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Brilliance@Work: Brian Robinson Tells a Great Story at Universal Pictures

Photo: James Lee, Chester, NH, USA

Photo: James Lee, Chester, NH, USA

Welcome to Brilliance@Work, a series of profiles about stellar people and their best practices at work. We’re kicking off 2017 by featuring brand, design and marketing strategy experts to help you “thrive in the new brand reality.”

Brian Robinson

Brian Robinson

FUSE 2017 presenter, Brian Robinson, Executive Vice President of Creative, Design and Development at Universal Pictures, spent 10 years in retail, leading brand strategy and new partnership ventures. Over the last four years, he’s been a brand leader in the entertainment world, building and cultivating brand and creative teams at DreamWorks Animation and now Universal Pictures.

As a preview to his presentation “DO NOT OPEN: A Tale of Resiliency, Imagination, and the Power of Curiosity,” Brian shares his insights on how unbridled imagination is at the heart of innovation.

Peggy L. Bieniek, ABC: How did your previous work in retail and brand strategy translate into success in the entertainment world?
Brian Robinson:
Have a seat and let me tell you a story, a great, grand story. But first, tell me yours.

Listen to the rhythm of culture, hear the dreams, ideas and aspirations of your fans and build an undeniable empathy for those that love what you do. This understanding, this empathy, will allow you to tell great stories, and great stories are the great connector. Whether campaigns, design, product development or innovation, the combination of empathy and great storytelling will always deliver success.

PB: How do your leadership values support your creative work and the work of your team?
BR:
The culmination of my leadership values – courage, authenticity, resiliency, respect –are intended to unlock the most exciting and purest forms of creativity, while encouraging individuality.

PB: What is the creative process you follow to bring your ideas to life?
BR:
The most unadulterated form of my personal creativity is free-form writing and is always the beginning of my creative process. Followed by editing, challenging, story-arching, and ultimately, pitching the idea.

PB: How do resiliency, courage and imagination drive your quest for innovation?
BR:
Life is a quest and trying to innovate within my own life journey means I’m living. I’m failing, I’m learning, I’m living, I’m failing, and in this cycle, it is my own personal resiliency, courage and imagination that continually drive me forward.

PB: What do you see as the next phase in the movie entertainment industry?
BR:
Phases no longer exist. The speed at which change takes hold is breathtaking. In the great renaissance of storytelling, one’s relevancy is the single most important idea in the entertainment industry and dare I say all industries. You must have compelling, empathetic stories that connect to culture, but unless you can make your stories relevant, they don’t exist.

PB: What will people gain from attending your conference presentation?
BR:
They’ll experience the amazing, courageous art of getting knocked out and the resiliency and determination to get back up and keep on fighting.

Want to hear more from Brian? Join us at FUSE 2017. Learn, network and share best practices with the most influential leaders in brand, design and marketing. Stay connected at #FUSEdesign.

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Brilliance@Work: Hallmark’s Pop Culturist Christine Taylor

Photo: James Lee, Chester, NH, USA

Photo: James Lee, Chester, NH, USA

Welcome to Brilliance@Work, a series of profiles about stellar people and their best practices at work. We’re kicking off 2017 by featuring brand, design and marketing strategy experts to help you “thrive in the new brand reality.”

What is a pop culturist? A life-long pop culture fan with 11 years of experience in licensing entertainment products.

Christine Taylor

Christine Taylor

Creative strategist, designer and fan franchise expert Christine Taylor is Licensing Creative Account Manager at Hallmark Cards, Inc. She works with iconic brands like Star Wars, Star Trek and DC Comics for product development, merchandising and promotion. Her licensing experience and “passion for geekdom” led her to create something unique for Hallmark, which she’ll share more about as a presenter at the FUSE 2017 Conference, April 4-6 in Miami, Florida.

As a preview to her presentation “Pop Goes the Brand,” Christine shares her insights on how Hallmark is connecting and marketing to a passionate group of fans through a new branded experience called PopMindedTM.

Peggy L. Bieniek, ABC: How has Hallmark evolved into the iconic brand it is today?
Christine Taylor:
Since we’ve been around for 107 years now, I would attribute our success to our founder J.C. Hall. He was a visionary of his time. He brought greeting cards to the U.S., invented modern gift wrap, created an omni-media presence with entertainment—before the word “omni-media” existed—and he and his son who followed him, actively looked for partnerships, like Disney, and acquisitions, like Crayola, that synergized with our company’s mission. J.C. also established relationships with public figures that had an eye for art, like Winston Churchill and Jackie Onassis, as well as with some of the biggest artists, celebrities and designers of the 20th century.

I think Hallmark really became a household name through broadcasts of Hallmark Hall of Fame and our legendary commercials that made people cry, thus coining the term, “Hallmark moment.”

Hallmark was, and still is, one of the largest employers of creative talent worldwide. J.C. was an entrepreneur who loved and had a passion for creativity and how creative products transcend into how we connect with those around us. His belief in quality and creativity are still the foundation of the company and what we continue to strive for in all we do today.

