Scott Goodson on Creativity as a Strategic Advantage

You need something like a slap in the face — it’s not enough to do philosophical soft messaging.”  With this point of view on the kind of creative advertising needed today — and other similarly provocative insights — Scott Goodson joins me to talk about creativity as a strategic advantage.  Scott is the founder and chairman of the global marketing and advertising agency StrawberryFrog, whose clients have included Heineken, Jim Beam, Emirates Airline and Mahindra.  Scott is also the author of the book, “Uprising: How to Build A Brand And Change The World By Sparking Cultural Movements.Scott Goodson headshot

Listen to Scott talk about:

  • how great creative raises a controversy and then solves it
  • how to make a “boring” category like salad dressing sexy
  • how to use reactions to create relationships
  • and more…

other interviews:


Denise: Hello. This is Denise Yohn, and welcome to the Brand-as-Business Bites podcast. The Brand-as-Business Bites podcast gives you a taste of insights and information about brands, businesses, and the people who work on them. It’s available on iTunes. For more stuff for your brain to chew on, please visit my website at deniseleeyohn.com.

Hello. Today to share with us a unique perspective on creativity is Scott Goodson, founder and chairman of the global marketing and advertising agency StrawberryFrog. StrawberryFrog’s clients have included, Heineken, Jim Beam, Emirates Airline, and Mahindra. Scott is also the author of the book, Uprising; How to Build a Brand and Change the World by Sparking Cultural Movements. I’ve known Scott many years and had him speak to us several years ago about cultural movements. So, I wanted to him back for another conversation to build on those ideas. So, welcome Scott.

Scott: Thank you very much, Denise. I very much appreciate being back on your show.

Denise: Well, when we were exchanging ideas the other day, you shared with me a different perspective on creativity and you said, “Creative excellence as a strategic advantage.” What did you mean by that?

Scott: Well, I think the main point is in today’s world is we’re flooded by ideas and creative ways of expressing those ideas everyday. I mean, ten years ago you had creativity and even at that point it was overwhelming with information coming from traditional media. But now, with digital, it’s pouring out of every possible device and hole in the wall. So, for brands and organizations, or individuals, to succeed in today’s world they really have to have an idea that they stand for and that idea has to be expressed creatively in order to break through what I call “the wall of indifference”. The wall of indifference is getting thicker, and higher, and wider, and I think there’s a way of thinking about creativity today that may not have been as relevant in the past. Which we’ll talk about in a moment, and has to do with creating a reaction in order to build that relationship.

Denise: Okay. Before we go there, let’s talk about this wall of indifference just for a moment. Is it just a matter of increasing noise or is there a change in attitude? Like, maybe a greater skepticism or something else that is contributing to this wall of indifference?

Scott: I think the wall of indifference is created because of the mass of information that is out there and the tension that every brand and every company is trying to get for themselves. So, people have built these walls around them where they’re only letting in certain types of messaging. In order to breach that wall, and those walls in the past were there, but now they’re so thick and so high. Particularly, with younger people that are just so inundated with messaging.

When I talked about a strategic advantage, you’ve got to really think hard about how you break through to the consumer. I think the way you do that is somewhat controversial. You need to create somewhat of a controversy in the mind of the individual, your audience, in order to build that relationship. So, when I talk about a reaction, it’s almost like you’ve got to slap somebody in the face. If you think about a love affair where a man and a woman meet each other,  the classic Hollywood movie where they see each other she say’s, “I will never marry you.” He say’s, “I will never marry you.” She slaps him in the face, then they fall in love.

It’s a bit like that where you’ve got to create that reaction by having some of a controversy. There’s some great examples of brands that have done that recently that are worth looking at in order for brands to emulate them to succeed in today’s world. It’s not enough just to have soft, philosophical messaging. It’s going to be really hard and really expensive to break through to consumers. You’ve got to spark some of the controversy that’s going to earn the respect of the audience and as a result of that start building that relationship and engagement that you’ll have in social media.

