Top 3 Disruptive Marketing Trends For 2018

Here are the top 3 things disruptive marketers should keep the top of mind in 2018 to ascend the corporate ladder, shake things up and drive toward unprecedented success:

1) Move from cause to brand purpose and place it at the heart of business strategy.

CSR and cause marketing drove marketers of the past to think about corporate responsibility and giving back as key marketing activities and acts of corporate citizenship. Today these two ideas have migrated to the notion of brand purpose. This is where an organization identifies an aspirational mission, tied to its day to day offerings. This unifying theme serves to strategic blend business and brand in ways that create experiences centered around, in some way, making tomorrow better than today.

Successful marketers in the year ahead will place brand purpose at the core of business and brand strategy and use it as a lever of growth with internal and external audiences.

2) Drive toward engagement of the heart.

Emotional engagement is the sister to rational engagement. Rational engagement is based on the stimulation of the mind, whereas emotional engagement is based on the stimulation of the heart. In today’s age of brand experience, it seems that emotional engagement is proving to be more and more critical to achieving winning results and effective storytelling and digital marketing are at the heart of this movement.

Today marketers are being tasked with crafting interactions with customers instead of mere transactions. To do this, they must not lead the customer journey with the “sale” but rather the carrot that will drive to it. That carrot must be translated into the ability to transform storytelling into a vital business competency that takes the why and who of the brand and translates them into experiences that create lasting emotional connections. This type of thinking will without question help define distinction and competitive advantage in 2018.

3) Remember that customers today don’t buy into things, they buy into stories brought to life through a strategic mix of creativity + technology.

Stories have become one of the greatest currencies of business. This is because goods and services have become largely commodified by price point and customers are looking for brands they can believe in, be a part of, and make statements through, that echo their personal ethos.

In the year ahead, smart marketers will use a strategic mix of creativity and technology to generate and deliver stories that create lasting connections with customers. This will involve leveraging data-driven insights on both the science AND art side of the marketing function. Using the power of cognitive tech to unearth storylines that convey authentic voice and emotionally engage, as well as personalize and best time interactions, will empower companies to emerge as much as best-in-class content brands, as leaders of their given industries.

Note: This article was first published on Billee’s Forbes blog

Brand Purpose

Find Your Organization’s Purpose: How To Use Brand Voice To Achieve Desired Outcomes

A thought leader can refer to an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded. Thought leadership is often used as a way of increasing or creating demand for a product or service. While thought leadership is not new, in our experience driven economy, where decisions about a brand are based off of who an organization is as much as what it does or sells, it has become an increasingly important vehicle to engage with both internal and external audiences. This notion is particularly true and can have exponential impact, when an organization frames its thought leadership platform around an aspirational purpose; one which aims to give back to the world as much as the bottom-line, and does so in ways that give people a reason to believe and engage.

In the era of experience, everyone, be they employee or customer, is a consumer who must be informed, entertained and delighted throughout every step of the consumer journey. Smart organizations are approaching creating these types of experiences by finding their purpose and then using it as a creative and aspirational theme with which to engage.  Consequently, an approach to building + operationalizing purpose-driven thought leadership can be increasingly valuable in achieving desired business outcomes.

By using thought leadership as the touchstone of any brand, with a through line of data-driven storytelling as not just a lever of awareness, but rather a powerful business competency, leading organizations can drive competitive differentiation and increased value with both employees and customers.


With internal audiences, the idea of an aspirational purpose or thought leadership platform, can be married with internal culture to deliver best-in-class storytelling and content experiences to employees with an eye on retaining them and turning them into brand advocates. Similarly, when applying this notion to customers and consumers, a brand’s aspirational platform must be connected to the themes driving external culture to achieve the same type of optimal experience throughout the consumer funnel. Both of these scenarios only happen when thought leadership is built around aspirational purpose and then operationalized by storytelling that is data-driven and harnessed as a powerful business competency. A key to success here is by moving storytelling from the end of the supply chain, to the inception of the invention process.

