“A brand must either die or evolve”

6 Nov

Along with Tracy Wong, I also had the pleasure of listening to Scott Bedbury speak.  He was the former marketing executive for both Starbucks and Nike, and another wonderful University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication alum.

Although he worked for huge companies, he also worked for small. He now free-lances and trys to find ways of using his brand knowledge to create social change. He was recently contacted by Facebook, to help their problem of image in relation to privacy issues. Bedbury wasn’t sure if he could make it because it might have been a day when he had a little meeting with NASA, seriously.

His best advice was to be forever curious and to take ideas from everywhere. A few years ago when he worked on Matel, they had the problem of Barbie and declining sales. Barbie could not relate to the Bratz dolls with their makeup and stripper-like clothing. He asked his then 6-year-old daughter what he should tell Matel. She said, ‘lose the pink, and dump ken’. The pink remained, but Barbie did dump Ken and began to date other people.

Bedbury also focused on brand karma, a large concept I have been thinking about lately. He used the analogy of ‘brand America’ and how we are such a big and powerful country, but we use those powers to create enemies. Brand America is a brand that doesn’t care how other people feel about it. Much like Microsoft, there is a disregard for how the name resonates with others. Scott’s advice if you encounter a company that doesn’t care about how people perceive them, RUN. It is more important to find a client that will allow you to create great work.

The world has been commodified, what’s next for advertising?

What sets brands apart is the stories they tell. Bedbury talked about his work at Nike and the reason why they were successful, which was because they were sensitive to the values of their demographic. For women, they addressed that they don’t have time to work out all the time and they place other people before themselves. For runners, the photography depicted a view that only an early morning runner would know, a time when the world was still asleep.

What does a company do when they reach success?

In respond to this question, Bedbury said a brand must either evolve or die. With Starbucks introducing alcohol, he thinks it is a good idea. The coffee house in Europe, which Starbucks is based on, has had alcohol for 500 years. Starbucks as honed the coffee industry, now they must see what else they can accomplish. Think of Apple, if Steve Jobs had not pushed into music with itunes, and the ipod, or phones with the iphone, Apple would be no where near as successful as it is today. What Bedbury said a company must remember is that it is important to take risks, but to understand that they might fail.

Where do ideas come from?

Most of Bedbury’s ideas, have come out of mistakes. He explains that in order to reach success you must find resilient people that can take these mistakes, and find teachable moments.

“Surround yourself with people that respect the brand and each other.” –Scott Bedbury



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