I’m a consumer brand-building specialist with a long history in food, beverage, lifestyle and home-related categories. Your early days indeed inform your future. Here’s mine:
Respect for the power and importance of brand building has been at the core of my professional life even before I started in the agency business with Ogilvy & Mather. Coming out of school, I found an interesting post as head of public relations for a unique political arm of county government in the Seattle area. King County Executive John Spellman established an “Office of Agriculture” as part of his public policy agenda – the preservation of rapidly disappearing urban agriculture. It was called The Farmlands Proposition. My role was to handle communications strategy and press relations.
Looking for an anchoring concept I landed on a novel idea to brand local agricultural products and designed a logo called King County Fresh. The goal was to create a symbol that could be applied to fresh products from nearby farms and thus could be flagged in supermarkets. It was newsworthy so we secured ample media attention. It helped drive a successful bond issue campaign to help protect urban farms from development pressures. How? Because the taste of fresher products and the consumer’s experiences that went with it were far more compelling than all the fact-based analytical arguments about the loss of urban farms to development. Taste and freshness mattered to voters. The good feelings from helping preserve local farms came right behind.
The Farmlands Proposition passed and King County was the second in the nation (Long Island County in New York was the first mover) to enact this landmark legislation. John Spellman became the next Governor of Washington State and I moved on to the agency business where my belief in the power and attachment people have with brands and their meaning could take flight.
Emergent Healthy Living is the embodiment of all I have come to understand and know about brands and how to grow them. Whatever the tactic employed – social, digital or mainstream channels – storytelling lies at the core of marketing. And effective stories are constructed around the most important revelation I’ve come to understand since I started in this field more than 30 years ago.
Great stories spring from emotional connections. And in today’s environment of consumer control over media consumption and engagement, there’s no more important guiding principle for communications than understanding how to build extraordinary added meaning and value into what a brand stands for. It’s not just constructing, designing, formulating the best product – that’s table stakes now. Superiority in technology and process or ingredient is vital but fleeting. Brands that find a path to deeper connection and relevance to their target consumer will win.
Our mission is to help clients find that path and succeed. Relevance today springs from a powerful idea we call finding your “higher purpose.” This strategic mission can best be defined as insight that comes from a granular understanding of the core customer’s passions, interests and concerns. Then looking for creative alignment between the brand and consumer – becoming an enabler of this lifestyle passion.
Pick the category and we can find the passion that resides at the core of your most devoted fans and followers.
- The preeminent interest in creativity and self-expression that sits at the center for women who believe fashion and fashionableness is connected to how they see themselves and reflects their lifestyle interest.
- The desire for connection and emotional expression that sits front and center for pet parents in their desire for experiences and bonding with four-legged family members.
- The incredible drive to know and learn that motivates home cooks in the kitchen – as they strive to invent more creative and interesting taste experiences for friends and family.
Relevance feeds engagement. Without it, consumers won’t listen. Brands are obligated to be less self-centered. Less focused on the transaction and more pre-occupied with feeding the lifestyle interests of their core users. When brands do this they can earn a place in the consumer’s life. Want a more meaningful brand/user relationship then imbue your brand with greater meaning!
Finding a brand’s Higher Purpose and then mining that understanding for creative communications and marketing ideas is our life’s work. PR and social/digital media are the tools we use to start a conversation. The tools won’t perform optimally without the right message and useful content. Higher Purpose is the path to optimizing the brand story for engaging and meaningful outreach.
What’s your Higher Purpose?
Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent Healthy Living. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies. Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact [email protected] and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.