New Media Mavens Convene in Memphis to Talk Modern Branding


Some of digital media’s brightest and most passionate branding minds were at Emerge Memphis yesterday for an event from LaunchMemphis and Southern Growth Studios, “Masters of the New Modes: Insights and Innovations from the Blending Worlds of Tech, Marketing and Culture.” Adrian Ho and C.C. Chapman, two leaders in innovation, interactive marketing and user experience gave a private workshop in the afternoon and a public panel at TechFuel yesterday evening.

Up first was Adrian Ho, Founding Partner of Zeus Jones (greater Minneapolis-St. Paul area), who discussed “Modern” vs. “Classic” Branding. Ho said “everything a company does is marketing,” so it should be a more closely-integrated role within companies, with marketing teams working together with teams such as customer service and product development to provide a cohesive user experience. In fact, Ho mentioned that his agency recently created a “User Experience” position, which focuses on the way people (end-users) actually interact with the product or service. That’s opposed to, say a communications or marketing expert.


I agree with Ho’s notion that modern branding begins long before a product or service is launched. If you make the development process transparent and accessible to consumers, they can get on-board long before it’s time to make a purchasing decision. Show them what you’re doing, how you’re doing it differently, and that you actually value their opinions and their business. It’s about revolutionizing an experience so that it is no longer really about the product (i.e. Jet Blue isn’t about plane tickets, and we don’t really need our cleaning products to look pretty).

Ho proposed several facets of truly “Modern Brands”

  • Are about what they do, not about messaging – built around a belief, not a promise
  • Are a service business first and foremost – customers first!
  • Invest in people, products and experiences, not ads/media – buy “people” not “impressions”
  • Consider brand strategy an HR discipline
  • Continually ask “what is our role?” – it’s transient and should be redefined often
  • Use community (forums, Twitter, etc.) as a new mode of customer service

The second presenter, C.C. Chapman, Co-founder and Managing Partner of The Advance Guard (greater Boston area) gave an inspiring talk on building passion for brands through new media, simply titled “Passion is Contagious”. eMarketer said earlier this week that PR is more effective than online advertising, which makes sense because it’s not nearly as in-your-face; it’s more real. Take this idea, throw in some social media, and you’ll get the idea behind Chapman’s presentation- instead of media filters, give your fans something they can talk about – fuel their passion!


“Brand awareness does not equal passion!” was my key takeaway overall. Awareness isn’t contagious, but passion most certainly is – that is to say, you can’t buy passion. But you can empower your customers, fans and employees, and fuel theirs. For new/digital media agencies, Chapman suggests always setting realistic expectations up front, perhaps including social media training for your clients as a pre-req. One specific way Chapman measures social media success is through the use of specialized promo codes- only distributing a code through Twitter, for example. Then you find out how many purchases used that promo code, and voila! Quick and clever, if applicable for your product, that is.

Here are Chapman’s Components of Passion for Brands:

  • Start a story for your fans to continue
  • Don’t make it complicated – including messaging, brand image and campaigns in general
  • Give your fans a “campfire” (a place to talk to each other) – C.C. mentioned the Ford Fiesta “Agents” contest; I love it and you should really check this one out for yourself
  • Listen! Pay attention to your fans (i.e. @ComcastCares) – Yahoo Pipes & SocialMention can help
  • Find your customers and find out who’s passionate about your brand
  • Harness the power of your employees (a large number of passionate people)
  • Give your fans something to talk about, and let them talk in their own voices – otherwise it’s fake
  • Give it time to grow


Adrian Ho is a founding partner at Zeus Jones. At Zeus Jones we believe actions speak louder than words, that modern brands are defined by what they do not what they say. We built our company around these beliefs. A company where strategy, creativity, design, digital expertise and user-experience flow directly into each other to solve business problems.  Adrian was formerly director of strategic planning at Fallon in Minneapolis.  Prior to that, Adrian worked at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and at Anderson & Lembke both in San Francisco.  Adrian’s thinking has been recognized by the IPA and EFFIEs. He is a former AAAA account planning committee member and co-chair of the national planning awards program. Adrian is a regular speaker and writes about the evolution in brands and branding along with developments in technology at You can also find him on Twitter: @adrianho

C.C. Chapman is a new media maven and digital dad living in the Metro Boston area who loves public speaking and working with people to understand the future of media.  He is the Co-Founder and a Managing Partner of The Advance Guard. Formed in October 2007, The Advance Guard is a new media consultancy that creates radical marketing programs using emerging technology and community platforms. With offices in New York and Boston, their clients include American Eagle Outfitters, Coca-Cola, HBO, Verizon FiOS, Warner Bros and St. Martin’s Press. C.C. talks more on these topics on his blog/podcast, Managing the Gray and on Twitter: @cc_chapman