Top 12 marketing books

Top 12 marketing books

There are many marketing and advertising books out there worth reading, too many to get into a list of the best marketing and advertising books. I wanted to make a list of my own. Whether you’re studying advertising, or are a professional practicing the craft there are hundreds of books worth digesting. And as one might expect, there are some that are better known and some that are simply better for you. If you’re in the marketing, advertising, communications, public relations, branding, design or anything else, these books should have a permanent place in your library

1.     Eating the Big Fish by Adam Morgan

Into beating the long established brands at their own game or revitalizing an existing brand this is a must read. It’s exceptional.

2. Ogilvy On Advertising by David Ogilvy

An oldie but goldie. Expected information but worth the read. Ogilvy On Advertising is considered an advertising bible.

3. From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor by Jerry Della Femina

Cult classic

4. Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin

Seth Godin’s best book.

5. Truth, Lies & Advertising: The Art of Account Planning by Jon Steel

My favorite book growing up. 

6. Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout

Thought provoking.

7. Made With (a soon to be released new book by John Grant)

One of my favorite thinkers is about to launch his new book, the image above is one of his great books too).

8. A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young

The foreword by Bill Bernbach, one of the greatest advertising professionals who ever lived, should be enough to let you know that this is a gem. And although published in 1965 (from a presentation first delivered in 1939) it’s timeless advice to help copywriters, art directors, designers and planners jump-start their creative juices. If (or when) you hit a creative wall, this book will help you hammer it down. 

9. Drive by Daniel Pink

What motivates people? Fascinating read.

10. Rules for Revolutionaries by Guy Kawasaki

The inspiration behind my ad agency StrawberryFrog

11. Fascinate by Sally Hogshead

Love love love this book.

12. Uprising: How to build a brand and change the world by sparking cultural movements.


Okay I work in advertising and this is flagrant self-promotion. But a recent review of this best selling book by Stanford University suggests that this is an inspiring read. Judge for yourself.

APCO Worldwide + StrawberryFrog to Bring New Global Communication Model to Major Brands

APCO expands creative resources with majority-stake investment

StrawberryFrog advances international growth goals

Washington, D.C. (February 16, 2012) – Award-winning global communication consultancy APCO Worldwide has acquired a majority interest in movement-marketing agency StrawberryFrog, APCO Founder and CEO Margery Kraus announced today. The investment will pair APCO’s international stakeholder-engagement and business-strategy expertise with StrawberryFrog’s skill in creating innovative cultural movements, accelerating a shared vision to provide communication counsel and execution to some of the world’s most iconic brands.

“Clients understand that persuasion today requires finding points of shared interest and then launching campaigns that connect emotionally, whether they are marketing products, enhancing reputation or advocating on issues,” said Kraus. “StrawberryFrog’s focus on movements is incredibly relevant for clients today and in the future, and it aligns perfectly with APCO’s approach to stakeholder engagement. We believe this partnership is a breakthrough idea, and we are thrilled to have found a talented team with impressive leadership, a legacy of strategic and creative excellence, high-caliber
clients and a wonderful business trajectory.”

“We have an ambition to be more active on the global stage and doing it differently than other agency networks,” said Scott Goodson, StrawberryFrog chairman and co-founder. “We’ve had many suitors over the years, but we found in APCO an incredible meeting of minds and vision. APCO’s independent spirit and global pedigree is a strong cultural and strategic fit with StrawberryFrog. We know this will offer an opportunity to further power our philosophy of cultural movements as we move forward.”

Launched in 1999, StrawberryFrog will maintain its own culture, brand, creative independence and management, including Goodson, Chief Creative Officer Kevin McKeon and Co-Founder Karin Drakenberg, who lead a team well-known for conceiving innovative campaigns for many of the world’s strongest brands.

“The StrawberryFrog difference has always been our culture and unique ‘challenger’ mindset – our little red frog symbolizes our efforts to challenge the dinosaurs of our industry,” said Goodson. “We believe creativity and a commitment to movement marketing is what enables companies to outperform competitors and redefine their categories. We are taking the leap with APCO because they fundamentally understand and respect our philosophy and are dedicated to helping our culture thrive globally.”

