Creating brand image is deliberate and inventive, like the production of wine, cognac, or whiskey.
Emmanuel Probst, Global Lead: Brand Thought-Leadership at Ipsos, joins the GreenBook podcast to discuss the release of his new book Assemblage. The book, which draws on the metaphor of spirit production, guides readers in creating a unique, distinctive, and dynamic brand image. Probst emphasizes the importance of forming an emotional connection with consumers, and stresses that this is crucial for companies of all sizes, ranging from boutique to Fortune 500. The episode unpacks how the book can help form a roadmap for those who want to to establish notable and pervasive brand recognition.
You can reach out to Emmanuel on LinkedIn.
Many thanks to Emmanuel for being our guest. Thanks also to our producer, Natalie Pusch; and our editor, James Carlisle.
Hello, everybody. It’s Lenny Murphy with another edition of the GreenBook Podcast. Thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. And as usual, by ‘us’ that means that I have a guest. One day I will surprise you and we won’t have a guest; I’ll say us and we’ll do some weird dialog—or monologue, I suppose. But today we do have a guest. I am joined by Emmanuel Probst. Emmanuel, welcome.Emmanuel:
Lenny, thank you for having me, and it’s a great opportunity to connect with you and your community today. And thank you to the great folks at GreenBook for putting this nice podcast together for us.Lenny:
Well, thank you, sir. It’s an honor to have you. So, for folks who may not know you by name, why don’t you give a little bit about your background, and then we’ll dive into the topic of the day.my latest book, Assemblage::
The Art and Science of Brand Transformation is coming out in a few days now.Lenny:
And that is why we have you on as a guest because we want to talk about the book. But also, you know, overall some of the general findings. Now, I have to point out before we dive in because I see your background, and that looks like the car from Starsky and Hutch. So, let’s start there, why do you have a Starsky and Hutch car in your background?Emmanuel:
When I was 10, 12, 15 so a child slash teenager, if you will, I used to love Starsky and Hutch. And I still love the show and I really wanted to have the car. Eventually, years later, my brother-in-law bought that Ford Gran Torino, it’s a 1968 Ford Gran Torino for me, so it sits on my bookshelf. And my dream is here in Los Angeles, you could actually buy a Starsky and Hutch Ford Gran Torino from the studios. It’s a little-known fact that the likes of Warner Brothers and Universal, they sell props from their movies, and I could potentially buy one.Lenny:
It makes an awful lot of sense. And yes, if any of our listeners, if you don’t remember Starsky and Hutch, you need to just go to YouTube and look up the opening of Starsky and Hutch. Because it’s that classic, over the hill, kind of flying landing. So, great. So great.Emmanuel:
Yeah. So, my quest as a practitioner is to understand why do people do what they do? And you asked me to describe what I was doing before and, look, it’s great to read out fancy job titles to you. I think what’s most important for our audience today, no matter where you’re at in your career and the label of seniority, what’s compelling in the market research industry is exactly this, is to understand why do people do what they do and be curious. Always learn new things, new methodologies, learn from people, learn from consumers, from citizens, from patients, from key opinion formers from elected officials, and of course, from marketers, advertisers, brand strategists.Lenny:
Okay. The title of the book Assemblage then I assume is a reference to those elements, those components that help in that transformative process in the relationship between the brand and the consumer. Am I getting that right or is there a deeper process?Emmanuel:
You got it. The title Assemblage is a metaphor. Assemblage is the process you follow when you create a whiskey or cognac or wine. And in fact, Lenny, you mentioned off camera in the introduction that you moved to Kentucky, so [laugh] that’s how a bourbon is made. Yeah, bourbon is made of corn and other cereals, and importantly, what gives a bourbon its distinctive flavor and identity is this Assemblage of different alcohol and choosing from different barrels and different aging processes, and so on and so forth.Lenny:
That’s fascinating because I have a couple ideas. And as you mentioned, we were chatting before we actually hit record and I think there’s a couple cultural trends that impact this topic, and one is kind of the artisanal movement, or let’s call it the creator economy. There are so many upstart and emerging brands across all categories at this point. And many of those are highly localized and some are becoming regional, and of course, they’re all trying to grow to kind of international. But I think often when in the research industry, when we think of brands, we think of Coke, Google, Ford, the, you know, the big guys, you know, Procter & Gamble and all of their brands.Emmanuel:
Three things come to mind reflecting on what you just said, Lenny. First, you said in the market research industry, we look at Coke and Unilever and Procter & Gamble and Google and the likes. And rightly so because those are the big guys and they’re good at making and marketing products. And of course, they inspire great methodologies for the market research industry. With that said, it’s limiting in my opinion to obsess only about the big brands because let’s not forget that only 7% of us work for a Fortune 500. 93% of America is small and medium businesses.Lenny:
I agree wholeheartedly. And so, as you’re discussing that, thinking through me myself as a consumer, and I have definitely noticed that trend overall, although, and IKEA example is interesting and as is Etsy, because they create scale for these more imperfect or personalized products. And that seems to be the interesting world that we live in now. And I think of it as the platforms, right? Effectively, we think of it as a retailer, but really they are a platform as is Amazon or Alibaba or Etsy, Shopify.Emmanuel:
Well, those platforms, as you said, almost by default, act as the intermediary. My read, my advice is, you have to work with the platforms and at the same time, you can make sure you develop your own audience and your own platform. Let me explain. I just got targeted with an email by Dropps. It’s a company I like it’s a DTC brand that does detergents, washing machine liquids, and those things that are usually bad for the environment, and claim, the purpose from Dropps is to provide me with these products in a direct-to-consumer model and provide me with products that are respectful of the environment.Lenny:
