cultural innovation

Cultural innovation, inclusivity and brand building with Bill Brock – AnalogFolk

10th Mar 2023

Cultural innovation, inclusivity and brand building with Bill Brock – AnalogFolk

Welcome to the Creative Culture video podcast series.

Our fireside interviews are short digestible interactions with senior business decision makers across marcomms, corporate, innovation, DEI and HR. We explore their international experience and how culture has impacted some of their key projects, ambitions and ways of working.

Our CEO Mélanie Chevalier had the pleasure of speaking with Bill Brock, founder and Chief Client Officer at AnalogFolk.

AnalogFolk is a global digital creative agency that was founded in 2008. The agency has offices in London, New York, Portland, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Sydney. AnalogFolk’s focus is on creating innovative digital experiences that help brands connect with their audiences. They offer a range of services, including branding, strategy, social media, content creation, and website design and development. The agency has worked with a number of high-profile clients, including Nike, Google, Unilever, and Spotify. AnalogFolk has won several awards for their work, including Cannes Lions, Webby Awards, and D&AD Awards.


Mélanie: Hello and welcome to the creative culture fireside interview series. Today we’re delighted to be speaking to Bill Brock, founder of AnalogFolk group, a progressive global marketing and technology group, creating a smarter future for people, brands, and society. Welcome, Bill. Hello.

Bill: Hi, how are you?

Mélanie: Good, how are you?

Bill: Yes, good, thanks. Thank you for having me.

Mélanie: My pleasure. Well, to get us started, perhaps you could tell us a bit more about your role at AnalogFolk, and what was the ambition that drove the inception of the business in the first place?

Bill: Yeah, sure. As you said, I’m the founder, along with a fellow named Matt Dyke. We started the company about 15 years ago. Currently, I’m the chief client officer. It’s a role that I shifted into about four years ago as we expanded our global team. I had been the CEO, which meant I was responsible both for the internal growth and operations of the business, as well as the sort of key contact with our biggest clients. Now I get to focus all of my time where I love it the most, which is focused on consulting with our largest clients. About 15 years ago, if we take us back. We were in a world where a lot of the digital agencies of the early 2000s were being bought and integrated into above the line agencies. My opinion integrated relatively poorly. And the big problem that Matt and I saw was that essentially everyone was running towards digital. And the big question that ad agencies and clients were asking is, how can this new media help us interrupt people in new and interesting ways? And really, we felt that technology and digital media has an amazing opportunity to create value for people and new value for brands.

Bill: And so we founded AnalogFolk on the mission to use digital to make the analogue world better. And 15 years later, I think that’s I can step back and think that almost all of our work, but certainly the work that’s been most consequential, has lived up to that promise.

Mélanie: Amazing. And you got very much rewarded and awarded for that. So congratulations.

Bill: Thank you very much. Thanks.

Mélanie: What role do you think brands play in culture globally? And what value do innovation and inclusivity bring to that conversation?

Bill: It’s a great question. So we always think about culture in two different ways. So there’s slow culture and there’s fast culture, right? And slow culture is the culture that sort of underpins. It’s the substitute structure that underpins how we experience the world. It’s pretty internal, right. It’s the difference between what’s good and what’s bad, or what is a man or a woman supposed to be and do in society, or what do communities look like. And then it’s very slow to change. As we know, fast culture sits on top, and it’s the sort of TikTok memes and fashion and art and music. And historically, brands have really played a primary role in fast culture, right? Really pushing that sort of fast, like, what’s trendy, what’s interesting for the moment, and I think a big change has happened in the last 20 years where people are just a bit disenfranchised with governments and media who are the entities that have historically set slow culture, right? Helped us sort of evolve what we understand or how we reflect the world to ourselves. And brands have been asked to, and in some ways in a really positive way, stepped in to play that role increasingly.