Leveraging APCO’s international client portfolio and network, the company plans to use this investment as a springboard to strengthen and expand its global presence. APCO and StrawberryFrog will each continue to serve their own clients while looking to collaborate in new ways that bring next-generation thinking to their diverse client portfolios. Along with its core creative and digital businesses StudioAPCO® and APCO Online®, APCO will bring to bear its proprietary research models and presence in 32 global markets.

Said Kraus: “The world is changing, and so are the needs of clients. Stakeholders are interacting with brands in new and complex ways, wielding real power and measurable influence while significantly raising expectations for companies. Throughout APCO’s 28-year history, we’ve worked to understand the relationships between people, companies and society. Just as we’ve built a leading reputation for helping clients create lasting engagement with diverse stakeholder audiences, StrawberryFrog has developed a proven, innovative movement-marketing approach, which has become an emerging new trend in marketing in the United States and around the world. Together, we can deliver remarkable results.”

StrawberryFrog is known for its global brand-building work for Heineken. Last December, TIME magazine selected StrawberryFrog’s Jim Beam “Bold Choices” advertising as one of the top 10 TV ads of 2011. Other recent award-winning efforts include innovative digital work for Pampers, iPad/iPhone apps for P&G’s “Hello Baby” and acclaimed work for Sabra, Mahindra of India, and for Nanhi Kali.

For more information, please visit

For further information please contact
Elizabeth Wolf | APCO Worldwide
202.778.1470 |

About StrawberryFrog
StrawberryFrog, the world’s first cultural-movement agency, is an independent advertising firm. Launched in 1999, the agency has created award-winning work for Emirates, BlackBerry, Frito-Lay, Google, Pampers, PepsiCo, Heineken, Microsoft, Mitsubishi, Morgan Stanley and Onitsuka Tiger. More information is available

About APCO Worldwide
Founded in 1984, APCO Worldwide is an award-winning, independently owned
global communication, stakeholder-engagement and business-strategy firm with
offices in major cities throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and
Asia. APCO clients include corporations and governments; industry associations
and nonprofit organizations; and six of the top 10 companies on the Fortune 500.
The firm is a majority women-owned business. For more information, please visit

Become an Upriser, Join Uprising

In the world of marketing and advertising, everyone strives for one thing - to stand out from the crowd. But how about instead of separating ourselves, we bring this crowd together? We unite them in a common cause. We share their interests. We ignite their passions. And in doing so, we create a Cultural Movement, which achieves far more than any typical marketing or advertising campaign ever will. Curious? Want to learn more? Then join us. Become an Upriser and be part of something big.

Join Uprising here.

Will ‘Occupy’ Affect This Year’s Christmas Shopping?

By Scott Goodson

Scott is the founder of StrawberryFrog, the world’s first cultural movement agency. His first book, Uprising will be published by McGraw Hill soon.

Christmas gifts.

Here’s a question for you. Do you think a movement like Occupy Wall Street (OWS) can change people’s shopping habits, particularly in the run up to Christmas?

Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, certainly thinks so. She believes that OWS will definitely impact the way Americans buy holiday gifts this year.

She said: “Occupy Wall Street has discouraged the affluent and the aspirational alike from wanting to indulge in conspicuous consumption. If you are in the 1%, you want to go undercover, avoiding extravagant ‘bling.’ If you are not, you want to avoid the appearance of identifying with this much-maligned group of ultra-affluents.”

So if we can forget about over-indulgence this festive season – if people want to appear less greedy – what will they buy instead for their loved ones and in the coming years to follow? Danziger predicts a continued interest in all things practical.

She explained: “Affluents are looking to give gifts of things people really need. Technology fits beautifully in this framework, with great prices and functionality people need in their lives.

“Experiences too have become an attractive gift solution this year, thanks to the many attractive deal-of-the-day offers from Groupon, Living Social and others. These experiences save the gift giver lots of money, all the while maximizing the gift recipient’s pleasure.”

