In the Fall of 2007, I taught a graduate course in MIT - Technology-based Business Transformation. The course focused on the major challenges that a business must deal with to successfully bring a disruptive innovation to market, including technical and market strategies as well as organizational and cultural issues. The course drew heavily on my concrete experiences at IBM, especially what I learned as general manager of the Internet Division in the second half of the 1990s.
Within the limits of a one-semester course, I wanted to give the students a fairly comprehensive picture of what it takes to bring a disruptive innovation to market, including the key role played by marketing and communications. I wanted the class to hear from a top professional in the field what brand and strategic marketing are all about, so I invited Chris Wall, - Vice Chairman of Ogilvy and Mather, one of the top marketing and advertising agencies in the world, - to be a guest lecturer in the class. For a number of years, I worked closely with Chris and his O&M colleagues in the development of marketing campaigns for IBM initiatives I was leading. These included the award-winning e-business campaign launched in 1997, - which explained what we meant by e-business in a series of really clever 30 second vignettes, - and the Linux campaign a few years later which included this incredible ad.
In his excellent class seminar, Chris explained the difference between trying to establish a brand through mindless jingles or paternalistic assertions that no one believes, versus engaging your audience in a conversation about the future. To engage in such a conversation, you need to essentially tell a story about your aspirations for the brand and how these aspirations are driving your strategy. And, the more powerful and complex the messages you are trying to convey, the more important it is to do so by telling a compelling, emotionally resonant and simple story.
Chris and I became friends, and over the years he has shared with me some of the marketing campaigns he’s worked on that he is particularly proud of. A couple of weeks ago he sent me an e-mail telling me about his latest project with a small foundation, Building for America’s Bravest. Chris and a few of his Ogilvy colleagues created the integrated marketing campaign for the foundation, including its website, ourbravest.org which has just gone live, and includes a few short video clips along with pictures and stories.
I was frankly left speechless by ourbravest.org. Compelling and emotionally resonant does not begin to do justice to its content. The video clips and pictures truly grab you by the throat, or rather, by the heart. I cannot possibly describe them in words, so please take a look and judge for yourself.