All right, all of you budding entrepreneurs who may be in the audience, there you go; you just got a crash course on business strategy from [laugh] Emmanuel. I want to pivot just a little bit because there’s a few concepts that you bring up in the book, and one of the things you outline is why we relate to anti-heroes, villains, and saviors. Now, how do those concepts relate to the idea of brands? Well, I can take a guess, they’re certainly—Emmanuel:
Yeah. I will link back to two things we covered, Lenny. One is, I want to develop a brand that is personal, meaningful, emotionally relevant to people and, two, a brand must transform me—the consumer, the individual—and must transform the world I live in. So, in order to do this, how do we do that? Well, one way to do this is to develop brands through archetypes.Lenny:
Yeah, that’s fascinating. I’m sitting there thinking, I’m a big fan of Joseph Campbell and if you’ve ever read any Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth and that series, and the archetypes, right, of where I was going, and what occurred to me is, so the role of the brand is as the narrator around the hero’s journey, but the consumer is the hero.Emmanuel:
Yeah, you got it. The individual writes her or his story. The brand is only here to facilitate this journey. That’s what a good brand is about. A good brand is about empowering people to become who they want to become and do so in a meaningful way and in a way that’s inspiring for them.Lenny:
Yeah boy, that is a fascinating take that I have never heard anybody express before. So, [laugh] that’s really cool. My second thought as a consumer is, I run through a list in my head of, “Well, how many brands do I participate in that helped me achieve that?” I mean, I guess I’m a hero when I have plenty of Northern Toilet paper, at least in 2020, right, but the [laugh] but I don’t know if I think about things consciously that way. But I recognize that there’s probably truth to the concept.Emmanuel:
Yeah. I think two examples, one very being and one very small. So, you spoke about Coke. We can think of Unilever and we can think of the Dove Beauty Project and the most recent campaign that’s around the reverse selfie. What Dove does in this campaign is to show a younger audience—we call them Millennials, Gen Z, Global Youth, you know, this younger audience brackets, and by younger, I mean, realistically, 12 years old to 25, right—and the campaign is about let me show you that there is no point photoshopping too much, wearing too much makeup, and appearing on social media as someone you’re not.Lenny:
Yep. Now Emmanuel, you’ve brought up bourbon multiple times. So, I am not particularly bourbon drinker, but I do know that here, there is a distillery trail. It is a tour where you go from each small distillery. So, here’s my formal invitation. I think you should come to Kentucky and we’ll go on the distillery trail and investigate those things.Emmanuel:
Yeah, here’s the deal. For years, we’ve been consuming too much. Now, too much SKUs on the shelf. Go to any grocery store; you want to buy popcorn, you see 150 SKUs. At the end of the day, [unintelligible 00:32:56] as a consumer you stick with one or two, the ones you are used to.Lenny:
Okay. That makes perfect sense. And [laugh] personal experience of now living in a very rural location, we have quickly discovered, you don’t waste anything. Don’t throw that away. That will come in handy at some point. So Emmanuel, anything else that you want to touch on and communicate to our audience as we kind of wrap up?Emmanuel:
Yes. I want to share with our audience that now it is your turn, which is the conclusion of a book, the conclusion, it’s called, “Now, it is Your Turn.” I want to say that my message—and this book, but my message in general—is to empower people. What I mean by this is you don’t have to be a C-level executive at a Fortune 50 to make a difference. In fact, you can be six months into the job or even working as an intern in a market research agency or advertising, branding, marketing consultancy, and make a great impact.Lenny:
I love that. Now, I’ve got to ask, is that a principle and value that you’re building into the culture of Ipsos?Emmanuel:
A hundred percent. On my team—listen, I have some very talented methodologists, people with 20-plus years experience in advanced analytics, and I rely on them every day; their knowledge is crucial. That is what makes the difference at Ipsos, of course, is with skills and knowledge of those individuals. And at the same time, we systematically include in client relationships people that joined us a year, 18 months ago, people who’ve graduated from college a year ago, six months ago, two years ago, again because they bring this cultural perspective and this honesty if you will. I encourage everyone on my team—I have this policy, that is to say anyone and everyone on my team can put 30 minutes on my calendar, and the format is simply share with me what is working, what is not working, how you can make a difference and how I can support.Lenny:
I love that. Tons of wisdom shared today, Emmanuel. Thank you. I think I speak on behalf of our listeners—I try make all of these podcasts have unexpected gems and treasures and this is one that I think certainly lived up to the expectation there, so thank you so much. How can people reach out to you directly? And how can people get your book?Emmanuel:
Thank you. My name is Emmanuel Probst and you can find me on LinkedIn at emmanuelprobst [laugh]. It’s as simple as this. And the book is available on Amazon for preorder and by the time we’ll air this podcast, I guess, people will be able to receive a book within 24 to 48 hours from Amazon Prime. And of course, it’s also available from Barnes & Nobles, and Targets, and [Airports 00:40:44], and so on and so forth.Lenny:
Well, thank you, that is very genuous—genuous. Genuine and generous. That’s what I was trying to say. I was [laugh] combining two words. That’s great. Thank you so much. So, I think that’s it for today. Any final things you want to impart before we sign off?Emmanuel:
Well, Lenny, I just want to thank you again. We’ve known each other professionally for many years and I appreciate the work you do to advance our industry and also help educate our community, and what GreenBook does to support, and again, educate the industry. So, I thank you guys, sincerely. I think you guys are making a difference and I appreciate that.Lenny:
Oh well, thank you. The check’s in the mail.