Scott: So, if you want I can give you some examples of trends that I think are doing that.

Denise: Exactly. Yes.

Scott: Okay. So, I think there’s a lot of great examples out there.

One in particular, which I love, is the one for Chipotle which is the first fast food restaurant to challenge the way food is made and where it comes from. Factory farming versus free range. No other fast food has done that. Quite the opposite, the others are trying to portray an image of everything is beautiful and happy. This brand came in there and did the complete opposite and it created a lot of controversy because they exposed a lot of contentious stuff that goes on inside the fast food industry.

That’s pissing off a lot of other fast food places, but they’ve generated a massive following now. I think that’s a great example of the kind of controversy that brands need to enter into because you raise the controversy and then you solve it, and when you solve it, you generate fans. So, I think that’s one great example.

Another example I think that’s relevant is Kraft Vinaigrette salad dressing. Here you have Kraft salad dressing, pretty boring, pretty uninteresting, and they created this campaign called Mister Zesty. It’s a bare, buff, very handsome guy who represents the salad dressing and he obviously is very sexy. He is appealing to moms out there who are buying salad dressing for their family, and it’s pretty controversial. Obviously, right? It’s one thing to have a bare chested, good looking guy who’s selling waxing, or maybe fashion, but to sell salad dressing? What’s the connection?

But the connection is that the audience loves it and they can’t get enough of it and again they manage to generate a massive following. There are a lot of examples of brands of other brands that have done similar type of work obviously. Old Spice did the same type of thing where they took a man and they took his shirt off, and he appealed not only to men by challenging their manlihood, but he also appealed to all the wives, and the girlfriends, and the mothers out there. So, I think those are good examples of controversial creative that breaks through and build that relationship. So, think of reaction relation. If you don’t get that reaction it’s very hard to build that relationship.

Another example is, I think, Samsung in the United States. Where they very particularly, very specific in the United States because Samsung doesn’t do the same advertising outside the US, if you compare Samsung with Blackberry or other mobile phone manufacturers, here’s a  brand that understood that the technology is very difficult, very complicated for the average user to discern. So, what they did was they instead were very controversial and took a page right out of Apple, who by the way took a page out of Nike, and Nike took a page out the VW in the ’50s, and they basically repositioned the establishment.

So, Samsung started off by, if you remember, there was the television commercial that showcased a lineup outside of an Apple store. And one young dude was standing in line and his friend came up and said “Dude, what are you doing in line?” And he said, “I’m keeping the place for my father,” and in that one ad they commissioned Apple as the brand of my parent’s generation and they created a role for the brand and a fan base.

That has now been the voice of the brand across, I don’t know, 50 different television commercials?  So, they’ve done a really great job of I think being controversial and as a result of that creating a  reaction, and as a result, building a relationship with a new generation of technology mobile phone buyers. In the same light, is Audi. Audi, which was by far, the least successful of the premium luxury car  companies behind Mercedes, and Lexus, and all the others, and they did the same strategy as Samsung where they depositioned Mercedes and Lexus as brands that were out of date. And instead, introduced new motivations, a brand that was relevant for a new generation, and they created a reaction and build a relationship with a new generation of car buyers. As a result, has established Audi as a brand that feels right.

I think the learnings of all those brands are really relevant. Here at StrawberryFrog, we’re working on a couple of brands where we’re following the same example. One brand that we created for, which is the global airline brand Emirates and the TV branding campaign that ran in the US and across the world was creativity that said that, this is a matter of Airline conglomerates, and the messaging was the world should come together, and we’re all one world, and we’re all connected, and let’s make the world smaller because we need to overcome misconceptions and misunderstandings. That was a pretty big idea and created a lot of reaction from an airline that’s headquarters are based in Middle East.

