The Advertising Research Foundation, which publishes The Journal of Advertising Research, released a white paper last month entitled, “On the Road to a New Effectiveness Model,” (you can purchase it from the ARF here), which got written up in Brandweek, and elsewhere, such as in this MediaPost column by Max Kalehoff.
The upshot of the ARF et al. study was that advertisements which tell a convincing or engaging story more effectively make a positive impression on viewers than those that focus on positioning a product in terms of its benefits. Max Kalehoff insists that the real lesson here is not about advertising effectiveness but about brand effectiveness. Specifically, he says, brands need compelling foundational narratives that connect with people by distilling and embodying that brand’s essence.
I believe that is just what I’ve been trying to do with this blog but, just in case that has not been entirely and intuitively obvious, please allow me to explain.
So what is Aquent’s brand essence? Though I think we’ve gone back and forth about this over the years, that essence, at least to my febrile mind, is “Talent.”
While that word can mean a special skill or ability, I’m not using it in that sense. To us (and I’m using the corporate “us,” here), “Talent” are people. We use the word “Talent” in this way primarily because it is the unique talents of the people we represent that differentiate them from their peers. It is also their special talented-ness that most interests our clients.
But to us as a company and, I suppose, a brand, it is the “people-ness” of “Talent” that matters the most. In fact, we have enshrined this people-ness in the first of the 4 principles that represent Aquent’s core values: People Make the Difference. The idea is that we don’t have a secret sauce or proprietary technology that separates us from the pack. We only have the people who work in our offices and the people we represent who go out and work for our clients.
To embody this essence, the essence of the people who are Aquent’s “Talent,” I have written a number of stories about them. Sometimes the story charts the course of their career, such as this story about Holly Goodrich, sometimes the story is about the funny way that one’s abilities lead to new opportunities, as in the case of wise-crackin’ copywriter, and sometimes the story provides background for the insights that we ask our Talent to share with the world, as in this post on effective creative services management.
If nothing else, the ARF findings reinforce my intuition that this is the right tack to take. It also makes me wonder if people would find it enlightening to hear my story since, for good or ill, I’ve done a lot to influence the brand on the corporate culture front.
But more than anything, this inspires me to tell even more stories. Can I tell yours?