October 2008: Editor's Letter

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In this year's Creative Marketers Report, Audi CMO Scott Keogh talks about the "points of truth" that can be found in the automaker's products (see p. 46). As much as one hates to bandy about such an eyeroll magnet of a phrase, as a summary of what makes brands beloved, it's sort of hard to beat.

The points of truth Keogh was talking about were the exacting design touches and continuity in Audi cars. He refers to the cars' utterly Teutonic attention to detail, to the fact, for instance, that the radio knob (a small thing, but something you're going to have a lot of contact with) has the same look and feel as the coat hook in the back seat (something you're going to have barely any contact with). "You get this consistent design sensibility through the brand," says Keogh. "When you look at design there are a lot of ways to cut corners; you can put flash in a few places and let other things go. Audi doesn't believe in that."

The genius of many of the marketers in our report, and the success of most marketers in general, can, for the most part, boil down to points of truth. In a transparent brand landscape, those points add up to that important sense of authenticity, the sense that when, metaphorically or literally, "something looks like wood or leather, it is."

For the nuts at Zappos, those points of truth are its 1600 employees. The online shoe hub puts all of its prospective hires through a four-week training regimen (complete with a stint as a warehouse shoe stocker) culminating in their being offered a sum of money—to leave the company. Yes, the company bribes people to leave in an effort to separate the wannabes from the real shoe heads (see photo, p. 44). The result is that the company is completely informed by a culture of service—one with a very distinct flavor. And the result of that culture is that people who use Zappos aren't just shoppers, they are brand spokespeople (including a certain Creativity staffer who shall remain unnamed). "If you're internally a different company, what you project externally is not going to work," says COO Alfred Lin.

Nowhere is the points of truth question more interesting than in the case of our cover subject. Obama is our marquee marketer this year because of the game-changing design of his campaign and his overall brand (well, that and our radical, islamo-philic, left, America-hating, liberal media agenda, natch). The campaign has been notable for its use of social media, its grass rootsyness and its good typeface (see p. 48 ). But what's equally striking about the Obamanom is the unprecedented amount and quality of original art that's poured out of the creative community on behalf of the candidate. When has that happened before?

Countless designers and artists (and a few agency creatives) have, many on their own initiative, created expressions of Obama's message (most famously Shepard Fairey with his "Hope" and "Progress" posters. We were very pleased to have the artist create an original piece for this issue). That message has had such resonance, perhaps, because people think they're seeing something authentic in the political world—a world where the idea of "points of truth" is mostly laughable, a world where wood is always particle laminate, and leather is always naughahyde.

And perhaps those who have expressed themselves on behalf of this campaign have done so because they've acknowledged that gee, you know, it's really a goshdarn important time in the history of brand America and that the future of that brand, like the future of any brand, lies in innovation. And that perhaps that vision of the future is better represented by the guy on the cover than by the dude who can't turn his computer on and the ex-beauty pageant contestant.
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