Posts Tagged 'Umair Haque'


The first day of the BRITE conference up at Columbia University was a series of 25 minute presentations on 4 groups of themes.  The speakers were from a wide range of companies, large and small, including: SAP, Linked In, Clickable, Wired, Boxee, Bravo, Edelman and Citibank.

Some ideas that were raised at the conference that I found to be notable:

First of all, not once during the day did anyone use the phrase “brand positioning.”  That was refreshing.

Max Kalehoff of Clickable observed that in the current economic crisis, “Brands are more important than ever before.”  He went on to discuss the conundrum of how companies are now cutting back on their spending behind branding.   He also brought forth a fact I had not know before, which is that search accounts for about 1/2 of online advertising.  And the % is rising. 

Kalehoff also made a point of saying that companies are moving away from “brand advertising” and towards “goal-based advertising.”  After listening to his clarification during the Q&A session, I came to the conclusion that he raises a false dichotomy.  The best advertising is both “brand” and “goal-based” at the same time.  It is not a trade-off.  Perhaps he was simply making the observation that some advertisers — or agencies — are making a distinction between one and the other instead of doing both together.

Professor Sanjay Sood of UCLA made the very cogent observation that there are many pieces of branding tools such as Brand Mantra, Brand DNA, Brand Soul and so forth that just don’t all fit together.  

He was looking at branding from the movie business perspective — how do the studios build excitement and interest in the movies in the time leading up to the release date.  It was a perspective on branding that I had not heard before.  And the examples that he provided are a refreshing break from the usual Google, Apple, Nike case studies that we have all heard so often and seen used to support many, many different viewpoints.  He said that “the Power of Storytelling” is the one think that companies can own and manage.  From his own research this is particularly important for word of mouth.

He also discussed the importance of crafting the brand mythology, the creation story or backstory of the brand.  It doesn’t have to be found in the product itself but can be found online or in some portions of the communications.  

Lisa Hsia of Bravo spent a lot of time discussing the struggles that “old” media companies are having integrating with new media.  She provided some examples of how Bravo is doing this successfully where viewers are both online and watching a program at the same time, then continuing their discussion about the show and characters later.  

Jeff Howe of Wired gave his presentation on Crowdsourcing, a term which he coined for an article in Wired and which is now a new book.  He began his talk with a brief and very entertaining video that you can see by clicking on the link or going to YouTube.  

Mark Yolton of SAP began his presentation by discussing the ways SAP has begun to provide ways for their community of users to connect with the people inside of the company.  It was forcing a cultural change within SAP, according to Yolton.  In a follow-up conversation I had with him, he discussed some of the challenges internally of such an opening up of the company to the outside community.  Traditionally marketing and sales were the main points of contact with customers.  Now many parts of the organization have direct connections to customers, requiring a whole new set of internal behaviors and coordination.  It raised a number of questions such as who “owns” the brand in such a world?  And how do companies overcome the organizational silos?

Umair Haque gave a presentation which, frankly, I could not comprehend.  He was talking about something called “thin value” and “fat value.”  In my own semi-informed opinion — as someone who spent years studying economics — Haque’s economic understanding of the current world crisis was a bit shaky.  He calls it the “great compression.”  Clever term but not particularly illuminating. 

But he did have a very cool presentation tool that you can get from  I warn you, it is not for those of us who suffer from motion sickness!

For someone who posits himself as driving radical innovation, and critiquing 20th Century capitalism, he has a peculiar gap  the core ideas of that biggest radical of all, Karl Marx.  When asked by a member of the audience how his ideas are different from “dialectical materialism” Haque confessed to being unfamiliar with the phrase or ideas behind it.  You can judge for yourself if Haque is brilliant or simply bullshit by going to his blog. Perhaps he is both simultaneously?

These were my highlights of Day One, along with meeting some very wonderful people attending the conference and seeing some old acquaintances. Tomorrow I’ll debrief on Day Two.  

For those of you who want to attend next year but are on a budget, a friend gave me the tip that volunteering for a couple of hours at the conference will get you free admission.

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