Bob Gilbreath’s The Next Evolution of Marketing

The old interruptive model of marketing doesn’t work. We know that. So, how do we marketers make meaningful connections with our customers through marketing that is truly valuable to their lives? Marketing strategist Bob Gilbreath’s new concept, Marketing with Meaning, represents the next evolutionary step in a progression following direct marketing and permission marketing. In his new book called The Next Evolution of Marketing: Connect with Your Customers by Marketing with Meaning Bob outlines a model for developing meaningful marketing and then highlights many examples on how the model can be tailored to any company, large or small. Rather than pushing a product or service, Marketing with Meaning woos customers by offering them something of value independent of purchase. This can be done using traditional marketing methods like using or more modern methods like social media marketing.

I have invited Bob Gilbreath to get an insider look into his book The Next Evolution of Marketing: Connect with Your Customers by Marketing with Meaning.

Bob Gilbreath is Chief Marketing Strategist at Bridge Worldwide, one of the nation’s largest digital advertising agencies and part of WPP. Bob leads the Strategic Planning team within the agency, advising clients such as Procter & Gamble, ConAgra Foods, Kroger, Luxottica, and Abbott. His writing has been featured in Brandweek, he has spoken at Ad:Tech and Harvard Business School, and taught classes at NYU and Miami University. He is the author of The Next Evolution of Marketing: Connect with your Customers by Marketing with Meaning, which was released by McGraw-Hill in Oct 2009.

Bob Gilbreath

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Meaningful marketing depends on customer understanding and insights that are relevant.

Ambal Balakrishnan: Bob, it is a great pleasure to discuss your new book The Next Evolution of Marketing. Thanks for finding time out of your very busy schedule to provide your valuable insights to our readers.Tell us about your role at Bridge Worldwide. What keeps you up at night?
Bob Gilbreath: At Bridge Worldwide I lead our Strategic Planning Group as well as our New Business efforts. I’m also on the executive team that helps lead the direction of the entire company. I am kept awake at night thinking about the opportunities that lie out there for both our business and the business of our clients. Society is changing rapidly, that means business is changing rapidly. Our agency has survived and continued to grow (even in this downturn) by continually understanding that we must alter our approach to serving clients (even those we have kept for over a decade).

Ambal Balakrishnan: What are 3 marketing strategies at Bridge Worldwide that sets it apart from other players in the market?
Bob Gilbreath: First, we have an incredible culture at Bridge Worldwide. Long ago we realized that the only true competitive advantage in the advertising agency business is to create a place that is special for the people who work here. Our people are empowered to make decisions, lead and do the right thing. We continually involve the entire company in directing the changes we make, and we listen to their issues and ideas for improvement. That’s why we have been named one of the Top 25 Small Businesses to Work For in each of the last 4 years.

Second, we have a unique philosophy on where the marketing world is going. We believe that the traditional, interruptive models is unraveling before our eyes. As a result, we must help our clients create marketing that people choose to engage with, and advertising that itself adds value to people’s lives. We call the concept Marketing With Meaning, and we bring it to life in work such as our cold and flu tracker for Vicks and a online education and meal plans for people with diabetes for Abbott.

Third, we bring very strong strategic thinking to the table in all of our work. Unlike many traditional agencies that are focused on “the ad idea” or digital agencies that are more about technology execution, we start with a deep understanding of our clients’ businesses. Many of our key leaders come from the client side, and that comes through in the work that we do everyday.

Ambal Balakrishnan: How does your team at Bridge Worldwide aim to make meaningful connections with your customers through marketing that is truly valuable?

Bob Gilbreath: As a digital agency, we understand that you cannot force consumers to visit websites, register for an email, or download an iPhone app. The digital advertising agency business was born with this understanding that marketing must add value to people’s lives. And the opportunities to take clients business objectives and apply digital strategy and tactics to deliver on them are endless.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What prompted you to embark on creating your book ‘The Next Evolution of Marketing’?
Bob Gilbreath: For years many of us in marketing and advertising jobs have been seeking a new answer to changes in society that are impacting business. We have been attracted to new tactics of marketing, ranging from pop-up retail stores to mobile applications, but there has been no fundamental model for this new thinking. I began to develop a model called “Marketing with Meaning” and decided to write a book for our clients and other marketers in big and small businesses that need a new answer.

