When Tim Urban calls, we listen. Tim is a seasoned media maven and chief commercial officer that enjoys and respects creativity anchored in sound insight-driven strategy. He’s our kind of guy and Volpi is our kind of brand. Delicious. Our extensive brand analysis and strategic recommendations coupled with our creativity cooked up the perfect recipe for the re-imaging of this great Italian American brand. Proof, once again that when you Head For The Heart, great things happen.
Luxury brands succeed by creating connections with their buyers through very specific insights that leverage value against deeply seated emotional needs.
These emotional values last a lifetime because they are not driven by trends but rather by qualities inherent in the buyer. Understanding these connections is at the heart of branding. At one time the bespoke nature of true luxury brands limited their audiences to all but the most-wealthy. Today this dynamic is radically changed. With the advent of mass customization and highly controlled product releases within the mass market framework, luxury has come to mean many different things to different people. Luxury brands of the bespoke type still do exist and the audience for these brands continues to expand with the growth of global prosperity. The internet has made these brands more accessible than ever which means that Haute Couture brands like Monvieve now enjoy a global clientele.
A designer and maker of bespoke bridal fashions Monvieve is unique in the world of fashion design. They are an accessible luxury with heirloom quality derived from old world craftsmanship and a highly refined aesthetic. This is a luxury that thrives in creating memorable moments. It is a luxury of pleasurable, aesthetically framed memories. These are #MonvieveMoments and this is the heart of the brand.
Working closely with the creative director and owner of Monvieve, Alison Miller, we’ve been carefully crafting #MonvieveMoments. From our participation at the global destination wedding planners conference in Florence, to our shoot at the Belmond Villa San Michele, to a new showroom in NYC, video production, and the U.S. launch event at the Italian Embassy in Washington D.C., it’s been a series of #MonvieveMoments all its own.
In Mid-April Team Brandforming was on location in Florence Italy at the incredible Belmond, Villa San Michele, shooting our campaign for our client Monvieve. Monvieve is a haute couture Italian Fashion Brand.
Monvieve designs and handcrafts bespoke bridal veils in Italy. Each veil is a unique work of art, as fine and beautiful as you can imagine. Our client, Alison Miller, the creative director and owner of the label, works with each of her clients to assure the experience is as flawless as her veils.
Villa San Michele dates from the 15th century, the Villa’s facade is attributed to Michelangelo. Step inside and you experience the ethereal beauty and solitude of a Renaissance monastery that is as much a part of Italy’s culture as the country’s greatest cathedrals and galleries. Grazie’ a lei Clio Cicuto and the entire team at Villa San Michele.
For those who know me personally you will immediately grasp the joy in this moment, a lover of art, art history and nearly all things Italian. To work with another Italian luxury brand such as Monvieve and to shoot in Florence, puts this gig on the top of my list of great experiences. Our photographer, Massimiliano Botticelli and his all star team did an amazing job, flawlessly executing a long and intense day of shooting. His team hit every mark in our production schedule to take best advantage of the glorious natural light. Max did not stop until the sun was gone from the sky. Grazie’ a lei Max!
Framing images for our campaign #MonvieveMoments against a backdrop designed by Michelangelo was the culmination of a tremendous amount of work by our client. Team Brandforming was thrilled to play our part in bringing the story to life. It takes years of dedicated focus and talent to succeed in the fashion industry and Alison is on her way to her next success.
In early April team Brandforming was on location at Carnegie Mellon filming a PSA for the Computer Science Teachers Association, we nicknamed the spot Robot Love. After months of work and insight development, derived from rounds of one-on-one interviews, we finally rolled cameras.
Special thanks here to our partners Associations Development Group for thinking of us and bringing Brandforming on as collaborators. Team Brandforming cranked out 5 different concept boards for client review. It didn’t take long for the client team to settle on the theme and spot we created, Computer Science. Cool Stuff. The goal of the PSA is to encourage more young people, especially girls, to get involved in computer science. In fact, the Fox TV show, FabLab is equally dedicated to this goal. Nearly half the high schools in the US do not offer computer science. It’s astonishing to consider since there is hardly a life today untouched by some aspect of computer science.
Filming took place at Carnegie Mellon because of their outstanding computer science program and also because of Professor Manuela Veloso. Professor Veloso is an extraordinary person, her brains, talent and determination make her a fantastic teacher, mentor and coach to all the enthusiastic students we met while filming. Thank you #ManuelaVeloso. Thank you #CMU. Thank you #Pittsburgh.
