A New Year's Challenge to Brands

My List of Resolutions Is for the Clients

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Mat Zucker
Mat Zucker

I'm not sure if anyone cares about resolutions from a mere blogger or pundit, but what I think would be really useful are New Year's resolutions for brands -- many of whom are stuck over how should they behave in this ominous, paralyzing time.

So, chief marketing officers, brand managers, consultants, countrymen, here are 10 important resolutions for you to make on behalf your brands and agencies in 2009:

  1. I will put my brand in the service of the country right now -- not my P&L, not my division, not my parent company, not a quite-possibly already irrelevant 2009-2010 plan. This is the time to spend the years of positive brand equity we've built up.
  2. I will impart optimism to the customers who have come to believe in the brand. I will not give into the national self-pity promoted by our news media. I will not be a Pollyanna, but I will not be depressing.
  3. I will finally add to my brand standards how I expect my business to behave. These principles are more important now than just look, feel, tone or advertising message. I've gone too long without them.
  4. I will find new ways to connect to my audience. They used to rely on me to ask them for money. What else can my brand offer them?
  5. I will finally learn how to communicate the way my customers communicate. I will get fluent in the digital media they've come to love -- search, text messaging, blogging, paid content, e-commerce. And my brand is going to make digital media better, just as we used to make traditional media better.
  6. When I do use digital advertising, I will use it to actually sell product through news or differentiation. (Remember when ads did that?)
  7. I'm going to use my roster of great agencies to get the best ideas for the brand. Now is an urgent time for ideas, regardless of where they come from. I am not going to over-rely on one agency to filter out what is right or force them to collaborate if it's not in their nature. I will be the filter.
  8. I am going to learn to trust my agency experts. I will give the creative teams who work for me a reason to live and die for me. For example, I won't art direct my art director, copy edit copydecks or micromanage animations. If I don't trust them enough, I will get ones who I do trust.
  9. I will beef up digital video production budget and get the volume I need to opportunistically fill media inventory gaps and, even more important, fulfill the hunger for brand content beyond launch pieces. (Guesstimate: spend 1.5x more to create 3x more.)
  10. I will prioritize people who make work over those who make noise. Including reputable bloggers. ;-)

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Mat Zucker is VP-executive creative director at Agency.com, where he leads a team of 30 creative directors, art directors, copywriters, information architects, designers and developers for clients British Airways, CIT, LG Electronics, Mars and Del Monte Foods. Previously, Mat was executive creative director at R/GA a senior partner and group creative director at OgilvyOne Worlddwide in New York.

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