CampaignsSpotlight on Cindy Gustafson: how brands can become more adaptive

Spotlight on Cindy Gustafson: how brands can become more adaptive

Cindy Gustafson, managing director of Invention Studio at Mindshare, shares her thoughts on adaptive marketing and how brands can move at the speed of the culture.

Cindy Gustafson, managing director of Invention Studio at Mindshare, shares her thoughts on adaptive marketing and how brands can move at the speed of the culture.

As managing director of Invention Studio at Mindshare, Cindy Gustafson puts a big emphasis on one problem that many brands want to solve: how to use existing media channels in creative ways and move at the speed of the culture?

To answer this question, Gustafson founded Invention Studio three years ago, a group within Mindshare that aims to merges data, science, and creativity in media plans in order to make a real cultural impact.

The initiative focuses on three areas:

  • Inventive ideas:  ideas big or small that are designed for a specific channel;
  • Inventive strategies: a new way a brand engages with consumers;
  • Inventive techniques: techniques that are intended to drive creativity into media plans and infuse creativity into every single 1,200 employees at Mindshare in North America. Inventive techniques include a whole suite of quick exercises like channel mining and culturing mapping. Dubbed “Mind Sweepers,” those tasks only take three or five minutes to finish.

Based on the three pillars, Gustafson details how brands can make all of their channels adaptive, with a focus on social.

“Planning for Agility”

Mindshare’s positioning around the globe is all about adaptive marketing, according to Gustafson. One big piece of this mission is “Planning for Agility” which simply put, means brands should be planning, adapting and innovating at the speed of their target markets.

At the heart of the three-step “Planning for Agility” process is cultural mapping where Gustafson’s team streamlines major cultural events – such as The Oscars and Super Bowl Sunday – twice a year to assess the entire landscape.

“99 percent of the culture is predictable. For example, there’s always a Cinderella story in sports. So the real question is how can advertisers align a campaign idea that is interactive around those cultural triggers with a brand’s DNA?” says Gustafson.

“Brands feel very comfortable reacting to culture on social. But what we’ve never felt comfortable with is making all assets in that marketing plan equally nimble around what’s going on in culture,” she adds.

In order to maximize a campaign’s resonance with the consumer across channels, everyone — including the Invention Studio team, Mindshare’s media planning team, brands’ in-house marketing team and their public relations team — needs to be involved in “Planning for Agility.”

“Everyone needs to participate because the process is intended to make sure that brands are adjusting their activities around what makes sense for them instead of just around everything that is happening,” explains Gustafson.

The “Speak Beautiful” Campaign for Dove

Putting the above theory into practice, Gustafson uses #SpeakBeautiful for Dove, the campaign she is most proud of so far, to explain how a brand can use a traditional social network in a creative way and move at the speed of the culture.

The “Speak Beautiful” campaign is a collaborative project between Gustafson’s team and other departments at Mindshare. After they conducted in-depth research, they thought that social could play a pivotal role in showing and shaping how women and girls feel about themselves. As a brand that stands for building self-confidence in women and young girls, Dove should partner with Twitter to push tangible effort and minimize the negative commentary around beauty and body confidence conversations.

#SpeakBeautiful is based on a branded video showing that women posted more than 5 million negative tweets about beauty and body image in 2014. The ad continues “It only takes one positive tweet to start a trend.”

The whole campaign also includes Dove’s research about self-esteem and social media, as well as a #SpeakBeautiful Twitter contest during the 2015 Oscars.

“We chose the Oscars because of the 5 million negative tweets about beauty and body confidence a year, 1.5 million happened just around the awards season,” says Gustafson.

The Oscars night alone, #SpeakBeautiful increased positive sentiment used by 69 percent and decreased sentiment used by 30 percent.

But #SpeakBeautiful was not an overnight success. Prior to the campaign, Gustafson’s team collaborated with Twitter to design an algorithm so the platform could detect negative tweets around beauty and boy image and flag them to Dove.

After the launch, Gustafson’s team set up six cultural triggers for the campaign, including the moment when high-profile people left social because they couldn’t take any negative commentary around beauty and body image. Then her team tracked those triggers via Mindshare’s internal operational system called The LOOP that consists of eight big screens and numerous analytics tools.



Based on the data and competitive analysis provided by The LOOP Gustafson’s team was able to track the six cultural triggers and then brainstormed how to respond to those moments.

“The LOOP has fundamentally changed the way we work. Previously, advertisers just needed to put a plan in the market but now every discipline has to work together in real time to make an ongoing campaign as flexible as possible,” she adds.

A few obstacles

Gustafson is looking to scale adaptive marketing and “Planning for Agility” going forward. While many big advertising spenders – such as Unilever, Nordstrom and Volvo – have adopted this approach to become more nimble, operational infrastructure is a big hurdle down the road for many brands.

“The hardest thing is the operational construct because there’s a lot of legalities going along with reacting in real time, especially on social,” says Gustafson.

“There’s never resistance to the fact that brands want to be adaptive. But planning like this could change the way companies resource and staff. I think it’s a piece of building new skill sets on both the agency side and the client side, making sure you have the infrastructure internally to turn things around quickly,” she adds.


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