Of course, there aren’t enough facts to suggest that OWS has discouraged shoppers from over-consuming. We’re only second-guessing these changing consumer attitudes instead of basing them on any hard evidence. That’s why Danziger and Unity Marketing are planning to carry out new research next year, looking at the shopping habits of 1,500 people.

If you’d like to support the research, Unity Marketing is looking for sponsors. Simply fill out their New Gifting Study 2012 sponsorship form.

While we wait to see if Danziger’s predictions are right, we can definitely all agree that there has been a shift in people’s buying behavior ever since the global economy went into crisis. Whether that is now coupled with an ever-growing movement against consumerism and greed, we’ve yet to find out.

It certainly seems as though more and more people are ‘making do’ and spending their money on ‘experiences’ or practical things rather than ‘stuff’ they don’t actually need.

So if Danziger is right and this movement continues to take hold with people buying less and less, how can brands jump on the back of it ahead of the holidays? How can they make the most of anti-consumerism attitudes? How can you encourage Christmas shoppers to buy your products when they are buying less?

Movement Marketing, that’s how. Because if brands don’t start to look at the changing, consumer landscape and adapt themselves accordingly, they might struggle to survive in 2012.

Movement Marketing

StrawberryFrog coined the phrase “Movement Marketing” or “Cultural Movements” back in 1999. Forget about ads. Spark a movement instead. Brands today can’t ignore the fact that the marketing landscape has radically altered in favor of movement marketing. There hasn’t just been a shake-up here, there’s been an earthquake.

Why? TV, print and radio have their place, but with the advent of social media and new technologies, everyone is online. Everyone is talking, and sharing. And so the opportunity is there for brands to be part of the conversation.

Cultural Movement marketing seeks to mobilize a brand’s audience via shared brand experiences, towards brand goals that benefit the brand, the consumer and society or culture. This marketing model is fundamentally better suited for today than the traditional purely product-driven USP models of the past.

Because, as I’ve said many times, it doesn’t center on the products. It’s an authentic, genuine sharing of passions between a brand and a customer. Smart brands, like Apple, are already aware of just how powerful this can be and have already radically altered their marketing approach.

Indeed, the StrawberryFrog team – including myself – will be explaining to marketing enthusiasts just how Cultural Movements are devised, created and launched in a dedicated workshop at the forthcoming Cannes Lions festival (19-25 June).

There’s no doubt Cultural Movement marketing is still ‘new’ to many. And so we aim to teach professionals of the future why it’s so important in these times that brands start the conversation and spark a movement. And why dollars spent on movement marketing work harder and achieve better results than traditional avenues. Because let’s not forget that thanks to the internet, mobile technology and social media, the whole world is your audience.

And if you get movement marketing right, there are potentially millions of people who will be ripe and ready to hear what your brand has to say. Who actively want to become part of it, a ready-made army of loyal brand advocates who encourage others to follow suit.

Sounds too good to be true? Welcome to the new age of marketing.

By Scott Goodson, Founder of StrawberryFrog


By Heather LeFevre, Head of Strategy StrawberryFrog Amsterdam

I discovered juicing this year when Diego Zambrano decided to go on a 60 day juice fast and mark his progress on this blog.

Now, I only know Diego through twitter, but I would say about half of his tweets are about bacon and other pork recipes he enjoys. So I was intrigued to find out what instigated such a project. It turns out, a man died of a heart attack on his long-haul flight and a friend of his nearly died the same day of heart complications. Then he watched a couple of documentaries and decided to try the juice fast.

If you wanted to understand his reasoning, he explained, you had to watch Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. Curious, I watched the film. And though I didn’t decide to fast, I too started drinking fresh vegetable juices and urging my friends to watch the film and have juice with me. I started a mini-movement in our StrawberryFrog office.