Bill: So I think that’s really, the role that brands now play in culture is not just sort of helping to reflect what’s happening in a fast culture way, but also help to build the structures that we think of from a slow culture perspective. And to your second question, innovation and inclusivity is everything. I mean, it’s not everything, but it’s the actions, right? So you can’t set culture or really influence culture if you’re just reflecting back what you see. You need to create things that help us rethink how we live our lives. And so brands, the way they innovate with products and services, the way they use technology to make a difference in the world, and the way they are inclusive, both in terms of how they sell their products, but also how they engage people in the sort of marketing they do around their products, is what it’s all about.

Mélanie: Brilliant. Thank you. How do you operationalise what good looks like for global brands while giving this local marketeers the confidence and yet the freedom to interpret what will work for their markets?

Bill: Yeah, so it’s a huge question. We’ve been set up from the get go to work with big global brands. So as a very young agency, we opened offices in Asia and in the US. And really, it wasn’t just driven on opportunism, it was the realization that traditional media was very global. For global brands, digital media and technology was hyper local. And that’s a missed opportunity, right? It’s a missed opportunity for brands to create common behaviors and common messages and common ways of working and relationships from market to market. But that, at the same time, can leverage the uniqueness of digital media to allow you to be hyper, hyper local. And so for us, over the last 15 years, we feel like we’ve built a really good way of working with clients where we support them in their global brand strategy, which establishes the meaningful role they want to play. Right. Some people call it purpose. There’s lots of different ways to look at it, but really establish a meaningful role that they want to play. Help them build a marketing model which is then designed to enable that brand to co create with culture at scale.

Bill: So you’ve got meaning. You’re also not just reflecting that meaning, but you’re actually working with people to build new meaning and then create ideas that are really scalable and global. But the key is, at an early point to really engage markets in that conversation, to make sure that that strategy and that model and those ideas are truly relevant globally. And then to ensure you don’t go too far into crafting the idea so that it becomes generic. So the best example that I’ve got from US in the last few years is for Canesten, a Bayer brand. And we developed a new brand strategy which sets the purpose to help people free themselves from shame and discomfort. So that’s the meaningful role we want to play. It’s based on a truism from around the world that women it’s an intimate health brand that women, two thirds of women are ashamed to even say the word vagina to their doctor. That’s not just true in the UK, it’s true in the US, it’s true in Brazil, it’s true all around the world. And we as a brand want to play a meaningful role in helping remove that shame.

Bill: We then come up with an idea called Vagina Academy, which is a shame free school for intimate health education, aimed primarily at younger women who are coming through their journey into maturity and puberty and are really looking to get through the myths and misconceptions that prevent them from seeking help. So things like promiscuity is what leads to thrush, so trying to remove those, but also set reality in place in terms of what intimate health really is in Brazil, that came to life as intensivo de pepeka, which anyone who speaks Portuguese or is Brazilian will laugh. It’s sort of a combination of the intensive course you take in school and pepeka is the sort of quite childish way you describe your vagina in culture in Brazil, in England, and that was on TikTok and that was with influencers. In the UK, you can’t use influencers to talk about this subject. And the problem is a bit different in Brazil, it’s a cultural problem. Bolsonaro is outlawing sex education in school. They have to get their education elsewhere. In the UK, you get educated. The problem is the education that they teach is fluffy and not real.

Bill:So we did similar execution, same idea, Vagina Academy, but called The Truth undressed. In the UK, worked with the PSA to actually change the school’s curriculum. So it’s not social media oriented, it’s actual schools oriented. And then the brand impact is more about PR. In Australia. It’s called University of Down Under in Italy. Another name. And they’re all they use YouTube primarily in Italy because that was the big channel. So the flexibility for local markets to then take it and own the idea.

Mélanie: Brilliant. Thank you, Bill. A great example of culturally infused, sort of global and well balancing act for the brand. Really, really interesting. It’s been really inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us today, Bill, and sharing your experience. And for everyone watching, we hope, enjoyed this episode and we’ll see you very soon on under insights. Thank you very much.

If you’d like to learn more about cultural innovation and how culture can work for you visit our insights page.

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