When you’re feeling like you’ve lost your way as a brand, the past can serve as a rich source of ideas and inspiration. It’s a matter of polishing off some of those gems that made you great and bringing them to the forefront.

“Iconic brands are built on consistency over time,” said Jane Hwang, Skittles’ global brand director at Mars Wrigley. In her talk at The Gathering, she offered two big lessons on long-term brand building.

Jane Hwang is the Skittles’ global brand director at Mars Wrigley.

The first was about the importance of using the past as a source of inspiration and asking the right questions: ‘When we were at our best, what was happening at that time and what was the common thread?’ and equally important, ‘when it was going poorly, what was the problem?’

The second lesson she shared was on how to communicate effectively on a global scale.

Skittles’ unpredictable nature hinges on a distinctive brand of humour, but this in itself was becoming increasingly difficult to define, she said.

As a global brand, Skittles’ distinctive brand of humour was becoming more and more difficult to define, so the company created a simple framework that anyone could apply.

To solve this conundrum, Hwang and her team developed a framework to help everyone understand not what Skittles humour was, but what it wasn’t. Masterful in its simplicity, the solution included a large red square with the following descriptors flanking the four sides: too cute, culturally offensive, negative emotion, too gross.

No matter where you lived, or what team you were on, the guidelines were clear. If the content of the creative veered out of bounds on either of these four dimensions, then it’s wasn’t Skittles humour, she said.

“That little box has been incredibly powerful,” said Hwang. “And it made sure people knew what we were talking about in a really simple way.”

About The Gathering

Organizers of The Gathering consistently outdo themselves: bigger brands and personalities, more content and dual-track sessions, and ramped up music and entertainment value. But as it grows, the level of access to the hearts and minds of the biggest brand leaders remains unchanged, keeping The Gathering on the calendar of smart marketers across North America year after year.

For more information, visit www.cultgathering.com

Katherine Scarrow is the general manager of Globe Content Studio, the content-marketing division of The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national media organization.

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