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Jun 18 2012

SapientNitro: Global Brand vs Global Celebrities: Who'€™s The Smarter Marketer?


Cannes - June 19th, 2012 – SapientNitro, part of Sapient (NASDAQ:SAPE), posed the question ‘Who’s the smarter marketer?’ to delegates at the Cannes Lions 59th International Festival of Creativity.


Presented as a house debate, the seminar saw SapientNitro Vice President, Global Brand Strategy & Marketing Darren McColl come up against House actor Omar Epps in a cerebral battle for marketing supremacy between global brands and global celebrities.

Moderating the debate, SapientNitro Vice President, Global Marketing Strategy, Freddie Laker set the scene by arguing that understanding a global marketing mindset will define the most successful brands of the next ten years, and that even domestic brands will have to be smart to defend against new global competition.


“The marketing world is in a state of flux - driven by parallel trends of globalization and digitization. A new global marketing mindset needs to resolve how senior marketers should react to a world which is fundamentally different from when they started their careers,” said Laker, introducing a far-reaching SapientNitro survey of global CMOs, which reveals that just 48% feel prepared to handle the growing complexity of marketing while only 20% consider themselves ‘very knowledgeable’ about technology.


Handing over to the combatants to answer the question ‘Who’s the smarter marketer?’ over three testing rounds, Laker announced that ultimately the audience would rightly decide the victor in a Twitter vote using the hashtag #smartermarketer. 


Round 1 – ‘Are global brands or global celebrities better at connecting with consumers across cultures and markets?’

With the muscle of experience of working with some of the world’s largest global brands, Darren McColl dealt an early body blow by revealing that the top 50 fastest growing companies from 2000 to 2010 had one thing in common  – all of them, regardless of size or category, have been built on an ideal of improving lives in some way (Millward Brown and Stengel). “Success for global brands comes from thinking, acting and behaving from a core purpose,” argued McColl. “Great global brands adapt to accommodate various cultures whereas celebrities remain the same.”


Hitting back, Omar Epps countered that celebrities lead popular culture in ways that brands can rarely achieve. “Authenticity is one of the keys to celebrity, which allows us to transition through different markets with one message.” Citing the long-running relationship between Michael Jordan and Nike, Epps said: “When Nike signed Michael Jordan to endorse their brand, it shifted the power base of athletic footwear to Nike’s advantage overnight. It was all because of Jordan's relevance to the consumer base and global culture – a relevance that exists to this day.”


Round 2 – ‘Do global brands or global celebrities use social media more effectively?’

“The answer is obvious - celebrities will always dominate social media. The term ‘social media’ implies human interaction and celebrities are humans, whereas brands are just companies.” Armed with a couple of devastating visuals showing celebrities’ reach versus brands through Facebook and Twitter, Omar Epps went on the attack. “Thru social media, celebrities can interact with fans in an intimate and immediate manor. No matter what a brand does through social media, it comes across as disingenuous because people understand that brand is ultimately just trying to sell their products. If I wish one of my followers on Twitter ‘happy birthday’, it's a completely authentic interaction. And people respond to that.”


“Celebrities just share content,” responded an unfazed Darren McColl, “Brands use social media in much more interesting ways.” His examples, including KLM’s social media integration to create powerful customer experiences, the X Games ‘mash up’ of social and physical behaviour with broadcast content, and Red Bull’s social media-powered content empire, showed how social media meant that brands now have a never ending story. Brands’ marketing communications, advised McColl, “should never end with a period, but with a comma.” 


Round 3 – ‘Do global brands or global celebrities lead marketing innovation?’

The top 5 global brands spend 20 times more on research and development then the top 20 celebrities in the world actually earn. When it comes to innovation, global brands win hands down, argued Darren McColl. “Brands are using their innovation budgets to reinvent experiences, not just content,” said McColl, pointing to Coke’s interactive vending machines, ToyToyota’s ‘Backseat Driver’ app for kids and BBVA Bank’s innovation lab as inspired examples. “We don’t see any innovations that redefine experiences from celebrities, do we?”, McColl challenged.


The corporate world is slow and risk-averse, answered Omar Epps. “Celebrities create movement around innovation; we set the trends,” he said. Lady Gaga’s, and Beyonce’s will set the trend for the next generation of celebrities to build their brands across all verticals. 


Epps concluded with the example of the BeeYou, the platform that allows celebrities to share, control and monetize their content, of which he is Vice President of Entertainment. With over 200 celebrities with 1 million to 60 million followers across their social networks, BeeYou can act as a matchmaking service to connect brands and celebrities for custom content, which is more powerful than a traditional endorsement scenario and benefits both brands and celebrities, said Epps.