Suddenly everyone was popping into the local juice shops during lunch. One of the options near my office is a fresh juice shop in Amsterdam called Frood. They have a second location near my house so I became a frequent customer. Sadly, they have just gone out of business last week. They had posted a sign that they were looking to sell the business, and for a moment I thought about it. Why? Because I am truly passionate about juicing. I believe in it. I believe that you can get far more vitamins into your body from juice than you could ever eat on your plate. That the nutrients I get has changed the way I feel and I can see it in my skin when I drink it consistently.

I imagined myself replacing the disinterested girls behind the counter and making every customer a fan of juicing, spreading the good word around down. I thought about how I would market the shop. In addition to all the social presence they lack, I envisioned putting 50 or 100 copies of the documentary in mailboxes in the neighborhood. Return the DVD to the shop for a free juice. Then repeat. I’m convinced I would have saved that business. If only I wanted to own a juice shop. But that is what starts a movement. True, authentic, passionate belief that others can buy. Because as we’ve learned from Simon Sinek, people don’t buy WHAT we do, they buy WHY we do it. It’s not about what or even how you do something differently. It’s about dedicating your brand to a purpose and never deviating from it.

Read more on Uprising.

Who’s Profiting From The Occupy Wall Street Movement?

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Whether OWS will ultimately have an impact on the issue of income inequality is hard to say. But one thing it has already achieved is to awaken in people to the power of movements. I believe many who’ve watched what transpired in Zucotti Park can’t help wondering, How can I be part of something like that? Or, Could I possibly help start something like that, based around an issue that matters deeply to me?

Among those asking this question will be activists, educators, politicians, community leaders, tech innovators, artists, concerned citizens—and business people.

That last group may seem out of place at the march. What does business have to do with movements? Aren’t movements such as OWS against business? Aren’t movements supposed to be about noble causes and higher purposes—as opposed to selling stuff?

Those are great questions that I’ll tackle in my upcoming book. I expect that when I’m done, some will still feel that business has no business getting involved with movements.

But here’s what I think. Movements—at least, the kind of movements that gather around positive, creative, dynamic ideas—can help build a better, fairer, more sustainable, and more interesting world.


Sometimes you can cross the line. It is matter of taste. When brands seem to be capitalizing where they should not be they may face a huge backlash. For example, on Friday, as I jaunted past the Body Shop enroute to Grand Central, I heard the store clerks bellowing out “Occupy Body Shop and get a 20% discount”. The place was hoping with styling and profiling execs and upwardly mobile office managers. Most of them leaving with socially acceptable cosmetics under the feel-good vibe of somehow being connected to the movement happening several blocks downtown. Outside others looked on in disgust at the frenzy inside.

I proceeded down Lexington, entered a packed terminal and hopped the train for home. Once onboard I checked out my 360 News App and read on Business Insider that Jay-Z plans a line of street wear, namely a T-Shirt blazoned with “Occupy All Streets” for profit through his Rocawear clothing line on sale now on his website. Business Insider said there were no plans to distribute any of the money generated from this to Occupy Wall Street Movement. Since this Insider post appeared rumors on the web suggest Jay-Z may be abandoning this idea after a major backlash of social media criticism.

 imageThere are surely others out there planning to market to and capitalize off the 99% like Daryl K who framed their sale after OWS (pictured here). And, most likely, over the coming days and months ahead many more will try the same. Perhaps a socially minded bedding company can market a line of comforters that when you buy one, another keep warm duvet will be donated to the activists chilling down in Zucotti Park.

Which brings me to one last point, aligning with a movement on the rise is in itself not necessarily wrong. It’s how you do it. Tom Shoes for example sells shoes and makes a profit, but in the process he helps impoverished children who have nothing to wear. In the end movement marketing gets results, but it’s got to have taste, authenticity and help to make a difference.

Scott Goodson is founder of cultural movement agency StrawberryFrog and frequent writer for Forbes and the HBR Blog. His first book Uprising will be published by McGraw Hill soon.

The Movement is the Medium

Originally published in Forbes

By Scott Goodson, Chairman of StrawberryFrog

There’s a movement gathering steam in the marketing world right now and, funnily enough, it has to do with… movements.

