Bold Type

Fame and fortune are often associated with boldness—strong attitude, audacious behavior, uncompromising self-belief. Think Madonna, Jack Welch, Michael Jordan. But what face should boldness take in the media world?

I’d like to suggest five ways to get serious about this challenge.

1. Contact, not media.

We need to change our language. The age of interruption is ending; engagement is the new imperative. Brands that engage are well placed to strengthen their equity and win consumers’ hearts, not just their minds.

2. Contact innovation.

This is critical at a time of declining marketing investment. All too often, content and contact are developed in isolated worlds; the full creative application goes unconsidered.

Is there simply too much science and not enough art? Bulgari made headlines by commissioning Fay Weldon to write a novel that was privately published and given to 750 special clients. The result? A bold and creative contact innovation and a breakthrough marketing solution.

Starcom in the U.K. created an innovative contact approach for Johnnie Walker’s “Keep walking” global brand idea, with 42 one-minute TV vignettes running globally for a year, plus a Web site. The result was a compelling global editorial proposition.

3. Contact focus.

This becomes the catalyst for communications planning, a critical evolution at a time of exploding analog and broadband contacts. There is genius in selecting the right brand contact for the target audience—the channel that most effectively integrates the creative idea in an innovative, intimate and engaging way. is a bold, innovative initiative that focuses on the Web as a key contact point—presumably where the target audience is. Since April, the films have been downloaded more than 10 million times.

4. Consumer insight.

This requires a huge overhaul, as traditional demographics remain the convention for planning. But people are bound together not by numbers but by shared interests. Consequently, passion-group targeting can be a bold, innovative way to define people based on what they love to do. Consider “HOG,” the Harley-Davidson owners club. Such communities live and die by their emotions, dreams and passions. I recommend this approach in addition to, not instead of, conventional demographic and psychographic approaches.

5. Accountability matters.

Value creation is the principal goal of brand building, although effective measurement of this remains far from an exact science. Wall Street now focuses more than ever on the financial performance of brands, demanding detailed explanations of their future marketing strategies. In today’s economy, tangible ROI measures will increase in importance. Our industry must identify new ways of measuring success and evaluating the financial and competitive advantage returned by significant marketing investments.

With these five tactics, marketers can make boldness work in the 21st-century marketplace. As Goethe wrote, “Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”