Professor Veloso is well known for her work in Robotics but computer science is about a lot more than just Robotics, as she is very quick to point out. Kids in America need more exposure to computer science and a better understanding of the many career opportunities associated with it. I hope the TV show #FabLab catches the imagination of its young audience and that our TV spot helps drive awareness of just how cool computer science really is.
It was good fun working with Robots to help tell our story. It was also great to work with Professor Veloso, her students and the producers of FabLab too. The spot was filmed by Galileo Media Arts. Robot Love, the science behind computer science.
Team Brandforming and Computer Science, now that’s Cool Stuff.
In the books Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and The Master and his Emissary by Iain McGilchrist, the authors explore the workings of the human brain. I think we can use their insights to help build #AHealthierNation, especially if we consider the workings of the Human Brain Vs. Pharma TV Spots.
Both authors point out that our brains are hot wired to detect danger before safety. We detect anger in others before joy. This extends to images and words, even those in abstract of a lived experience. For example, we can detect an angry face in a picture of a crowd of happy people faster than we can detect a happy face in a crowd of angry people. The mention of a word associated with danger, even in absence of that danger in the present lived experience, triggers lightning quick brain activity associated with a threat. This has been studied and documented with MRI data.
Kahneman points out the we live our lives as stories, collections of experiences and memories that ideally come to a happy finale, and this is what we remember. In a particularly interesting chapter, he explores the idea of duration neglect and how as humans, we will willingly endure protracted and difficult experiences if the goal, outcome and future memory would be a positive gain. One example he explains is that of amnesic vacations. An oversimplification; the duration of a vacation ideally has an effect on its quality. I think we’d all agree that 6 days are better than 3. But if the last day of the 6-day vacation is a poor experience, the overriding memory will be one of an unhappy vacation, despite the duration. This is the peak ending and most dominant lasting memory. For more on this you can watch his TED talk here.
Both of these books are fascinating and entirely different, but with many corollaries that make them both worth reading. The Master and his Emissary makes clear the right brain is dominant in the role of detecting the incongruent, new, exciting and dangerous. The left brain is dominant in breaking it down into known bits of all lived experience and cataloging it so as to help us detect the new vs the known, different or dangerous. There is a mysterious beauty to the power of this duality and the yin-yang balance that it achieves to help us detect danger and feel safe. You can watch him illustrate this in his TED talk here.
If we apply these findings of the workings of the human brain Vs. Pharma TV spots, it would suggest that ending a commercial with 30 seconds of “fair balance” that rattles off all the negative potential consequences of the therapy is not a good idea if we want people to seek out, consume and adhere to that treatment. What memory are we left with? What is the cumulative effect of these negative associations to the psychology of Americans to what is now decades of exposure to often potentially life threatening consequences of treatment? We are putting our minds on high alert and then leaving ourselves with negative memories.
The FDA lives in a paradox of endorsing the use of needed therapies that are in the majority proven very effective and safe and at the same time approving and controlling how they are promoted. The use of Fair Balance was deemed a reasonable solution to keep some checks and balances in the system. One early justification for direct-to-consumer advertising for healthcare products was that it would help make people healthier by helping them recognize health issues and solutions to what is ailing them. That said, I would argue it is not working entirely as hoped. Direct-to-consumer advertising has certainly proven to sell more drugs but is it really helping? Adherence and compliance rates remain terrible and as a nation, we are not among the healthiest, despite having the one of the best healthcare systems in the world. I can’t help but feel that there exists an unintended and negative consequence of bombarding our culture with therapy risk profiles instead of more positive educational messages about living a healthy and happy life.
I’m not suggesting that the problems of adherence and compliance have been caused by advertising, they certainly predate it. What I am suggesting is that advertising executed in this way has become just another part of the problem and it’s time to consider alternative approaches that not only make us aware of solutions but improve long-term outcomes for #AHealthierNation.
Advertising is part of the brand experience and nobody wants to experience side-effects, even in the abstract. Patients need to be educated about the potential risks of any treatment and there are other and potentially better ways to provide this learning. Awareness advertising by its very nature employs both reach and frequency to achieve its goal. The persistent drumming of risk factors in combination with how our brains are hot wired to detect risk is a perfect storm. Our abilities to detect risk and the frequency of exposure caused by this type of advertising may be creating strong negative associations with these brands specifically and perhaps more detrimentally, pharmaceutical therapies overall.