Large marketers like Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo recently have begun to shift some of their marketing focus to try to find ways to connect with cultural movements that are happening around the country and all over the world. Companies based outside the US, such as India’s fast-rising Mahindra Group, are also picking up on this trend. These companies are developing strategies and campaigns that are designed to go way beyond traditional advertising in terms of connecting with groups of people and their particular passions. The approach usually involves trying to identify an idea that is important to people, one that is on the rise in culture and that folks are uniting and gathering around. Then the company or brand must figure out how to be an authentic part of the movement as it grows and builds (usually from a grassroots level) around that particular idea.

Case in point: Last week the smart (car) sparked a new Cultural Movement “Against Dumb”, inspiring millions of Americans to fight against mindless over consumption.

In the past few years, I’ve become convinced that this type of “movement marketing” is the new way forward for anyone trying to gain market share and earn customer loyalty. Beyond that, I think it can provide a way for business to connect more deeply with culture, address social issues, get close to customers and their deepest interests, and maybe even be part of something worthwhile and important.

All of this probably raises a few questions, such as: How exactly do you define a “cultural movement?” And considering that people have been starting movements of one kind or another for eons, why should this suddenly be relevant to business now? And by the way, aren’t popular uprisings and groundswells things that happen spontaneously—separate from the realm of business? Aren’t they beyond our influence or control?

Let me start with the basic definition of cultural movements, at least as I use the term. It involves a likeminded group of people banding together around a shared idea or passion, and usually trying to bring about some type of change. The do-it-yourself crafties who belong to Etsy are part of a movement. The purists who are devoted to Apple and try to get all their friends to switch from PCs? They’re part of a movement. So are the people protecting animals in various ways. Or those who are pushing for open innovation. Or Christian rockers. Or Tea Partiers. Or those quirky “Steam-punk” people who dress in Victorian garb but love modern gadgetry. And the list goes on: For almost every passion you can think of there is a movement.

And while the notion of people forming movements is not new, this proliferation of mini-movements is something new—fueled by changes in media. The Internet, and in particular the rise of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, has made it incredibly easy to find and connect with likeminded souls. And this same technology makes it possible for a group, once formed, to organize, plan, and take action.

But there are also social reasons why movements are on the rise. While people are more connected in one sense, they’re also more disconnected—from neighbors and from the some of the traditional community hubs of yesteryear. Moreover, people seem to be looking for meaning and purpose in a world that has become increasingly turbulent and unsettling. Bob Johansen, one of the top brains at the Institute for the Future think-tank, predicts that as the world continues to get more volatile and complex in the years ahead, “we can expect movements to become increasingly important.”

As to the notion that movements happen spontaneously and that business has no role to play in them, it’s true and it isn’t. Movements definitely can be sparked or encouraged. My agency StrawberryFrog has been involved in starting a number of them in the recent past: For example, for Pfizer, we quietly seeded a “Boomer Coalition” movement that rallied Baby Boomers around fighting cardiovascular disease. We’ve done other movements for everything Frito-Lay snack foods to Pampers diapers.

The key for marketers who want to ride this wave is that they have to stop talking about themselves and their products, and start listening to what people are talking about and are passionate about. When you identify that big idea you want to align your brand with, it should be one that fits your corporate identity and values—an idea you can really believe in without being phony about it. Anand Mahindra, who heads the Mahindra Group and has started using movement marketing for various products, says: “I think if you’re going to tap into a movement, you need authenticity—you are either credible as a member and standard bearer of that movement, or you’re not.”

You also have to figure out what people need to really make that movement go—and help provide it for them. That may involve curating culture for them, providing content and/or expertise, or perhaps giving them a platform where they can more easily organize and build a community. This new model of marketing is primarily built around listening, sharing, facilitating: If you do that, people will trust you enough to let you be a part of their cultural movement.

And when that happens, your brand will have earned the kind of respect and credibility with these people that advertising just can’t get you. Your message will be shared among people who trust and listen to one another a lot more than they trust commercials. This is why I believe that increasingly, in the future, the movement will be the medium.

