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Marcus Collins

Marcus Collins, PhD

    • D&I Thought Leader, Cultural Contagion Expert
    • Award-winning Advertiser & Brand Strategist
    • Former Head of Digital Strategy for Beyoncé
    • Author of  For the Culture: The Power Behind What We Buy, What We Do
Full Bio
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Too Foreign For Here: The Life of a Black Sheep | Marcus Collins | TEDxUofM

Too Foreign For Here: The Life of a Black Sheep | Marcus Collins | TEDxUofM

Social Engagement and Marketing Speaker

Social Engagement and Marketing Speaker

Marcus Collins Speaker Biography

Dr. Marcus Collins is an award-winning marketer, cultural translator, and best-selling author who has spent his career translating culture for brands and translating brands for culture. He currently serves as Clinical Assistant Professor of Marketing at Ross School of Business, University of Michigan and as a regular contributor to Forbes, where he writes about subjects ranging from the business cost of canceling diversity efforts to the impact of AI on creativity. Previously, he served as Chief Strategy Officer at Wieden + Kennedy, New York, where he was the architect of some of the best-known advertising campaigns of our time. Collins has championed strategies for blue chip brands such as McDonald’s, Apple, Google, State Farm, Target, Peloton, and Budweiser. Earlier in his career, he ran digital strategy for Beyoncé. His honors include being an AAF Advertising Hall of Achievement Inductee, 2022 Cannes Lions Jury Member, a member of the 2023 Thinkers50 Radar Class and one of the favorite professors of the University of Michigan MBA class of 2022. He is also the recipient of Advertising Age’s 40 Under 40 award and Crain’s Business’ 40 Under 40 award. His best-selling book, For the Culture: The Power Behind What We Buy, What We Do, and Who We Want to Be, examines the influence of culture on consumption and unpacks how everyone from marketers to activists can leverage culture to get people to take action. Throughout the book, he relies on literature, case studies, his work with brands, and academic data to illustrate the “whys” and the “hows” so that readers will be empowered to successfully apply these learnings to their own pursuits. Since its release, For the Culture has received numerous accolades—making it to Thinkers50’s Best New Management Booklist 2023, Forbes “6 Must-Read Books for Spring Reading”, Amazon’s #1 New Release list, and receiving rave reviews in the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times.

Before his tenure at Wieden+Kennedy, Dr. Collins served as the Chief Consumer Connections Officer at Doner Advertising and led social engagement at Steve Stoute’s advertising agency, Translation.  He began his career in music and tech with a startup he co-founded before working on iTunes + Nike sports music initiatives. Collins holds a doctorate in marketing from Temple University, where he studied cultural contagion and meaning-making. A proud Detroit native, he earned an MBA with an emphasis on strategic brand marketing from the University of Michigan, where he also received his undergraduate degree in Material Science Engineering. Dr. Collins has spoken to Fortune 100 audiences such as Google, UnitedHealthcare, AT&T, Verizon and Fannie Mae; and at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Since its modern conception, marketing and advertising have relied on creativity as a catalyst for commerce. Marketers use copy and images to evoke desired behaviors from a target populous in hopes that it will impact the brand’s bottom line. While the convergence of the two—creativity and commerce—is considered the hallmark of “good marketing communications” (sought after by ad agencies and ambitious brand managers alike), there is an unspoken factor that frames its relevance and significance. That factor is “culture” and this talk ventures to explore the unwritten rules about culture and why its simultaneous salience and nebulousness should be the backbone of how we approach marketing in today’s hyper-connected world.

Today’s connected-world provides marketers unprecedented access to consumer data. We can track what people like, where they go, what they share, what they buy, and so on. The reams of passive information that people shed on a daily basis allow for more targeted messaging and measurement. However, while this intelligence has made marketers more confident, it has not made them more accurate in their efforts. This deficiency is not due to a lack of available data, rather, it is born from a lack of truly understanding people. Marketers have mistaken consumer information for consumer intimacy and, therefore, have not been able to fully leverage the power of data analytics. In this session, we will uncover a new and more accurate approach to segmentation so that we might improve our marketing accuracy, extract the potential of big data, and ultimately get closer to predictive modeling.

