Sapient CMO Bill Kanarick Talks Brand Narratives

Defines his company's "storyscaping" concept

Headshot of Christopher Heine

SapientNitro will hold its third annual iEX marketing event on May 29 at at the London Film Museum in the United Kingdom, featuring speakers such as Oscar-winning director James Cameron, fashion legend Vivienne Westwood and renowned U.S. economist Steven Levitt, among other luminaries.

Longtime company exec and now Sapient CMO, Bill Kanarick will also be holding court, and yesterday he chatted with Adweek about the show, its focus on so-called 'storyscaping' and whether his brand has successfully transformed itself from being known as a tech house to a tech-and-creative shop. Below are excerpts from the discussion.

Adweek: What is storyscaping?

Bill Kanarick: The way stories get told is fundamentally changing in what is essentially an always-on [mobile] world. In the past, you could rely on just a storyline. Our belief is that you need a storyline and story system, and that's what we mean by storyscaping. The best way to think about it is—[it addresses] an always-on world and its shifting behaviors and expectations that people have living in that world.

Is it truly different than what people have been calling content marketing during the last few years?

I am not sure I fully understand what "content marketing" means; so it is hard for me to contrast and compare to that specifically. I've heard people talk about that in all sorts of different ways. But we believe it's fundamentally different. [Storyscaping] blends branding creativity with digital marketing, experience creation, analytics and technology. And it's the fusion of those things that let us to create storyscapes.

Does it partly address creating a narrative across digital and traditional channels?

It certainly does. But it is also telling a narrative in new channels. Technology is creating new media, and that media is creating opportunities to yield experience. Digital is encroaching on environments such as physical retail. The more dislocated those experiences are from one another, the more fractured that story gets. And frankly then, the more pressure a brand is under to fulfill on the promise.

Your agency has probably been better known for its tech-based services but has increasingly gained creative-oriented work. Are there a couple of good examples where your agency has been able to flex its creative muscle as opposed to simply its technical muscle?

As the State of Florida's agency of record, obviously our objective is to drive visitors to the state. That considers the whole range of places where that brand has to be represented. Crafting a connected experience across all the different touchpoints available and building a storyscape for them is what we're focused on. And look at the work we did for [London-based gambling company] Ladbrokes, which was recrafting their position, their story. We did all the broadcast work, all the mobile apps, the web site, all the technology. We had to stitch that all together. We populated their :30 spots…so people could use their mobile app based on something that was happening in the [televised] game at that moment.

The London event seems like a pretty interesting deal. Should attendees expect Cameron, Westwood, Levitt and company to talk about advertising or just their stories?

I don't expect them to talk about advertising. But they are some of the best storytellers in the world, and they use different tools. The overall theme of the event is the evolution of storytelling given the changing environmental condition. That is certainly true for each of those folks.

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.