PB: What are the creative processes involved in collaborating with companies with which you have licensing agreements?
CT:
We have some long, established relationships with some of our licensors that date back over 20, 50 and even over 80 years. We are one of the very few licensees that are allowed to create original content and illustrations of licensed characters. We have illustrators that can perfectly replicate the characters to create new poses to match specific concepts, and we also have artists that interpret the characters to create unique looks for our products.

Another difference is we have creative managers who are experts of these licensing entertainment brands and are responsible for the creative relationship and brand integrity. We ensure the licensor’s franchise strategies and character attributes are translated across all our products from end-to-end of the design process, and in turn, those strategies align with each Hallmark product development team’s intent. We meet with our licensing partners regularly to stay up with the most current franchise information and often have collaborative brainstorms. Having these strong relationships allows for a smoother creative approval process, and that close collaboration makes for better end products.

We share a common goal – the consumer/fan is key – so finding a co-branded product approach that meets consumer needs and expectations is a big focus for us. It’s not always easy, but we often align people who have affinity for, or are fans of, certain brands and products, keeping the passion for getting it right for them, a high priority.

PB: How does Hallmark find new audiences for their products?
CT:
Much like any larger company would: Diversification of products, omni-media channels of branding and distribution and continually seeking out new partnerships, sponsorships and acquisition opportunities. We recognize it’s all about building up your digital content and engaging with consumers in social spaces, not just relying on traditional media and brick-and-mortar stores.

Currently, we are looking at how we can target various consumer segments by tailoring product design, retail merchandising, online engagement, sponsorships and event opportunities in a very specific, niche way that speaks directly and more authentically to that consumer. This may be through identifying a cultural trend, or revisiting an existing brand, capability or product offering that we just have changed the conversation around to be more relevant to a specific sub-set of consumers.

Christine Taylor (next to Darth Vader) creates a fun PopMinded experience for Star Wars fans.

Christine Taylor (next to Darth Vader) creates a fun PopMinded experience for Star Wars fans.

PB: How did PopMindedTM get started?
CT:
We’ve been attending Comic & Fan Conventions for about a decade now. We had done some great co-branded booths with a Star Wars overlay featuring all original artwork by our in-house illustrators and designers, but what we came to realize is we did not have our own clear point of view for Hallmark to this consumer. We already had all the co-branded licensed product that we had curated for the shows, and exclusives we had created to sell, but no branded voice that was relevant to them to gravitate to beyond the conventions.

We took a step back last year and decided to approach these conventions more like a branded, perennial pop-up shop experience. I gathered a small band of “rebels” at Hallmark, which included cross-functional fans of geeky pop culture franchises. We ultimately came up with what now is a pop culture sub-brand intended to serve this very loyal segment of consumers. It has evolved into a full consumer acquisition and retention strategy, where we have the opportunity to connect with these fans of fandom in a very authentic way because the ones behind PopMindedTM and the products are pop culture fans themselves.

PB: What do you see as the next phase of the PopMindedTM experience?
CT:
We have already started some social media on Instagram and a weekly YouTube video series. This year, Hallmark Gold Crown stores plan to have a PopMindedTM section dedicated to the front of store in late summer with exclusives like we would sell at conventions. We want to bring a little bit of that excitement in-store for consumers already shopping Hallmark.

We are also scouting other conventions and events, as well as looking at potential partnerships and sponsorships that will help us grow and spread the word. We plan to launch an online community forum that fans can discuss, chat and link with us as well as buy, sell and trade past collectibles.

Dream Plans? We would love to partner on other store-within-a-store concepts with other pop culture purveyors that align with our sensibilities and have our own online shopping experience.

PB: What will people gain from attending your conference presentation?
CT:
In all honesty, I can’t say I will leave anyone with any profound wisdom, but what I hope people will take away is that innovation doesn’t always have to be about some novel product or what the next big thing is.

There are new opportunities and innovative ideas for us and/or our companies hiding right under our noses. Too often we can get so caught up in our day-to-day roles and responsibilities that those things become too hard to recognize. But we must stop for a second and remember the many insights, instincts, experiences already living inside us that we need to let out!

We must continually remind ourselves that we are consumers too—and most likely even fans (of something). We create content, use social media and are people seeking to connect with others. And these days, that empathic and authentic understanding can go a long way, but it may take stopping the presses for a moment to find it…and when you do, you must let it out.

Want to hear more from Christine? Join us at FUSE 2017. Learn, network and share best practices with the most influential leaders in brand, design and marketing. Stay connected at #FUSEdesign.


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Brilliance@Work: Dr. Mark Freeman Shows How to Wake Your Sleeping Genius

Photo: James Lee, Chester, NH, USA

Photo: James Lee, Chester, NH, USA

Welcome to Brilliance@Work, a series of profiles about stellar people and their best practices at work. We’re kicking off 2017 by featuring brand, design and marketing strategy experts to help you “thrive in the new brand reality.”