On any given night during a broadcast commercial break it is not uncommon to see 2-3 pharma spots back-to-back. This results in approximately 1.5 minutes of nausea, hives, Arrhythmia, trouble breathing, night sweats, diarrhea, dizziness, life threatening rash, allergic reactions, suicidal thoughts, dry mouth, internal bleeding, increased blood pressure, stroke, liver damage, heart attack and other potential drug-drug and dietary interactions that in rare cases have caused death. This parade of alarm bells is made no less volatile by the mostly generic visual backdrop of smiling happy people and the sometimes over-qualified claims of efficacy. Remember we’re hot wired to detect risk before all else. How’s that for a side effect? Human Brain Vs. Pharma TV could be a perfect storm of unintended consequences. June 2014 saw the beginning of OpenFDA an effort to make accessible the FDA database of side effects, drug labels, warnings, food recalls. This project is still in Beta but it holds great promise to help us better manage and understand the insights available through this repository and how insights gained across drug and device class can inform #AHealtherNation and perhaps will give us opportunity to create better, more positive and educational TV spots.
As communicators can do better to create a #AHealthierNation and support our Physicians and other healthcare workers to help us live healthier lives.
At Brandforming we’re confident that as an industry, if we put our brains together and challenge the status quo, we can build healthier brands and healthier outcomes with ideas that #HeadForTheHeart.
On Thursday night, December 3 we celebrated the best of Healthcare and Wellness Advertising with the Global Awards at The NY Academy of Sciences. It was a big night with a tremendous volume of great work from around the globe. The passion and integrity of the work never ceases to amaze me. The world of Health and Wellness advertising continues to expand as more world cultures wake up to the idea that there is much more to staying healthy than taking pills. Western medicine continues to bring us many great therapies and we should never lose sight of that as we expand our minds to what I’ll call a more Eastern awareness — A more “global” perspective to personal health and well being.
Disease awareness continues to gain momentum as it proves its potential as a strong alternative to branded advertising when it comes to truly engaging audiences. If you read my recent blog post, Unstuck Yourself With Incongruity, on the importance of incongruity in the creation of and receptivity to ideas, you’ll note how the use of fair balance has potential to alert the brain more to the negative consequences of a therapy than to the suggested benefits. Consider the lingering effects of such messages when it comes to the pervasive lack of compliance and adherence that plagues the industry. Unbranded and disease awareness work are really important because engaging the brain in the context of a positive, unbranded story will help improve the effectiveness of communication, unencumbered from the negative messages of fair balance, we can help move individuals to a more positive and adherent lifestyle. This method effectively engages the ego-energy of the individual and heads for the heart with positive, affirming associations of the self.
The healthcare industry will always need communications that are focused on helping physicians better understand the medicines they prescribe. I’m sure most of us would like to see this work realized with more emotionally engaging ideas similar to what is now happening in unbranded efforts targeting consumers. Another area that is finally maturing in its potential to pull all this together is digital. We seem to have finally crossed a threshold where we are seeing very little digital work for digital sake. Achieving meaningful integration of ideas and medium delivers a powerful ecosystem of care that benefits everyone involved. This integration effectively unites all stakeholders into one seamless engagement. This type of work holds great promise to affect positive behavior change in all audiences, including physicians.
Last year in my blog post for the Global Awards I spoke of the deepening integration of digital into our lives, The Next Challenge for Global Healthcare Agencies and I believe this year we are beginning to see the potential of truly integrated ideas. There were a couple of entries this year that illustrate this point and I encourage you to enjoy an inspiring review of all of the winners here. One such elegant, creative solution is the idea called Penny The Pirate. Penny the Pirate is a brilliant integration of multimedia and delivers a concept that anchors a meaningful digital platform in conjunction with a delightful analogue solution to create a wonderful ecosystem of care. Say Ahoj to Penny the Pirate as she sets a new benchmark in integration. Penny the Pirate is from the great minds at Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney — Bravo to our friends down under.
With digital settling into truly meaningful integration, another positive aspect to this work is the trend we’re seeing in the return to ideas with traditional chops; ideas and executions not overreaching with digital hijinks — solid, great ideas…we might even call them analogue — resplendent in their simplicity and brilliance. This year’s Grand Global winner, the Luck Plan from Downtown Partners delivers on all fronts. The Windy City claims the big win; congratulations to the team..
