Translating Culture with Marcus Collins

Marcus Collins is head of strategy at Wieden+Kennedy New York and author of the new book For the Culture. In addition to his work as an award-winning marketer and cultural translator, he also teaches marketing at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. We discussed all of this and more this week on the On Brand podcast.

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About Marcus Collins

Dr. Marcus Collins is an award-winning marketer and cultural translator. He currently serves as the head of strategy at Wieden+Kennedy New York and as a clinical assistant professor of marketing at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan. Prior to his advertising tenure, Marcus worked on iTunes + Nike sport music initiatives at Apple and ran digital strategy for Beyoncé. Marcus holds a doctorate in marketing from Temple University, where he studied social contagion and meaning-making. He received an MBA with an emphasis on strategic brand marketing from the University of Michigan, where he also earned his undergraduate degree in Material Science Engineering.

Episode Highlights

What does a cultural translator do for brands? “My role is to translate the culture of a part of a group of people to a brand.” This draws on Marcus’s background as an engineer looking to build bridges of trust between culture and brands.

“Trust is a mechanism that absorbs uncertainty.” This starts with answering questions about how a brand sees the world and the kinetics of how a brand moves through the world. As Marcus notes, “You gotta walk it like you talk it.”

For the Culture is for the people. “It’s not a marketing book. It’s a people book,” Marcus shared as he explained the need for his new book. “You ask about culture and you’re going to get 35 different answers. We need better language.”

Speaking of definitions and language … I love Marcus’s definition of a brand. “A brand is a vessel of meaning. And that meaning is not fixed.”

What brand has made Marcus smile recently? “It might be a bit of a chat as it’s a client but I didn’t work on it.” Marcus shared his love of the nostalgia evoked by McDonald’s in their recent campaign celebrating Grimace’s birthday. Still no word yet on what Grimace is exactly …

To learn more, look for Marcus on all of the socials at “Marc to the C.” Here he is on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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Until next week, I’ll see you on the Internet!