Closer to home, we built a brand called the European Wax Center and we’ve been doing these huge, spectacular billboards that are very provocative that show off gorgeous skin because that’s what you get you go to European Wax Center and they just show images of beautiful gorgeous skin. But when you put them up 70 feet or 100 feet high and 60 feet wide it can create a lot of reaction. These are images that you see everyday in Elle, and Vogue, but when you do them as huge, spectacular, outdoor boards, and you have messaging on them that say things like “Skin that is instantly Instagram-able” you get a lot of reactions. Again, that approach to creating a reaction in order to build a relationship is used in that case as well.

Denise: Okay. So, let me as you to take us behind that example and help us understand. If you want to develop these kinds of creative ideas, what are some of the tools or methods? So, how did you come up with that particular idea? What was the process or the thinking?

Scott: I think in each case it’s very different. You need to have a real good understanding of culture and how culture’s changing. Right? So, I think in today’s world, women are much more confident about themselves. Younger woman are confident about themselves, I shouldn’t say younger woman, but youthful woman are confident about themselves in ways that maybe woman weren’t as confident in the past.

The idea of objectifying woman, if you were to use a sexy photograph of a woman to market an electric drill, that would probably be in bad taste, or some other product that was not relevant. But if your marketing gorgeous skin you have a relevant message and we’re saying instead of putting creams, and makeup, and cosmetics, and all that stuff onto your body there’s another better way to have gorgeous skin, and that is European Wax Center. A pain free, beautiful experience and you’ll have beautiful skin.

What we saw when we talked to consumers was that woman are much more confident today. They feel confident about brands like H&M that showcase beautiful woman on billboards. Sure there’s some people that will always be challenging that point of view, but today woman are more about the stride of pride and less of the walk of shame. They’re not afraid of being a modern woman and knowing their femininity and being confident with that.

So, this brand is all about that. This brand is about putting beautiful gorgeous skin on huge, spectacular, outdoor boards and saying this is the new beauty. This is aspirational and it’s something you should look into because you don’t need to follow the old ways of beauty which are covering yourself with layers of cosmetics and things like that. You can now have beauty that’s attainable and accessible with a lesser cost and you can feel incredibly great about yourself in the process. It’s almost like going to a spa.

Denise: Let me actually wrap up with one final question. I again want to go back to the process a little bit because you talked about understanding culture and how culture is changing and you talked about talking with consumers and so last question would be, what is the role of consumers and talking to consumers in the creative process? If you could just give me a 30 second answer on that and then we’ll wrap up.

Scott:   I think insight into culture is critical. In the past we used to look for insights into usage of products. Now, it’s about insights into culture. Where are their insights that are directly related to a wide group of consumers that are relevant to your brand that in some way can connect with your brand? It doesn’t have to connect just in terms of product or usage.

So, you could find, I’m sure, a connection between Mr. Zesty and salad dressings from Kraft. You can find cultural connection between a modern woman and the EuropeanWaxCenter brand. You can also find it with Samsung and its audience. You need to start with the insights in culture and among the consumers that you want and get them to rally around your brand, and not starting with the product.

Denise: Okay. Great. Well, that’s a great word. Thank you so much for sharing Scott. For my listeners, if you are interested in learning more about Scott or connecting with him directly, a couple of ways you can do that you can follow him on Twitter. His handle is @Scottfrog. He also has a website, that’s goodsononmarketing.com and he also writes great columns for Forbes and Huffington Post that I recommend you check out. And, of course, you can always check out his agency StrawberryFrog as well. Scott, thanks again for sharing your thoughts and creativity. You’ve given me a lot to think about and I know that my listeners appreciate hearing from you.

Scott:   I love every time I am with you and I appreciate the time. It’s been a lot of fun. Thank you very much.

Denise: All right. Thanks Scott. Talk to you soon. Bye-bye. That’s it for today. Thanks for listening to the Brand-as-Business Bites podcast. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes so your brain will always be filled with good stuff to chew on. For more information or to contact me directly, please visit my website at deniseleeyohn.com. Take care, and thanks again.

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