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Volume 24 No. 137
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Motorsports Forum: Seifert Says Authenticty Trumps All Factors In Brand Success

Ogilvy & Mather North America Chair & CEO John Seifert, the keynote speaker at the ’12 Motorsports Marketing Forum said the key to brand success in today’s world of social media is authenticity, not smart marketing or clever creative.

Seifert said, “Tricks are over. It’s going to be about what you do, who you are, what you believe and how you operate. That is going to be the way you build your brands going forward.”

He pointed to Apple’s success and the work of the late Steve Jobs as an example. Seifert said Jobs built a culture, and it was a culture where “everyone understood what their purpose was, what they believed, what they thought was good.” That allowed all of Apple’s employees to design and market products that fulfilled the company’s mission and drove them to the success that Apple continues to enjoy today.

Seifert recommended that everyone read two memos written by communications and branding experts. He said the first, “Authentic Enterprise,” was published in ‘07, and “the central truth of it is that if you’re in the communications biz, forget about changing perceptions. Change reality.” The second, “Building Belief: A New Model for Activating Corporate Character and Authentic Advocacy,” was published this year and provides a playbook for how a company can achieve authenticity. Seifert: “The best companies ... create value for society, solve the world’s problems, and they make money, too.”

Seifert highlighted P&G’s work on the Olympics and its “Thank You, Mom” campaign as an example of a company that developed an authentic mission -- making products that improve people’s lives -- and incorporated that into a brand message that it conveyed through a sports platform. He also pointed to IBM’s “Smarter Planet” campaign. He closed by offering recommendations for brands that want to achieve success and be authentic:

1. “Have a point of view. The most powerful thing you can do now in brand building is know what you believe in and have a point of view that’s bigger than yourself.”

2. “It’s about showing and telling. Don’t call up Ogilvy & Mather or any other advertising agency and say, ‘Let’s just go do print ads and TV commercials.’ This is about what experience are you creating, what engagement are you building and what makes people believe you based on how you operate and perform.”

3. “That leads to engagement. No one is out of your target audience now. And your target audience is everyone. It starts with your employees and goes to everyone else you can do business with.”

4. “It’s an ecosystem. One of the reasons I was so excited to be part of the NASCAR process was you are thinking in the largest context of what makes your brand. You’re not saying, ‘Oh we’re just an organizing body that makes rules for a sport.’ You’re thinking about everyone in it and everyone’s role in it. That is an incredibly progressive way of thinking of how you’re going to build this brand in the future.”

5. “Finally, it’s about content and how you manage that content and distribute in this new age when your audience has all the choices.”

6. “It’s about not just building value for yourself. This is also about the value you can build for others.”