Digital , Creative , Strategy

Strategy in the Era of Cultural Upheaval


Planning Always Pays Off


As brands and marketers keep up with the latest trends, find new ways to connect with consumers—and yes, figure out how to outlast a pandemic—strong strategy continues to be the foundation on which effective campaigns are built. The recent 4A’s StratFest 2021, partly moderated by our very own Andrew Teie, VP of Brand Strategy & Customer Experience, explored how planners will map the new consumer landscape to create meaningful and valued brands for the future. Here are some of the Yes& team’s biggest takeaways. 



Chris Konya, Managing Director at Sylvain, asked the question as she talked about how 53% of consumers think brands trust-wash. As we think about the work we do for clients and the way we run our own agency, there’s a need to move from diversity as exploitative to plurality and true openness. How can we honor difference by making it relatable for all? How can every employee come to work as their true self? How can we go from body positivity to body normality? How can we approach our work with the understanding that clients are held to consumer’s standards for approaching diversity in an authentic way—and our job is to help them understand and deliver on that—even if that means having some uncomfortable conversations? 

Jeff Novak, SVP, Head of Account Management 


I thought it was interesting that one theme seemed to come up across multiple speakers—the increasing prominence of social responsibility as a part of a company’s brand strategy.   


Kofi Amoo-Gottfried, VP of Marketing for DoorDash, observed it’s easy to come up with broad, purposeful statements about what your company 'stands for,’ but it’s more important to back it up with products and services that address genuine problems and obstacles.   


It’s clear that consumers are increasingly looking for evidence of social responsibility when they’re making purchase decisions—they want brands to take a stand on social issues, and they want to spend their money with companies that demonstrate values that align with theirs. And although it’s often a challenge to demonstrate ROI when it comes to brand identity, Rebecca Kramer Rosengard, Industry & Inclusive Marketing lead for Twitter, shared that if a brand can create and drive conversation on social media, it directly impacts profit. In fact, a 10% rise in social conversation has been correlated with up to a 3% increase in sales, showing that there’s a direct relation between perceived cultural relevance and resulting revenue.   


My favorite example of this was the inspiring case study presented by Jeremy Busch, Edelman’s SVP, Group Strategy Director, who matched up iconic ice cream brand GoodHumor with WuTang Clan’s RZA to develop a new ice cream truck jingle to replace the traditional—but inherently racist—‘Turkey in the Straw’ tune. The explosion in media coverage and brand differentiation ultimately led to a 25 percent lift in Good Humor’s e-comm business. Busch concluded that ‘standing on the right side of history is good business.'

Sarah Marshall, Senior Account Executive 


The thing that resonated with me the most was a talk about the tensions an agency faces.  They focused on three, and there were takeaways from each that struck me:  


Fixed versus fluid: What should you hold on to or what should you change? In the midst of chaotic change as we've experienced these last 18 months, it's hard to figure out what to keep and what to change. Your north star or purpose shouldn't change, but the way you do things can and should depending on the times you're in. And we should be constantly looking at what should be fixed and what should be fluid and not afraid to make change.  


Selling versus serving: In the midst of crisis and change, there's pressure to serve your community but also pressure to sell as companies face increasing challenges. Brands matter only insofar as they solve problems for people, and how do we show up to meet that need? If we show up consistently to meet a need or solve a problem, the bottom line will take care of itself. Purpose is important, but not at the expense of creating some lofty purpose—fundamentally it's about the problem you're solving for people. Practical is the new purposeful and we can be reminding ourselves of this constantly as we come up with solutions for our clients, always bringing it back to: What is the problem we're trying to solve for our audience? And not overcomplicating it.


And finally, speed versus craft: The last 18 months have forced agencies to rapidly accelerate what has historically already been a fast-paced, pressure cooker industry. There was an example of a campaign developed by The Martin Agency for DoorDash in six days because in the early days of the pandemic, restaurants were in desperate need of finding a new way to do business, and consumers needed a new way to dine with everything shut down.  It's not about speed for speed's sake, but for a reason, and being intentional about the things we carve out more time for and those we don't.  Ideas can be just as good in 6 days versus 6 weeks, in some cases.  And as much as possible, we can think about in it terms of speed and   craft—it doesn't always have to be an either/or. 

Stacey DeOrzio, VP of Account Services 


I was really fascinated by the session ‘The Epidemiology of Ideas,’ which discussed how ideas (like viruses) are transmitted and what makes them succeed or "go viral." The speaker explored the way that ideas transmit by either repetition (exact copy) or innovation (slight alteration), and how we can design campaigns for each strategy. I loved how it tapped into the psychology of the success and reminded us that we really communicate feelings when we communicate messages. 

Hillary Leersnyder, Customer Experience Strategist 


Diversity, plurality, representation, and intentionality—the conversations we should be having—took center stage at this year’s StratFest. A major takeaway was the responsibility that strategists have: to be advocates, to help brands make the right choices, and to ensure that all necessary perspectives are shared, heard, seen. Chris Konya’s talk on ‘The Potential of Our Plurality’ emphasized that there are no shortcuts in inclusivity; it takes time and effort. We saw some truly great work from two Jay Chiat Award winners, Good Humor’s ‘A New Jingle for a New Era’ and Trans Lifeline’s ‘We See Us,’ both of which proved how intentionality makes a difference.

Logan Murtha, Creative Strategist 


Yes& is the Washington, DC-based marketing agency that brings commercial, association, and government clients the unlimited power of “&” – using a full suite of branding, digital, event, marketing, public relations, and creative capabilities to deliver meaningful and measurable results.

Let’s talk about what the power of "&" can do for you.