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Marcus Collins

Marcus Collins

    • D&I Thought Leader, Cultural Contagion Expert
    • Award-winning Advertiser & Brand Strategist
    • Former Head of Digital Strategy for Beyoncé
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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

Marcus Collins is a marketing expert, award-winning advertiser, former Head of Digital Strategy for Beyoncé, and a Marketing Professor at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan. His work helps bridge the academic-practitioner gap for both degree-seeking students and business executives. Over the last decade, Marcus has helped “blue-chip” brands (like McDonald’s, Google, AB-InBev) navigate the challenges of digital transformation to create contagious marketing ideas that extend across both the online and offline worlds of “social.”

Throughout his career, Marcus has been acknowledged for his strategic and creative contributions as an advertiser (Advertising Age’s 40 Under 40 recipient, Clio award winner) where he launched such notable campaigns as “Cliff Paul” for State Farm, the Made In America Music Festival for Budweiser, ”Hello Brooklyn” for the Brooklyn Nets, and the Eggo + Netflix’s Stranger Things conquest.

Marcus has always been a “square peg in a round hole.” Growing up as a black kid in Detroit who swam competitively, studied engineering, spent his summers at band camp, and loved the Monkees as much as he loved A Tribe Called Quest. The result of this experience taught him how to observe cultural codes and develop an empathic muscle. His years of training and work experience have since strengthened these innate abilities into an actionable practice that allows him to translate culture for brands and translate brands for culture.

Prior to his tenure in advertising, Marcus worked in music and tech as a startup co-founder (Muse Recordings) then led iTunes + Nike sport music initiatives at Apple (iTunes Partner Marketing) before running digital strategy for Beyoncé.

Marcus is an alumnus of the University of Michigan (BSE in Materials Science Engineering and MBA with an emphasis in Strategic Brand Marketing) and a doctoral candidate at Temple University. But most importantly, he is Alex’s husband and Georgia & Ivy’s father.

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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