Note: Take this short survey for a free audit of your brand’s approach to purpose driven storytelling: Free Brand Purpose Storytelling Audit

Once a brand’s aspirational purpose is identified and built into a thought leadership platform, it can be operationalized through an inside-out approach designed to place a brand’s narrative of aspirational purpose directly into engagement efforts with consumers and employees alike. This can be achieved by:

  1. Crafting a Living Brand for employees instills a sense of aspiration and purpose at the heart of the culture , and highlights the increasing correlation between brand and culture. The goal is to work to transform employees into brand ambassadors through winning experiences, with the goal of transforming storytelling into an empowering business competency.
  1. Designing a strategic overlay for day-to-day business strategy which harnesses real-time data, analytics and insights to infuse purpose-driven storytelling into direct-to-consumer/customer efforts will optimize performance. Such thinking works to make any organization as much a content brand as a leader in a given industry and creates sustainable winning experiences.

Such an approach delivers value across an organization and enables it to drive engagement inside and out to deliver desired business outcomes such as:

  • Improved employee retention, productivity and engagement
  • Increased employee and consumer loyalty
  • Enhanced employee and consumer experiences
  • Optimized performance inside and out (i.e. productivity to profits)

To build and operationalize purpose-driven thought leadership platforms to achieve these types of results it is important to be able to deconstruct what the optimal experience of each target looks like and then work backward to build your strategy to achieve desired outcomes.

By transforming purpose and storytelling from overused buzzwords into critical tools that can help shape and define business strategy, any brand can operationalize thought leadership to achieve desired outcomes. By building thought leadership that is aspirational, and placing it as a touchstone driving the organization, audiences both inside and out have reasons to believe and engage, and do so in ways that define distinction and competitive advantage.

Billee Howard helps brands use storytelling as a competency that informs business strategy, culture development and growth. She also wrote WeCommerce, a book on collaboration in the new economy.

Note: This article was first published on Billee’s Forbes blog.

[Infographic] Turn Your Brand Into An Award Winning Entertainment Studio

By placing a collaborative approach to innovation, marketing and communications at the beginning of the supply chain of invention, successful brands can effectively leverage cultures of collaboration to positively impact both commerce as well as meaningful communication.

The studio model, which focuses on the phases of development, production and distribution, all with an eye on building an audience that can be monetized both immediately as well as overtime, is a forward thinking approach any CMO should consider in today’s ultra competitive landscape.

Following are 3 easy steps that will help CEO’s and CMO’s “executive produce” their brands in ways that both “push” and “pull” information and content, as well as drive audience reach and measurable engagement:

Build Your Brand

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Sharing Economy Frank Rose

I Think of Business as a Craft, not an Art (Frank Rose)

Frank Rose is an award winning author and senior fellow at Columbia University in New York City. Frank was among the first to recognize the age of immersion that would drive the age of WeCommerce by marrying the physical and digital worlds in ways that create groundbreaking innovations and experiences.

Frank is one of the Wecons highlighted in Billee Howard’s book WeCommerce. You can read more about the book on the launch page and here is our Q&A with Frank.

Billee: Do you believe that technology today, and the sharing economy is bringing us closer together and making us more caring and connecting, or just alienating us from one another even further?

Frank: If Uber is an example of the sharing economy, then sharing and caring might not have all that much in common. Look, I believe that everything is constantly in flux, and yet nothing really changes. People are constantly talking, often in a negative context, about how digital technology is changing the way we think. Well, everything changes the way we think, but I don’t think digital technology—or any other—really changes anything fundamental.

The human species is programmed (metaphorically speaking) to have certain needs and desires and to respond to stimuli in certain ways, and technology either accommodates that or it doesn’t. Google isn’t making us stupid—it’s augmenting our brains in the same way that written language did thousands of years ago. Facebook isn’t making us lonely,—it’s just giving us another excuse to wallow in the existential angst of loneliness, and to comfort ourselves with the thought that it’s all technology’s fault and not our own. And before that, the telephone and the telegraph—well, don’t get me started.