FORBES: Why smart (the car) wants Americans to be “against dumb”

"Against Dumb"

Against Dumb
By ELAINE WONG, Forbes Magazine, November 5, 2010

Let’s face it. Americans are guilty of overconsumption. We buy everything from SUVs to homes we cannot afford to even that extra pillow or blanket when one would’ve been enough. Smart, that ultra tiny, fuel efficient car brand, today kicked off an initiative (it hopes) will staunch some of that overzealous buying. Its Facebook page now has a full length “against dumb” manifestation which lists the principles of, well, exactly that. (StrawberryFrog is the agency.) Some excerpts: “Dumb is Venti when Tall is plenty.” And another: “Dumb is eating anything bigger than your head.” Yikes!

Kim McGill, smart’s vp-marketing, advertising, said the effort is really a “movement” aimed at reinforcing the brand’s relevance in a post fuel-prices-are-skyrocketing economy. While driving a smart—or fuel efficient vehicle—may have been a “smart” (no pun intended) move for most Americans in tough times, now many consumers are going back to their normal buying habits. Call it whatever you want, but initiatives like these are essentially a marketing plug for its brand—and McGill acknowledges that—but this might just be what the nation needs to keep its voracious appetite in check.

McGill spoke with Forbes this morning about how smart is tapping viral videos and word of mouth influencers to get this initiative sweeping across the country.

Forbes: What’s this new “smart” initiative you’re kicking off? And what prompted it?

We are not calling it a campaign. We’re calling it a social media initiative. Smart still remains the epitome of efficiency—whether it’s fuel, materials or space—but as we looked at a number of things about the brand, [consumers’ perceptions of it had changed.] When the brand first launched in the U.S. and fuel prices were $4 a gallon, everyone got it. But now that fuel prices have gone down, America is back to what we like to do, which is “bigger and better” [when it comes to buying] and all that. And people are saying, “I don’t know if I really need a car like this anymore.” And so, we wanted to [address that] in the context of a humorous [movement.]

Forbes: Why rally against overconsumption?

We all have junk drawers. We’ve got attics that are full of stuff. And it’s really around this idea of how much stuff we surround ourselves with that bogs us down and keeps us from being free to do what we need to do. Should we have two SUVs in the garage? Or should our other car be something more nimble and small that we can use 95 percent of the time?

Forbes: Okay.  So moderation is key, essentially. Why do you think this message is especially relevant now?

We see all these ads now as we get into the holiday season. People are overextending their credit cards, they’re losing their homes. It’s like, why did we buy all of this stuff? Did it really make us happy? How happy am I that I have all this junk? It’s like [one consumer telling us] she wasn’t sure if it was worth it to pay $2,000 to put her stuff in Public Storage.

Forbes: Not to stretch it, but industry groups have launched campaigns rallying against the dangers of over-consuming junk food or paper. How original is this message?

I don’t know that it’s so original. The idea is the conversation is going on, so we thought we would stoke it a bit more. Let’s talk about it, let’s put our brand relevance around it. It’s not so much against overconsumption, but the mindless things we do.

Forbes: We’re all guilty of overconsumption.

Yes. Here’s an example. I’m a very passionate, high-end, amateur photographer. Every time I’m standing on the sidelines of a sports event and see professionals with their huge lens, I say, “I want one.” Two years ago, I might have actually bought a $7,500 lens. But today, I may be a little more conscious of what I buy. I’ve gotten more creative and realize that I don’t need to buy one. I can rent one. You’ll see us emphasize that, too, with “against dumb.” It’s “Buy what you need most of the time and rent what you need occasionally.”

Forbes: It’s not just the hoarders or shopaholics you’re targeting, is it?

It spans all demographics. There are some people who naturally say, “I don’t need to have everything. Buying more and more material goods is not going to make me happy. In fact, it’s a burden because I can’t be free to move as I want to.” And that [last bit] might relate more to the younger generation, who is always thinking about, “I’ve got to be free to move across the country. If a job opens up, I have to be free to go.” For the older generation, you work really hard at accumulating things and there comes a point in time when you say, “I am not really happy with all this stuff.”

