Branding as an Art: Five Questions with Brad Kaplan

BrightHouse welcomes Brad Kaplan as a Managing Director. Brad has spent the past two decades in strategic consulting and brand management, starting off in the glamorous world of CPG (and, by glamorous, he means laundry detergent), heading to California to ride the internet boom (Yahoo!), then working with Fortune 500 clients across countless industries to harness the power of strategic branding and marketing. We asked him five questions to learn a bit more about his background:


Why did you join BrightHouse?

Purpose, people, place. I love the fact that our work at BrightHouse helps companies connect to their own true calling. I love the fact that we are a diverse, energized, creative, and refreshingly human bunch of folks. And I love that we are increasingly having global impact from our home base here in Ponce City Market, in Atlanta, in the South.

As someone who’s been in brand management for over 20 years, how has marketing’s approach to Purpose evolved over time?

Purpose was rarely purposefully thought about when I started in brand management. The focus was on the traditional definition of brand positioning, and trying to ladder up from the functional to the emotional benefits that a brand could serve. There were companies/brands that inherently “got it” on the idea of truly having/identifying/articulating their Purpose, but they were outliers. I was at Unilever as they were acquiring Ben & Jerry’s, which was a case of a mega-corporation just starting to see that a brand with Purpose could offer something unique in the world. Since then, Unilever has been on an upward trajectory of embracing the positive impact they can have and actually integrating ideas of Purpose into their business strategies. More and more, I think that corporate leaders understand that articulating their corporate Purpose is critical to their ability to succeed. As Ben Cohen said (quoting the Grateful Dead) when Unilever acquired Ben & Jerry’s, “Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right.”

At BrightHouse, we think part of our magic is combining creative and strategy. As someone with a BA in Art History in addition to your MBA from Duke, how do you merge creativity and strategy?

Strategy done right inherently has an element of creativity to it – it’s about uncovering opportunities and coming up with unique ways to pursue those opportunities. It’s hard to do either of those things without a creative mindset. That said, I’m not sure that having a BA in Art History helps much in that regard! I think the most important thing I got out of my art history education was recognizing the importance of understanding intention – what a painter or sculptor or architect was trying to do in their work. You can apply that same lens to companies or customers or consumers. What is a company’s intention in the work that they do, or a (potential) customer’s intention in the purchase decisions that they make? If we at BrightHouse are doing a good job at digging into the Venn diagram of where our clients’ “who we are” meets “needs in the world,” we’re uncovering the intentions that underlie both of those overlapping circles.

Venn

As a food critic, you obviously know how incredible the Atlanta food scene is, what are some of your recommendations?

I’m a semi-retired, semi-pro food critic, but I do still love sharing food recommendations. The two places in Atlanta where I most enjoy eating and drinking and communing are Staplehouse and Ticonderoga Club. Staplehouse’s upstairs Paper Crane Lounge is still somewhat under the radar (not for long), and is possibly the best place in town to sit and have a thoughtful cocktail in an intimate space. And now they’re serving a version of Staplehouse’s insanely good chicken liver tart AND Grandma Lillian’s potato rolls (which are equally insanely good). Ticonderoga Club is as much about the people and their wonderful quirks as it is about the stellar (and quirky) food and drink.

At BrightHouse, one of our values is Family is Everything, what’s your favorite thing to do with your family?

Exploring. Family trips are always the highlight of the year for all of us (me, my wife, my 16-year old daughter, and my 13-year old son) – giving us time and space to explore new things together. Ideally there’s both a cultural exploration and a natural exploration involved – like a trip we did to Tanzania that included plenty of wildlife in the Serengeti, but also spending a few hours with one of the world’s few remaining hunter-gatherer tribes. P.S. I am admittedly torn on the notion that tourism can protect the people, places, and things that it exploits. That doesn’t stop me and my family from exploring, but at least provides some direction on HOW we explore in a respectful way.

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