We live in a culturally constructed world where the branded products we consume and display are used to signal our constructed identity based upon the meaning we infuse in them. Understanding this meaning requires radical empathy and the ability to decipher the hidden cultural codes. This session will provide a perspective on how to navigate the cultural world and leverage the data that is made available through today’s evolving media landscape to encode and decode meaning through marketing.

It’s been said that “good marketers see consumers as complete human beings with all the dimensions real people have.” Demographics fail to accurately describe “real people.” Of course, that’s why marketers focus on psychographics because they paint a more vivid picture of who people are. However, the truth is, psychographics and personas only get us so far. In this session, we will uncover a new and more accurate approach to segmentation so that we might improve our marketing accuracy and ultimately get closer to predictive modeling.

In today’s hyper-connected world, the allure of “going viral” continues to seduce marketers and idea-generators into investing significant time and resources toward the creation of content – videos, memes, tweets, posts, etc. – that spreads. There is seemingly no shortage of brands, business owners, or storytellers who covet the opportunity to have their ideas trend on Twitter, rake up 1 million+ views on Youtube, or garner thousands of Facebook “likes.” Metrics of social-chatter are then used as a proxy for success with the inclination that virality leads to reach and reach implies potential action. Though there are benefits to “going viral,” one must wonder if virality is truly what we’re after or if perhaps there is something far greater worth pursuing. This session reframes the benefits of “going viral” and provides an alternative aim. It explores the impact of culture on consumer behavior and offers an actionable framework that enables marketers to create ideas/messages/ products/content that not only spread but also take hold in culture.

Hip hop is a large, well-defined, valuable, and growing culture of consumption with a set of beliefs, norms, artifacts, and language which govern the behaviors of this tribal collective and the social structure thereof. The construction of these governing cultural characteristics are highly visible and accessible by social media and other marketing channels of communication. What makes this potential even more staggering is the contagious which takes place among this culture of consumption not rarely but routinely, as seen in the adoption of Beat By Dre headphones, Adidas’ Yeezy sneakers, and the Fortnite video game. In fact, the hip hop culture of consumption has become a multi-billion dollar industry and has influenced consumption activities across such areas as music, automotive, fashion, sport, marketing, and tech. There is much to be learned from this consumption culture and how brands tap into this powerful buying population. In particular, what are the processes by which norms are negotiated and constructed when social contagion of branded products happens among members of the hip hop culture of consumption? How does the exchange and propagation of content between members of the hip hop culture of consumption translate into cultural characteristics within the collective? This session aims to not only address these issues but provide insight as to how brands can use this knowledge to inform product innovations, marketing activities, and business decision-making.

Social media technologies are continuously transforming the ways consumers interact with each other and firms. These changes constitute a fundamental shift in the marketplace — consumers have greater opportunities to voice their opinions and connect with other consumers as well as an increased influence over marketers and brands. As a result, the conventional approaches to marketing communications have become more and more challenged. This puts an added emphasis on leveraging social media to engage consumers and propagate ideas, messages, products, and behaviors. This workshop takes an in-depth look at the relationship between media and human behavior, and examines how organizations can capitalize on social media to support their marketing efforts. Participants will learn the secrets to unlock the potential of today’s tools to create comprehensive social media strategies and share-worthy ideas.

Today’s brands have transcended beyond mere marks of ownership, which aid commercial exchange, to become full-fledged cultural producers. This transcendence was no act of serendipity or result of happenstance. Rather, marketers have committed themselves to building strong brands that have relevance and global reach. Understanding the strategic decisions that go into building such brands will arm future marketers with the skills they need to develop, manage, and grow these brands themselves. This workshop, therefore, is designed to explore the building-blocks of branding and how contemporary marketers communicate brand ideas through effective advertising campaigns and powerful creative ideas.

“Digital” has become one of the most important issues in business today—requiring new skills and capabilities from the entire workforce to compete in the market. The word “digital,” however, has come to represent a type of technology, a mindset, a skillset, and a whole host of factors that make up contemporary business. With no shortage of jargon, abstractions, and buzzwords associated with “digital,” practitioners have struggled to find clarity in the space and fully leverage the potential power of “digital” for their business. This class takes an in-depth look at “digital” to provide an approach which empowers marketers with a perspective to navigate the ambiguity of “digital” with concreteness and actionable skills. Participants will learn how to apply strategic thinking to the creation of “digital” marketing activities that not only change industries but also consumer expectations.

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