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Public Sector.

Whether we’re closely following an election or simply grabbing a cup of coffee in a crowded café, there’s a good chance we’ll hear someone mention taxes – and what our taxes pay for at the local, state or federal level.

While opinions abound (and we’re certainly not here to give one), one thing we’ve been thinking about lately is the people compensated by those tax dollars. No, not just the politicians making the news. The everyday people: firefighters, snowplow operators, public defenders, librarians, mail carriers and beyond.

What’s life like for people who work in the public sector? Is their experience different than it is for those of us in the private sector? Learn more in our latest insight.

| Creative, Culture, Research

4A’s StratFest 2019 Findings: Welcome to the Age of the Empowered Citizen.

Today’s consumers are asking companies to be increasingly transparent, innovative and plugged in to public discourse. Brands are reacting by placing the customer at the very center of their business decisions. At StratFest in New York City, our team explored how brand strategy is evolving in an increasingly consumer-centric landscape. Here are two of our key takeaways.

Consumers want brands to recognize them as people1

As the rise of IoT, AI and voice assistants makes us more informed and engaged, the influx of information has also fueled a loss of trust between brands and the public – a public that is more critical and more aware than ever before of the value they represent to brands and advertisers.

Brands can start to rebuild trust by recognizing that consumer needs generally boil down to a few basic things. The four essential customer needs listed below can be used as guiding principles for brands trying to (re)build trust with their customers:

  • People want new and meaningful abilities: Brands can offer products and services that align with the needs of their customers.
  • People want to get better at something: Brands can show how they can help support the customer’s goal.
  • People want personal connection: Brands can recognize customers as people with hopes, values, talents and flaws.
  • People want purpose: While it is unrealistic to expect brands to give purpose to their customers, brands can show humility about how they can fit into and improve their customers’ lives.

Humility can launch brands to the forefront2

Leading brands used to inspire consumers to think about the very edge of what is possible – far beyond what the average customer could likely achieve. And brands placed themselves at the center of their customers’ universe – overstepping in their promise of life-changing results from something like a sneaker or a credit card.

But in the age of Instagram and self-care, consumers have become “their own personal heroes” and aspire on an individual level. They want brands to support them in their journey and to validate their goals, values and beliefs.

Brand leaders now mirror everyday people: Casper Sleep stands up to a category that is too complicated and too expensive; Fenty leads the charge in representing people of color in fashion industry advertising; and Tesla recognized it couldn’t realistically address the carbon crisis on its own, so it open-sourced all its patents.

To better connect with consumers, brands can incorporate the five key aspects of the humble brand.

The humble brand is:

  • True to itself: It owns who it is.
  • Accessible: It is approachable and doesn’t promote an unattainable dream.
  • Self-aware: It knows its role in the lives of consumers and doesn’t overstep in the way brands used to.
  • Ever-evolving: It admits to mistakes and commits to improvement.
  • Responsive: It prioritizes consumer relationships over sales.

In this new paradigm, successful brands have shifted from inspiring fantastical dreams to adopting a more humble, human-scale approach to connecting with consumers. The customer is now at the center of the brand’s universe, rather than the other way around.

  1. Rishad Tobaccowala, chief growth officer, Publicis Groupe.
  2. Chris Konya, principal and managing director, Sylvain Labs.

| Creative

Enjoy Your Journey.

Over the course of our Quote to Self project, we’ve had candid conversations with family, friends and even strangers we meet on the street about what advice they would give their 15-year-old selves. We’ve encountered people who knew instantly and others who were caught off guard and took some time to reflect. It seems that we are all reminded of how life is short, and it seems that as you get older, the years go by even quicker. We turn to Jeff’s quote, which articulates the value of enjoying life’s journey.

“Sometimes a 15-year-old has to grow up fast, so you gotta be ready for anything. Buckle up – you only get one chance to enjoy this journey called life.”

The unique objective of this project is that we have allowed everyone to take a moment to reflect on their lives and see the growth they’ve experienced that has made them who they are today. Check out our Quote to Self website to see the inspiring advice we have collected over the course of the year.

If you have a nugget of wisdom to share with us, visit our Quote to Self website to participate. We want to hear from you!

Follow our Quote to Self Instagram and Facebook pages to see other advice we’ve collected thus far.


| Creative, Culture, Quote to Self Project, Research

First Day of School.

Do you remember the night before the first day of school? The nerves start to settle in, excitement about meeting your new teachers rises and you can barely wait to debut your new school clothes.

At 15 years old, you are most likely entering the 10th grade. You know where the best lunch spots are, school dances are familiar, and you’ve found the best shortcuts to your classes. But throughout the year, the feeling of more responsibility comes upon you.

The questions of “Where do you want to go to college?” “What do you want to study?” and “When are you taking the ACT?” start to consume your free time. We remember those tough conversations and the unfamiliarity of what lies ahead.

We turned to our good friend Annie, whose advice to her younger self speaks volumes about the possibilities that lie ahead for all 15-year-olds.

“Push yourself to dream BEYOND the boundaries of the impossible!”

Our project has gifted us with advice that is valuable not only for every 15-year-old but for all ages. If you have a nugget of wisdom to share with us, visit our Quote to Self website to participate. We want to hear from you!

Follow our Quote to Self Instagram and Facebook pages to see other advice we’ve collected thus far.

| Creative, Culture, Quote to Self Project, Research

A Big Trip for a Big Mission.

Normally, travelers to India avoid the rainy, humid monsoon season that runs from July to September. But our principals, Kerry and Kasey, have packed their umbrellas and traveled to Kolkata, India, for a very special project.

In 2016, we connected with a company called Freeset – located in West Bengal, India – with a mission to provide employees with safe working environments and fair wages as they make organic and eco-friendly apparel and accessory items. We loved their work and ordered custom bags for our 2017 holiday gifts. Since then, we stayed in touch with the team at Freeset and have followed their journey to provide better solutions for those who are impoverished in India.

We are excited to share that we are partnering with Freeset again but in a different way. As a part of our year of giving, we are donating our research, strategy and creative services to help Freeset move into the future and deepen their impact. As part of the research phase, Kerry and Kasey are interviewing employees in Kolkata. Upon their return, our team will develop recommendations for brand positioning and creative development.

We’re thrilled to be working with Freeset to support their mission and will be sharing more details at our 15th anniversary party, so stay tuned! 


| Creative, Culture, Quote to Self Project, Research

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