Brandforming was honored this year to pick-up the mantle and create the key art for this year’s show. What a great way for agencies to support the Global Awards and their theme of creative globalization. You can read more about the origins of the idea, the art creation and the collaborative work that made it happen by going here.
When you are looking for something new and different and captivating, look to your right. When you are looking for something familiar and undifferentiated and understood look to your left.
When thinking up ideas and reviewing concepts and potential ways to execute them it is essential to consider the inherent tension in the idea, the contrast, the incongruity of it all.
This is the thing that drives an idea, it’s internal flame. Great brands thrive on incongruity and great products and services are often defined by one insightful point of tension that the product or service can overcome. And the campaigns that deliver these ideas with great creativity propel these brands to stardom.
Volvo cars thrive on the idea of safety which resolves the fear of injury or death. BMW thrives on its idea of the ultimate driving machine, casting itself against dull imperfection, sensory deprivation and blandness. These are emotionally driven ideas, that touch the heart. Achieving the whitest whites in your laundry is not simply about whiteness, it’s about knowing you’ve done the best job you can, of achieving a visible perfection.
But why do ideas like these work? Why do campaigns like these hold our attention? It all comes down to the way our minds work. The left brain-right brain functionality forever studied and in some cases grossly oversimplified, hold the key to understanding what make a great idea — great.
The functionality of the right brain is dominant in alertness to new, different, incongruent and more “emotional” points of tension that appeal to our emotional self. The left brain functions as a sort of running catalogue of all things known, understood and expected. The left brain is so good at this that it gives the right brain the full freedom to perform the major task of keeping us alive to anything new at all — good or bad – it is our early warning system. The scanning, searching, emotional nature of the right and the deconstructing, comparative, analytical left come together to define the essence of who we are and our relationship to the world — our ego. This coming together to form what I’ll call the ego-energy of left and right brain functions is very much a complimentary end game and failing to satisfy one comes at the risk of losing the other and should be considered the emotional whole brain effect. The significance of this can not be overstated when it comes to creating ideas, because this is the terrain of the big idea.
Let’s consider the ubiquitous “Pharma Beach” ads. I’m not sure who originally coined this phrase. It started as a slight to the ever present execution of people on beaches in pharmaceutical advertising and now seems to have grown in meaning to include all the usual slice of life stuff we’ve grown so accustomed to seeing day in and day out. Pharma Beach must be a pretty big place, maybe even bigger than the Hampton’s. At this point there are so many people enjoying Pharma Beach that it would seem we’ve all been cured. Unfortunately that’s far from the truth, and for advertisers “Pharma Beach” has grown so familiar it is not the best place to attempt to differentiate your brand, unless of course you do something incredible different with it, which we rarely see.
Ideas that wash up on Pharma Beach are known and easily broken up into familiar catalogued bits by the left brain, filed and put away — a place for everything and everything in its place. The right brain has little time or attention to give to the familiar and generic. It looks past the known and understood — the generic. Why create a generic campaign for a branded product?
This, my friends, is why so many ad campaigns fail to deliver the true potential of the brand— they die of boredom, sequestered in the left brain catalogue of “I’ve seen this before.”
The capacity of the left brain to break things down into the known can cause a kind of circular thinking as its constant need to dominate the world by manipulating it into known components can hold us back from creating and trusting differentiated ideas.
Like victims of Stockholm syndrome we grow sympathetic to our captor and are held by our left brain’s incessant desire to break everything down into known bits, catalogue it for us and keep our world nice and tidy, and we like it. This functionality of the left brain helps us reside comfortably in the known world but it can also keep us from breaking free.
If you want work that breaks through, then we need to break-through to the right brain. There are no formulas for this, no secret ingredient that will make you successful. There is only the need for a commitment that goes for the heart, that stirs the emotion that appeals to the ego. Ideally this is supported by a brand essence that embraces a meaningful incongruity that can only be resolved by the product or service itself.
It is hard work but when you Head For The Heart, great things happen.
This compilation video offers a nice snapshot into the connectivity we discovered between the creative pursuits of these artists and the work they do 9-5, in short, creativity in the workplace. If you have not seen the show at the Spring Street Gallery in Saratoga Springs you should stop in to the gallery. The show will be up a few more weeks, catch it if you can. The video linked here is a compilation of videos about the show, you might enjoy watching it. It’s too short for popcorn but important enough to leave you with something stuck in your head, if not your teeth.