Dr. Mark Freeman

Dr. Mark Freeman

Dr. Mark Freeman, Doctor of Philosophy, Counseling & Organizational Behavior, is a senior organizational development and behavioral consultant, primarily working in the academic, hospitality and healthcare industries. Mark’s research interests are in the areas of organizational excellence, change management, personal and professional development for leaders, executive coaching and team building. He’s also a presenter at the FUSE 2017 Conference, April 4-6, in Miami, Florida.

As a preview to his presentation “Wake Your Sleeping Genius: Interpreting the Meaning and Power Behind Your Dreams,” Mark shares his insights on how dreams are windows into the mysteries of life that can help you find solutions to your personal and professional challenges.

Peggy L. Bieniek, ABC: What inspired you to pursue studies and work in counseling and organizational behavior?
Dr. Mark Freeman: Since early adulthood it has been my calling and passion to help people achieve their highest potential in work and life. I am a fortunate person to work in something I love with purpose.

I think the most important aspect of being human is finding out who you are; where you are going; and who shall accompany you on your journey (It is important to answer these questions in the right order). These life goals drive my work as an organizational behavior professional and a counselor. It is very gratifying to see people find their way in life and work.

PB: How did that lead to studying dreams and their meaning?
MF:
Dreams have always been a fascination of mine. As a young professional I participated in several dream sharing groups and have studied the most on that subject. Dreams are a window into the mysteries of human life, clarifying confusion, enhancing creativity and finding meaningful direction. Working with the dreams of others has been very rewarding. Nothing is more fulfilling than witnessing someone find truth, innovation and direction through understanding their dreams.

PB: How can people make connections with what they dream and what they do in their daily lives?
MF:
It is extraordinary to see the awareness people gain from reflecting on their daily lives from a day or so before a dream appears to them, then making meaningful connections with often very clear next steps for growth and solutions to life’s challenges. Learning how to interpret dreams is the key skill I teach participants in my workshops.

PB: What role do dreams play in the creative process?
MF:
Wow, so much! I teach participants how to incubate solutions for design, branding and business problems by developing partnerships with their dreams at night. You see, we have this sleeping, creative, genius inside that works at night in Technicolor to create stories and images for remarkable solutions unbeknownst to our poor, distracted and muddled brains which cannot possibly experience creativity well in the overstimulated daytime.

Dream incubation is asking that critical open-ended question you desire the answer to for clarity when you are stuck, then asking the dream to answer it for you the next day. For instance, “Where is this relationship going?” or “How can I achieve the greatest leverage with this new brand idea?” Your dream self often provides literal answers to your business and life questions in a creative way.

PB: What will people gain from attending your conference presentation?
MF:
If people come prepared with a well-formed, open-ended question to a design, branding or business challenge, they will get the most from the workshop. In addition, participants ought to begin to record their dreams and notes of events from the previous day before each dream is recorded for a week before the presentation.

Recording dreams is easy. Keep a pencil and paper by your bed and tell yourself to remember your dream before you go to sleep. When you wake up, immediately ask yourself, “What did I dream last night?” and write down your answer before you get out of bed.

Want to hear more from Mark? Join us at FUSE 2017. Learn, network and share best practices with the most influential leaders in brand, design and marketing. Stay connected at #FUSEdesign.


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How to Survive and Thrive in the New Brand Reality

Happily Ever AfterPhoto: StockSnap

“The strength of brand loyalty begins with how your product makes people feel.” – Jay Samit, digital media innovator

How does your brand make people feel?

Successful brands make people feel good about themselves and about the world. Achieving and maintaining this level of success requires constant and equal amounts of care and innovation.

Be ready to meet and exceed these standards of the “new brand reality” by joining me April 4-6, 2017 in Miami, Florida for FUSE 2017, “at the intersection of design, brand and strategy.”

Here’s a peek at a few of the speakers and presentations on the agenda:

  • Featured Keynote: From Domestic Diva to Brand Icon, Martha Stewart, Founder, Emmy Award-Winning Television Show Host, Entrepreneur and Best-Selling Author, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
  • “Atomic Design: The Next Gen Digital and Brand Experiences,” Stephen Gates, Global Head of Design, Citi
  • “DO NOT OPEN: A Tale of Resiliency, Imagination and the Power of Curiosity,” Brian Robinson, Global Head of Creative, Design & Development, DreamWorks Animation
  • “Designing Calm Technology,” Amber Case, Cyborg Anthropologist and Author
  • “Pop Goes the Brand,” Christine Taylor, Licensing Creative Account Manager, Hallmark Cards Inc.

Register today for FUSE 2017 to learn, network and share best practices with the most influential leaders in brand, design and marketing. Stay connected at #FUSEdesign.

In the meantime, watch for my Fuse in Focus presenter profiles and conference posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Starry Blue Brilliance.

Looking forward to attending this event with you!