Billee: Do you think of business as an art?

Frank: I think of business as a craft, not an art. Art exists for its own sake; craft is artistic creativity applied in pursuit of some goal. A beautiful lamp. A smoothly functioning corporation. A brand that speaks to people in some deep way.

Billee: How would you describe the role that disruption is playing in business today?

Frank: Change is the nature of the universe. There’s a natural human tendency to resist change because we want reassurance. Even as we seek novelty, we crave stability. But at the most fundamental level it’s not there. This is why earthquakes are so unsettling.

Frank Rose

Change is the only constant we will ever know. So the only way to survive is to embrace it. It’s not about disruption for its own sake. It’s about seeing, and seeking opportunities for disruption—opportunities that exist and are going to be seized, regardless of whether you embrace them or not. It’s disrupt or be disrupted. But this is nothing new—it’s always been like that. The history of business is the history of disruption. That’s why we no longer have the Pony Express—though Wells Fargo did manage the transition rather nicely.

Billee: Can you name a CEO that exemplifies creative reinvention?

Frank: At the moment I’m extremely taken with Burberry. Angela Ahrendts, who recently left to head up the Apple stores, became CEO in 2006 and immediately set about reinventing a 150-year-old brand that had clearly lost its way, lost its meaning, lost all sense of itself. My favorite story about her is that shortly after she took over she called a meeting of all the top execs from around the world—and not one of them showed up wearing Burberry!

Like Steve Jobs at Apple, Ahrendts cut back a bloated product line and put all product design in the hands of a single person—Jony Ive at Apple, Christopher Bailey at Burberry. After cutting away everything except the iconic trench coat the company was founded on, Bailey—who’s now CEO—gradually expanded into a full-fledged luxury line. But unlike many other luxury goods companies, Burberry’s mystique is grounded in something real—in British tailoring and craftsmanship, which the company’s marketing celebrates single-mindedly. It’s not just expensive—it’s expensive for a reason. This is something millennials in particular can understand.

Billee: What do you see ahead for media, given the current disruption going on in that industry?

Frank; Well, the media industry is totally different, and still changing in ways that can’t entirely be predicted. Advertising as we’ve known it is clearly not going to survive, and that puts all ad-supported media at risk. And media is becoming participatory in ways that most denizens of industrial-age mass media are never going to truly understand. So the economic basis and the product itself are both changing utterly. The good news is that we get to reinvent the way we communicate with one another in a way that we haven’t been able to in 180 years. The bad news is there’s going to be a lot of chaos until we get there. Though maybe that’s good news too?

Billee: What is your favorite Andy Warhol quote?

Frank: “I don’t know where the artificial stops and the real starts.” During the summer of 1966, Andy did a series of interviews with Gretchen Berg that were published in The East Village Other. It’s generally considered the best interview he ever did, though eventually it came out that his words were heavily edited and even combined with the questions, so that what he was supposed to have said was very smooth and quotable and what he actually said was kind of bland. Which of course is very Andy.

Andy Warhol

Andy said (or didn’t say) a lot of great things in this interview, but this is my favorite. He was talking about his films, but as a general observation it’s brilliant. I mean, who does know? What is artifice? What is real? They’re so mixed up it’s impossible to tell. And he was talking in the ‘60s, when artifice was still a cottage industry compared to what it is now.

As a writer and interviewer and thinker I like to worry away at certain points, and this is my favorite. I don’t think it can ever be settled, but that’s not the point. The point is that this is the central question of our time. Digital media. Virtual reality. Artificial intelligence. The boundaries are blurring—and they’re not going to get any clearer.

Billee Howard is Founder + Chief Engagement Officer of Brandthropologie, a cutting edge communications consulting firm specializing in helping organizations and individuals to produce innovative, creative and passionate dialogues with target communities, consumers and employees, while blazing a trail toward new models of artful, responsible, and sustainable business success. Billee is a veteran communications executive in brand development, trend forecasting, strategic media relations, and C-suite executive positioning. She has a book dedicated to the study of the sharing economy called WeCommerce due out in Fall 2015 as well as a blog entitled the #HouseofWe dedicated to curating the trends driving our economy forward. You can read more about “WE-Commerce: How to Create, Collaborate, and Succeed in the Sharing Economy” right here!

