Building a brand in today’s hyper-connected, consumer-driven era means two things. First,more than ever before, brands need to own their POV and stay focused. Second, your company has the ability to rise, commute, work, dine, drink and go to bed with your customer; never before has this intimacy been possible. What you do with that relationship determines success or failure.

Kirkpatrick: We’re going to have someone who is another dynamic young woman, Constance DeCherney, who is a marketer, who’s going to talk about how business can really take advantage of some of these new trends. Because we’re also a business conference. She’s going to talk about branding. Detroit has a great and growing brand and her iCrossing Collaboratory, which is a new, New York organization that she runs, is doing some really fascinating things. Constance, please come on out.

DeCherney: Thanks. As David mentioned I work at an ad agency in New York that’s all digital, owned by the Hearst Corporation. And I lead a practice called the Collaboratory, which is designed to bring brands and startups together. That’s why I’m here, although today I’m not going to talk about that. I’m going to talk about brand building.

Today you’re connected to brands before you wake up by your alarm clock. You’re connected to brands as you’re ordering coffee, as you’re starting your car, as you’re going along your commute listening to Spotify or iTunes, or whatever it is, and throughout your day. Then as you’re going to dinner you’re getting into a branded car or an Uber, and then as you’re getting into bed you’re informing your sleep cycle with yet another brand. This constant connectivity is utility, often misinterpreted or mistaken for intimacy. I want to talk about a wearable.

It wanted to be with you throughout your day. It wanted to be your committed brand. It wanted to be the most powerful experience in your life. And that was kind of strange 22 years ago when—I think we’re having some technical difficulties here—22 years ago when your only chance for connectivity throughout your day was not your iPhone, it was not your computer, or your laptop, or your Jawbone, or whatever your wearables might be today. It was in fact, something you might have worn on your body.

[VIDEO] Shouts goes out to my man Calvin Klein. Good looking out for the drawers. Not saying I would do another Fruit of the Loom commercial or nuttin’ like that, cuz they don’t make the hype shorts. These are the ‘90s man. They just fit good and they hold me snug. So, if I’m about to go get some skins, I’m not gonna put on no, like, silk underwear. Oh she got freckles. Next question. The best protection against AIDS is to keep your Calvins on. Now that could definitely come between me and my Calvins. Do you have Calvin Klein underwear on?


DeCherney: That’s more laughs than anyone’s gotten all day so I’ll take that [laughs]. So, that spot aired in 1992, twenty-two years ago. It hit on a couple of things that are really important today in brand building that really resonate with me. I’m going to argue for the next six minutes that the essence of brand building is intimacy. How we’re going to define intimacy today is among brand and marketing principles that we’ve used for a long time with a new modern twist.

Intimacy today is commitment, passion, empathy, and vanity. People always cringe when I say vanity, but let me just define it as something you’re proud of, that you have a badge of honor to represent or share. So, Calvin Klein, his intimacy was defined by a commitment to quality in his product, a passion for individuality, empathy towards the national and worldwide AIDS crisis in that moment of time. And the vanity was defined by masculinity and femininity.

Those principles exist on a continuum just like, I would argue, every brand in America and in the world. And that continuum looks like this; neutrality to intimacy, and it’s our job to find the sweet spot for every brand. It may not be all the way to the right. You may be familiar with a brand called American Apparel. They’re a little too intimate in their advertising, in their brand, and that’s not going to be right for Tesla or Ford Motors. So, the objective and the argument that I would make is not to go all the way to the right all the time. This is not a linear objective. But rather to find your sweet spot and to define what your commitment is, what your passion is, where your empathy lies, and what your vanity will be defined by. Just two quick examples of brands that are going to be with us today at 2:15 for a brand building workshop, Shinola and Uber.

Shinola is what I would call a lifestyle brand. They exist among a competitive set that you may or may not know as being local to Detroit and global. They’re opening in London in late October. What I see here is Shinola, probably pretty much in the center, and I would define their sweet spot by their commitment to craftsmanship, their passion for America and American-made products, but also representing that that craftsmanship could expand as they expand globally. Empathy for form and function; it has to work, it has to be the absolute best product in the market in the category, and it has to look really, really good. And the vanity is defined by scarcity. When it comes to Shinola you’re getting a product that doesn’t exist at Target, it doesn’t exist at L. L. Bean, and the competitors where they sit are among a consumer who has a value for something that is rare, unique, and iconic.

We can’t be in Motor City without talking about transportation. These are all brands that represent companies that move people. The New York MTA, which is the subway system, moves millions of people every day from point A to point B and then you can see all the way along the continuum here. Uber, who’s going to be with us at 2:15, is a little bit farther down on the intimacy scale and that’s not because they’re better or worse than their competitors, but because of the product that they represent and the relationship that they have with their customer. In terms of commitment, they’re committed to service, and that’s demonstrated through a rating system and transparency. They’re committed to ensuring that their drivers are lovely individuals but also have a platform from which to grow their business. Their passion is for time. You get to a meeting early. You get home to dinner on time. And you get to this conference the moment before David gets on stage. There is an empathy for ease. There is nothing easier than tapping a button and then your car arriving four minutes later. But it also gives you the time to know exactly where your driver is as you’re trying to get down the escalator and out the door. Lastly, their vanity is a little bit more crude. There’s possibly nothing sexier than walking out of a restaurant as it starts to rain in New York City and not having to hail a cab without an umbrella, and having your Uber just pull up. That’s important. Status matters. It’s an influential mechanism by which they’re adopting new customers and drivers.

Not to be outdone, Apple, of course, getting back to its core, the intersection of humanity and technology, unveiled their iWatch which was not, in any way, surprising last week. They ended the presentation with Tim Cook talking about the intimacy of your heartbeat and a wearable. Pretty—as you know, a perfect opportunity to bring this up, if there’s nothing more intimate than hearing someone’s heartbeat, Apple decided you could also see it. The reason for that is two-fold: one, technology enables an intimacy that, perhaps you’re thinking, “Where’s my brand intimacy? What am I supposed to do with this now?” I would challenge you to define those criteria for yourself.