A simple organizing idea will help align fans and consumers to you at a global level.

It's OK to localize as long as you remain authentic.

Connections, enabled through technology, are re-defining what the definition of a community is.

Leveraging insights driven from a new wealth of data will be invaluable.

The only failure in innovation is to not innovate.


Notes to editors


About SapientNitro

SapientNitroSM, part of Sapient®, is an integrated marketing and technology services firm. We create and engineer highly relevant experiences that accelerate business growth and fuel brand advocacy for our clients. By combining multi-channel marketing, multi-channel commerce and the technology that binds them, we influence customer behaviour across the spectrum of content, communication and commerce channels, resulting in deeper, more meaningful relationships between customers and brands. SapientNitro services global leaders such as Chrysler, Citi, The Coca-Cola Company, Singapore Airlines, Target and Vodafone through our operations in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific.



Actor, President, BrooklynWorks Films; Vice-President of Entertainment BeeYoo


Omar Epps is an actor, writer, producer, director, musician and entrepreneur. He is President of BrooklynWorks Films and Vice-President of Entertainment at BeeYoo. Omar currently co-stars in the powerhouse hit Fox medical drama, House. In its eighth season, the highly successful series has intrigued audiences around the world in vast numbers and has been Emmy-nominated for Outstanding Drama Series from 2006 to 2009. In his role on House, Omar has received numerous awards including an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.


In addition to his role in the cast of House, Omar has appeared in more than 30 other televisions shows and movies including Higher Learning, Love and Basketball, Against the Ropes, Alfie, The Mod Squad, Breakfast for Champions, Don’t be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood and many more.


Omar has a production company called BrooklynWorks Films. Through his shingle, he has produced the musical feature film You, Me & The Circus. As evidenced by his role at BrooklynWorks Films, Omar sets no limits for himself when imagining the future direction of his career. He has several other film and television projects in various stages of development, some of which he has written and will direct.


He began writing at the age of ten and attended the prestigious LaGuardia High School of Music, Art and Performing Arts in New York. He is very passionate about education and writing and continues to give back in these forums. In addition, Omar is launching the BrooklynWorks Foundation, which will ultimately be an arts based non-profit organisation that will work with under-privileged kids. Omar also serves on the board of directors for The Creative Coalition. He was born in Brooklyn, New York.



Vice President, Global Marketing Strategy, SapientNitro

Freddie Laker is responsible for supporting and expanding SapientNitro’s multi-national accounts in a rapidly-evolving marketing landscape. He brings to the role unique global perspectives gained from living and working in North America, Europe, and Asia. He recently returned from a leadership role in SapientNitro's Shanghai office where he helped to expand their digital offerings and develop new business.


Whether launching and leading his own companies or steering the marketing strategies for global blue chip brands, Freddie Laker has always focused on his two biggest passions: emerging technologies and emerging markets. Throughout his career he has helped marketers gain share by beating their competition to the future and by identifying upcoming opportunities before they are commonly understood. During his time with SapientNitro he has driven some of its most innovative work for clients such as Coca-Cola and Unilever.


Freddie has been pioneering internet related ventures since 1995. His accomplishments ranged from internet landmarks such as the creation of the world's first 24-hour a day internet radio station, ‘The Womb’, to founding one of Florida’s oldest Internet Service Providers. In 2004 Freddie founded the digital agency, iChameleon Group, which gained widespread respect and accolades developing campaigns for brands including Coca-Cola, Guinness, Taco Bell and Toyota.


iChameleon’s creative magic lived on as the team of talented strategists, doodlers, developers and rock stars joined Freddie at SapientNitro, when the company continued to acquire some of the world's best marketing talent.


In addition to his strategy duties Freddie actively contributes to major industry publications in conjunction with participating in speaking engagements around the world on social media and future marketing trends.




Vice President, Global Brand Strategy & Marketing, SapientNitro


Darren (aka ‘Daz’) McColl was named after ‘Darrin/Durwood’ the ‘McCann and Tate Advertising’ Executive character the 1960s sitcom Bewitched. While his wife isn’t a witch, he did follow destiny into the advertising world to become an accomplished, published and awarded strategist. At SapientNitro he brings insight to strategy and inspiration to creativity. With over 20 year’s experience, he has lead brand creation and develop for everything from professional sports teams to global consumer brands.


He was the project leader and strategist behind the 'Best Job in the World' campaign for Tourism Queensland that was the most awarded campaign of 2009/10 with multiple Grands Prix.


A native of Australia he is now a resident of Miami, USA, leading global strategic thinking for integrated consumer experiences that provide brands emotional connection and relevant utility.


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Sapient is a registered service mark of Sapient Corporation. 

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