PS – You can download a FREE chapter of  We-Commerce: How to Create, Collaborate, and Succeed in the Sharing Economy here!

Free Chapter Sharing Economy


sharing economy carrie hammer

We are in a Sharing and Collaborative Economy (Carrie Hammer)

Carrie Hammer is CEO and Creative Director of Carrie Hammer, a company that is among the first to offer bespoke tailoring for women. Carrie has used her company to usher in a new era of fashion aesthetics and new definitions of beauty. Carrie’s use of role models as opposed to runway models in all of her shows is both innovative and inspirational, transforming both the women’s apparel business, as well as the lives of many of her consumers.

Carrie is one of the Wecons highlighted in Billee Howard’s book WeCommerce. You can read more about the book on the launch page and here is our Q&A with Carrie.

Billee: Do you think we are entering an era of we-commerce? An era where everything we do is about sharing, caring, the many vs the few and the we vs. the me?

Carrie: Absolutely! We are now in a sharing and collaborative economy. We have never been closer together and yet so geographically far apart. We can work from every corner of the world in the most collaborative ways.

We are now in a #sharing and #collaborative economy (@carriehammer) Click To Tweet

Billee: Do you consider yourself an artist of business?

Carrie: Yes I do. Not only am I an actual artist in that I’m a designer but also I operate my business in an artful way. One must distinguish one’s business not only in one’s products but also in the way you conduct your business- -in your transactions, your customer service, at every touch point. Everything must be different, unique. The barriers to enter business have never been lower so it’s important to stand out in creative ways.

Billee: How important is ongoing change to success in business?

Carrie: As technology changes at such a rapid pace we need to make sure we keep ahead of our competition and new entrants to the marketplace. Not only is there no longer a first mover’s advantage I believe there is a actually a first mover’s disadvantage. If you don’t keep evolving creatively, new entrants can copy and use their cash reserves to iterate faster than you.

sharing economy carrie hammer

Billee: Who is your favorite CEO/Company disruptor today?

Carrie: Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos, who will provide blood testing through a few droplets of blood rather than vials and vials. This will change the health game overnight and she’s only 29 years old.

Billee: In your view how has disruption changed the fashion industry?

Carrie: Women shop online. Period. Sure there will always be stores but we are moving all of our consumer behavior online and it’s fascinating. We eventually will have fit and customization tools that will deliver custom clothing to our homes within minutes via 3D printing machines.

Billee: Why do you think fashion has become such a canvas for individualized self-expression today?

Carrie: Fashion is the ultimate canvas for self-expression. Women usually are dictated trends. Now women and the consumer get to dictate the trends. That’s powerful.

Fashion is the ultimate canvas for self-expression (@carriehammer) Click To Tweet

Billee: Where you do you think tomorrow’s fashion wecons will come from?

Carrie: Social media, bloggers, vloggers, and the general public. Fashion trends will come from the street up.

Billee: What’s your favorite Andy Warhol quote?

Carrie: Art is what you can get away with. I love this quote because I think in fashion – it’s all about what you can get away with!

Billee Howard is Founder + Chief Engagement Officer of Brandthropologie, a cutting edge communications consulting firm specializing in helping organizations and individuals to produce innovative, creative and passionate dialogues with target communities, consumers and employees, while blazing a trail toward new models of artful, responsible, and sustainable business success. Billee is a veteran communications executive in brand development, trend forecasting, strategic media relations, and C-suite executive positioning. She has a book dedicated to the study of the sharing economy called WeCommerce due out in Fall 2015 as well as a blog entitled the #HouseofWe dedicated to curating the trends driving our economy forward. You can read more about “WE-Commerce: How to Create, Collaborate, and Succeed in the Sharing Economy” right here!