Forbes: How are you getting the word out?

We have two street teams we are running full time in the marketplace right now. We might stoke something around the LA Auto Show. That show is right in the middle of November, right before Black Friday. We also have viral videos and we’re looking at some Web sites and blogs where this conversation is already happening.

Forbes: Why humor? Does it fit the brand? And don’t you think the message, even if it’s delivered in a funny way, is still a bit, er, harsh?

Smart was a serious solution for the problem of urban congestion, but the brand is very lighthearted. Look at it. It doesn’t look serious…You can’t get this in a brand that is about challenging the norm. We’re not something you’d necessarily see on the road, and so we wanted to do this in a fun kind of way, whether you’re smiling with us or at us.

[Plus,] we’re not trying to preach to people to downsize to the max. We all do it. We all have drawers and attics full of junk.

Forbes: The “movement’s”  effectiveness ultimately hinges on getting more people to consider smart. So how are you measuring success?

If it makes people just think about it, that will be a success. Because right now, we get so caught up in our habits and thinking about that “what if” time where we’ll need something big. We need to get people thinking of buying not for that one time, but buying for what we need most of the time. If we can get more people talking in that direction, it will be nothing but positive for this brand.

Marketers Hope Cultural Movements Build Cult Brands

From Forbes today:

By Melanie Wells

A few years back shoe designer Manolo Blahnik, pausing to consider the craze over his expensive designer footwear, confessed to me: “Sometimes I’m not able to understand all this madness and love.”

I spoke to Blahnik for a cover story I was writing for Forbes about cult brands. For that same story I spent time with Mazda Miata fanatics and chatted with mild-mannered executives who took on Harley-Davidson’s hell-raising image on weekends. Then, as now, there were many Apple enthusiasts to interview. But then, unlike now, most companies didn’t set out to attract cult-like followings. The cult thing happened most often when brands attracted fans and followers because of a basic baked-in promise.

Today, companies are trying to create die-hard fans and followers by harnessing or engineering cultural movements. PepsiCo wants to appeal to entrepreneurial do-gooders with its Pepsi Refesh effort. Kimberly Clark wants to take the stigma out of menstruation in honest ads for its feminine hygiene products. Clif Bar & Co., which markets its snack bars to outdoorsy, environmentally minded outdoorsy people donates money to wind farms, powers vans with biodiesel and encourages employees to volunteer for good causes.

Scott Goodson, the founder and chairman of ad shop StrawberryFrog says there will be many more “cultural movement marketing” efforts to come. He happens to think that connecting with consumers who are passionate about recycling, cleaning up the ocean, fighting a disease or something else is a powerful way for companies to entice them into becoming brand fans.

“The approach usually involves trying to identify an idea on the rise in culture, that is important to people and that folks are uniting and gathering around. Then the company or brand must figure out how to be an authentic part of the movement as it grows and builds, usually from a grassroots level, around that particular idea,” says Goodson, whose independent agency is working on a cultural movement effort for Emirates Airline. 

Goodson’s agency created a campaign for Frito-Lay’s True North snacks that included ads and Web videos featuring Baby Boomers finding their passions in life. For Pfizer, the agency quietly created a movement that encouraged people to join in to raise awareness of and fight cardiovascular disease.

Social media tools, fragmented media, and a need for disconnected people to find meaning in an increasingly turbulent and unsettling world guarantees more such movement campaigns, says Goodson.

Can movement marketing really move the needle when it comes to sales?

“The key for marketers who want to ride this wave is that they have to stop talking about themselves and their products and start listening to what people are talking about and are passionate about,” Goodson says. “When you identify that big idea you want to align your brand with, it should be one that fits your corporate identity and values—an idea you can believe in without being phony about it.”

What do you think? Can efforts like these contribute to the kind of enduring brand lust that keeps Apple and Harley fans addicted?