The good folks over at Control Publicidad, Spain’s leading marketing magazine, reached out to our very own co-founder Daniele Fiandaca to pick his brain about the current brand landscape, the impact of technology on innovation and what it means to be a modern consumer. Daniele also shares insights about life after Cheil and celebrating a decade of Creative Social. I personally enjoyed the read so I thought it was worth sharing in full (and in English)…
The first thing I’d like to ask you is why do you decide to leave Cheil and put together Mutant?
I actually left Cheil to take a career break travelling around Latin America with my wife for four months. Taking time out also gave me the chance to take stock, celebrate a decade of Creative Social and build a business plan which will ensure it flourishes in the next ten years. Mutant is just one of the many small bets I am exploring before I commit to the next stage of my career.
The next logical question would be, what is Mutant and why was important for you to start such a project, and furthermore, is it complementary to your Creative Social initiative?
Mutant helps brands understand the impact technology is having on their business and helps deliver innovative ways to open up new revenue opportunities through creativity and collaboration. Very much inspired by Creative Social, Mutant is powered by a diverse set of small agencies and consultants who share the same values, but provide very different skill sets.
Why the need of a consultancy that helps brands understand the impact technology is having on their business? Don’t brands have business areas that deal with that?
Tell that to Kodak whose business was destroyed by Flickr and Instagram. Or Blockbusters who suffered a similar fate at the hands of Netflix. Technology is a massive disruptor of business and often it is not incompetence or stubbornness that cause businesses to fail but rather the case that they become the victims of the very habits and processes that made them successful in the first place.
What’s happening to brands nowadays? Are they lost? Badly advised? Not sure of what their priorities should be?
The brand landscape is simply changing – brands are now defined by their behaviour rather than their messaging and this means that for some brands there needs to be a seismic organisational change. I have been fortunate enough to work as a Hyper Island Masterclass speaker and watch as brands work hard to wrestle with the changes they neeed to make. The positive thing is that the more open-minded brands are making real progress and I would argue it is the advertising industry that is most at risk of being left behind.
With Creative Social you have been able to put together a structure of over 200 creative directors and business leaders. Give us some idea on how it works and how brands can benefit from them? What do conventional agencies think about that?
Creative Social was born out of a belief that we could make the industry better by working together. It started out as a series of global events – we have now had 22 CS Globals, in over 20 cities, involving over 250 Socials, as we call our key members. And this has now evolved into a business that is focused on unleashing creativity by connecting the most progressive brands and creative leaders to culture. We do this through events, publishing content – we published the Spanish version of our latest book Hacker, Maker, Teacher, Thief: Advertising’s Next Generation only this month.
We are delivering brand projects for clients such as Absolut, Converse and Sonos. Agencies are actually really supportive of what we are doing with brands, as our model is extremely collaborative and we have been building a closer relationship with agencies through our ‘super member’ model. By becoming a super members, both agencies and brands are helping us shape our future as well as buying into a suite of services which includes training, marketing, access to influencers as well as working on some really interested brand projects.
So what is your new book about?
It is a collection of essays from 35 of our Socials, exploring the advertising industry and giving our individual viewpoints on some of the major topics impacting our industry right now. Or as Ben Malbon of Google so nicely puts it: “It’s an ‘idea grenade’ …..for agency CEOs and brand leadership teams”.
Are you a Hacker, Maker, Teacher or Thief?
I would like to think I am a combination of all four, especially as I believe that these attributes now represent the key skill sets for modern problem-solving.
What’s your take on technology? Does it help, does it harm? Do we have too much of it?
The definition of technology is the ‘application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes’, so for me something should only be classified as technology if it adds value to people’s lives. And for this reason I think technology is fantastic as it is constantly opening up new opportunities to us as people. Only last week we had three start-ups speaking at our CS Fresh event and it was just amazing to see the tools they had at their disposal – open source platforms, 3D printing, new collaboration tools and new funding platforms, to name but a few. It is quite incredible really. Of course, technology can also lead to some negative human behaviour (for example, the negative impact mobile phones can have on communal experiences) but I believe the human species is smart, and, ultimately, we learn to adjust our behaviour to counteract this, as we are seeing more and more with bans on mobile phones at gigs, restaurants and museums.
Innovation and technology both seem very attractive and brands seem to love them, but in the end maybe we need less innovation and technology and more human interaction, how do you feel about that?
Innovation, for me, is about finding new – and better – ways to solve business problems and open up new opportunities. And for brands the key to delivering innovation is in understanding people better – something that is only going to come from human interaction. Innovation and technology is pointless if it does not add value to people’s lives.
Let me ask you about today’s consumer.
Very active, very well informed and, in some cases, very trustworthy from the point of view of other consumers.
Finally, if you were to give one piece of advice to a brand in today’s environment regarding marketing and advertising, what would it be?
Take five per cent of your budget tomorrow and allocate it to experimentation and learning. Try new platforms. Connect with new audiences. Test new agencies. Make some mistakes you can learn from. Act like a start-up. Learn to become more agile by being more agile.
This interview was originally published in Control Publicidad, July / August 2015 issue