Ambal Balakrishnan: Please walk us through the book writing life-cycle from concept to launch?
Bob Gilbreath: It took about three years from concept to getting a book on the shelf at Barnes & Noble. In the first year I came up with the concept and began the process of researching and outlining my frameworks and examples. In year 2 I found an agent, developed a book proposal, shopped it to publishers, and began blogging to gather an audience for the book launch. In this third year I completed the book and when back and forth with the publisher on edits and additions. This is also when I began the process of developing and executing a marketing plan for the book. Overall, I find the process very similar to the work I used to do as a Brand Manager launching new products for Tide and Mr. Clean at Procter & Gamble. There is a tremendous amount of effort to get a new product on shelf, and writing a book was similar—both in the highs and lows of the process!

Ambal Balakrishnan: Who is ‘The Next Evolution of Marketing’ addressed towards?
Bob Gilbreath: I wrote this book for business people who are responsible for marketing their company’s products and services and are seeking a better alternative to the interruptive model. These people range from one-person business owners to Brand Managers on billion-dollar brands. They are attracted to new media and may have read other books by authors like Seth Godin, but are searching for both a great concept and a how-to guide for making change in their organizations.

Ambal Balakrishnan: How is the marketing landscape different than what it was a decade back?
Bob Gilbreath: Two words: Consumer control. Even a few years ago marketers could effectively interrupt their target audience, which was essentially held hostage to a handful of TV stations, radio channels, newspapers and magazines. But digital tools allowed them to control their use of media. This began with many cable channels, led to ad-skipping with DVRs, spawned continued with the penetration of iPods which put thousands of commercial-free songs at your disposal, and has grown with broadband Internet use that gives people the weather, news and sports info they used to have to watch the 11 o’clock news for. Digital media gives consumers control. And when they have control they start to realize that they don’t want to sit through unwanted, biased advertising any more.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What are the 3 key lessons you want readers to take away from your book?
Bob Gilbreath: Start with a strong Brand Purpose. Southwest Airlines exists to democratize air travel. Pampers exists to help babies develop. Why does your brand exist? Once you focus on something big and important in your Purpose, then meaningful marketing flows naturally.
Focus on a strong Business Objective and Consumer Insight. Meaningful marketing starts with a critical business opportunity or challenge, then depends on customer understanding and insights that are relevant.
You’ve got to start experimenting now to win. Some brands claim that traditional advertising is still a positive-ROI, but the trends are undeniable. Even if your corner of the world seems immune to change, it takes some time to get the hang of this new marketing model, so you’ve got to start now.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What one “get started on right way” change do you recommend to the reader of your book?
Bob Gilbreath: The next time you start writing a creative brief or brainstorming advertising ideas, simply hold yourself and your team to a simple requirement: Create marketing that people choose to engage with, and advertising that itself adds value to people’s lives.

Ambal Balakrishnan: Please recommend 3-5 resources (books, blogs).
Bob Gilbreath: I have to mention that people interested in this topic can enjoy some meaningful book marketing by going to, where we are offering lots of content for people whether or not they have purchased the book. This includes my Twitter feed, 3 blog posts per week, and a community of like-minded marketers who are helping each other shift to meaningful marketing.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What kind of projects (both personal and professional) are you involved in when you are not marketing, blogging, speaking or consulting?
Bob Gilbreath: My favorite work outside of my job and usual hobbies is my work as the President of the Board of The New School Montessori in Cincinnati. This is a school with a great program for kids aged 3 to 12 in a very diverse area of the city. I really enjoy working closely in a non-profit organization and developing my skills and perspective in new ways.

Ambal Balakrishnan: Bob, thanks for taking the time to discuss your book and sharing your marketing insights with us.
Bob Gilbreath: Thanx Ambal.

You can get a FREE chapter of Bob’s The Next Evolution of Marketing: Connect with Your Customers by Marketing with Meaning here.

Win FREE copies of The Next Evolution of Marketing

To celebrate Bob Gilbreath’s book launch, we are giving away 2 FREE copies of The Next Evolution of Marketing: Connect with Your Customers by Marketing with Meaning. To enter this giveaway, simply do the following:

  • Follow @clickdocuments and @MktgwithMeaning on twitter
  • Tweet either the link to this interview or any post from Bob’s blog with ‘#CLICKGIVEAWAYS’
    We will randomly pick 2 lucky winners in the next week and ship them a copy of Bob Gilbreath’s The Next Evolution of Marketing. Stay tuned!

Over to you…
Fellow Marketers – What are you waiting for? Get yourself a copy of Bob Gilbreath’s The Next Evolution of Marketing: Connect with Your Customers by Marketing with Meaning and learn how to take your marketing from meaningless messages to meaningful connections.

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