing, commitment. Are you committed to doing this? Are you really committed and not just trying to get to an answer really quickly because then that will never take hold. During the work that we do with them,

It's about courage. That's the difficult conversation. Because in the course of our work, we often unearth some hard truths or we need to force some really hard choices strategically about where to take the brand. So there can be a tough conversation with our clients about having the courage to make the right choice and not watering down a strategy to make everybody happy. So we've actually have this built into our approach. One of the things that we do in our foundational brand strategy work is what we call discuss the undiscussable.

And we get the C-suite together in a private room, very safe space conversation. We talk about some of the challenges, the obstacles to building that brand together. A lot of times there's things that we can't even solve ourselves as a brand consultancy, but we're saying, if you want to build a brand, we think you want to build, and we know you want to build. These are things you have to address as a leadership team. So courage really comes to the forefront.

And then after the brand strategy work is done, the difficult conversation is around consistency.

Everyone's excited about a strategy until the first hard trade-off comes up. Right. And so I remember there was one time we did a project and the CEO came up after it was so thrilled, loved it, great work, amazing. ‘Oh, there's just one thing. I have this, it was for a media client. I have the show coming up. We just hired these hosts. So that's okay. Right?’ We said, no, actually that's not okay. It was a very big strategic pivot. If you're going to make this big strategic pivot as a brand, the first thing out of the gate cannot be a show that literally says the opposite of what this brand strategy is. So consistency is that tough conversation. You have to stick to it. Otherwise, the exceptions become the rule and all of the time, money and effort that your teams have invested go away.

So commitment before, courage during, consistency after. And I'll throw in a fourth C, which is change. You can change the strategy, but you're not going to actually create impact unless you change the people and processes that have to activate that strategy. And that's a key reason why at TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, we've expanded our transformation practice to accelerate that organizational change that drives growth. It focuses on people, not processes, but it unlocks behavior change at a fundamentally human level. It's also why we launched our full brand identity and design practice in 2023. So visual and verbal systems are one of the most immediate external signifiers of a brand change, both internally and externally. And after we finish a strategy, often we don't even have to make the case for it. The CMO or founder is looking at their brand and thinking, ‘huh, I'm totally bought in on the strategy, but I don't think this visual idea actually expresses that any longer, right? So it becomes actually an easier conversation once they see how it needs to evolve. And so that's a big belief of ours.

You know, the world doesn't need another design agency, but TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, our design is different because again, we look at it through the lens of commercial creativity. We're bringing brands to life by driving business goals, greater awareness, distinction, recall, loyalty. Sure. We'd love to win some design awards as well along the way, but that's not why we're doing it. We genuinely have to tie it back to business goals. It's design that moves. You know, we believe in the 21st century, design has to move you both emotionally and audiences internally and externally but also literally moves, motion. It's dynamic. It fits for 21st Century context and it's anchored in signature brand behaviors. And the third thing is that it has to be in sync with strategy. It has to be a beautifully holistic system that's mutually reinforcing. It can't just be disjointed. So it goes back to that word you teed up, it's balance, right? It's like all of these difficult conversations and all of the things that a company needs to do is to get to a place of balance that allows the brand not only to grow and thrive, but to drive business success.

Ann Marie Kerwin: When you were talking about that commitment, that first difficult conversation, when you're thinking about how do we really articulate this brand strategy, it might involve departments that are outside of marketing, right? You might have to ask other departments in the company to step up and do something different or change how they're doing something or introducing new product or change a product to make it work. How do you see your clients doing this? It sounds like those difficult conversations kick off this process.

Colin Chow: It's so critical. It's so important to connect marketing to the business. And today more than ever, I think, you know, it feels like there's been, you know, this back and forth, the pendulum and proving the effectiveness of marketing just feels like a constant, I don't want to say battle, because that makes it sound confrontational, but it is something that needs to always be done and reinforced. You don't just do it and leave it alone. So it goes to those alliances and those difficult conversations that you reference.

And one of the key elements in our approach in our brand blueprint is actually the business ambition and articulating that. So actually the foundation, literally that thing we build everything in our brand framework around is what is the business ambition? What is the brand need to do? And it's not just a inspirational statement. It actually ties back to very clear KPIs that go back and drive the business.

But the other part of it is making sure that whatever brand framework that you might use, what you do in our brand blueprint is making sure that everyone in the C -suite, every function can see their role within that. What is marketing's role? What is product's role? What is HR's role? Every key team needs to be able to see that there is something for them and a responsibility, but also something inspirational for them in that brand strategy.

A great example is our clients at Instacart, the work we did with them to define their brand. I think the reason it's been so impactful is because it didn't just sit in the marketing org. Of course, the CMO used it as her launch pad for a new visual identity and some really impactful brand campaigns that have kind of really changed the way that the world looks at the brand and have really raised the cultural profile. But it goes way beyond that. The chief comms officer has been an amazing connective thread. She's brought it to life in the external voice of the company. She's brought to life initiatives like Instacart Health, which is an impact platform that provides access to nutritious food for those in need. And we work with the CHRO and even a co-founder to evolve the company values, the employee value proposition, even the shopper value proposition. And the CEO, the COO, they've all pulled from the brand strategy as well to expand their B2B advertiser proposition, which has been one of the biggest drivers of growth and profitability, as highlighted in last year's IPO. This is just one example, but it's one of the things I just wish every company, every client, everyone who cares about brand really understands, is that it has to be something that is cross-functional, that it's not just the CMO, but the entire C-suite that has to drive that. And one of our big initiatives at TwentyFirstCenturyBrand for this year is what we call the “CMO Thrive Guide.” Now, how do you not just survive, but thrive if you are either a first time CMO or CMO in a new seat. And one of the chapters specifically gets at how a CMO in her first 12 months needs to connect marketing to the business goals. And we give some really actionable tools on how to do that. So stay tuned for more on that. That's going to be coming out later this year, “CMO Thrive Guide,” but really excited to share that because the success of CMOs and connecting that success to the business is going to be one of the critical factors going forward.

Ann Marie Kerwin: That's great. And I'm really looking forward to seeing that “CMO Thrive Guide.” And I also thank you very much for joining me. I think this was such a valuable conversation and reinforcing that need to almost market marketing to the C-suite and how we do that. There were some great ideas in this conversation about how to do that. So thanks for joining me today, Colin.

Colin Chow: Thanks for having me, Ann Marie. It's a pleasure.

Ann Marie Kerwin:  So up next in March, we'll be talking about our third marketing truth, which is, creativity supercharges marketing's impact. And for those listening, if you have examples of US companies that are doing great, effective marketing and want to highlight that, or if you have an opinion on what works or doesn't work, we at WARC are eager to hear from you. I'm Ann Marie Kerwin, America's editor. The WARC podcast is available wherever you get your podcasts. Be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode. Thanks for listening.