Marc Stoiber, a brand strategist that launched the Bud Light Institute and saved Mr. Clean from insolvency talks about his rollercoaster of a creative journey and how along the way he learned his true passion and found his path.
For over 30 years and across 3 continents, Marc Stoiber has helped everyone from global packaged goods giants to local upstarts create brands that are simple and outperform. He began his career as a writer in Hong Kong, advanced to the position of creative director in Germany, worked on the Palmer Jarvis team that won Agency of the Year, and served as National Creative Director at Grey. He subsequently founded his own company, “Change,” which made sustainability sexy. An entrepreneur at heart, he loves working directly with entrepreneurs, helping guide their creative strategy, and pulling together teams that can get the work done
Can you tell us about your journey into the creative world?
Marc Stoiber: I grew up in Calgary. Oil town. You either became an engineer, or you served coffee. I was lucky enough to get a scholarship in Europe, where I discovered all kinds of people doing creative things and – lo and behold – getting paid for it. After a bit of a zig-zag journey, I wound up advertising in Hong Kong as a writer. The rest isn’t history, but kind of a fun story.
You specialize in many things from graphic design to copywriting and much more, which aspect is your favorite and why?
Marc Stoiber: I like human psychology. Trying to understand what makes people tick. That’s the most rewarding part of the job, because humans are innately weird, and they keep you guessing
Can you give us an insight into your creative process? How do you create brands that are “an oasis of simple persuasion in a noisy, confusing world.”
Marc Stoiber: I subscribe to lazy marketing. That is, rather than attempting to guess, I ask them what they enjoy most about a product. They tell me, I add a creative twist and serve it back to them. They always want to know where I got the idea for the fantastic campaign. I never divulge the fact that they gave it to me.
Is there a difference between branding/brand identity design and brand strategy? What is it?
Marc: Brand strategy is how you grab a piece of the most valuable real estate of all – a piece of the consumer’s brain – and stick your message in there. Branding is simply one of many tactics to accomplish this goal.
How can the right brand strategy save a brand?
Marc: If you aren’t saying the right things to the right people at the right time in the right place, how do you expect to survive?
What are your thoughts on specialization vs generalization when pursuing branding and strategy?
Marc: Be an authority. A generalist is akin to a general practitioner (GP). When they are unwell, a lot of people kind of need you, but they have a lot of options. Instead, think like a brain surgeon – true, not nearly as many people will need you, but the few that do, REALLY do. There won’t be any haggling about price or expertise.
Designers talk about a system when they talk about brand strategy, a system that can adapt and grow with the brand. What is this system? How do you create it?
Marc: As stated above – the only goal of what we do is to get a piece of the consumer’s brain, and stick ourselves in it. The organic part of this comes in because your competitors aren’t simply sitting around waiting for you to do unto them. It’s like a chess game – move and countermove. your brand strategy needs to evolve constantly while staying true to its core tenets.
Can you tell us about one of your favorite projects you have worked on to date? What makes it so special?
Marc Stoiber: My very first job in Hong Kong advertising was back-translating A Better Tomorrow Part 2 – a kung fu movie. I think the rest of my career was a slow downward slope after that.
You started as a writer, transitioned through to senior design positions, started your agency, and now work as a consultant. What have been the pros and cons of how your role has changed?
Marc Stoiber: Every day I dream of a steady paycheck from a big agency. Then I realize what sort of insecurity, petty politicking, and ass-kissing went on in exchange for that consistent income. Every time, it forces me to go out and hunt and kill my meal. You do not always eat well, it is true. However, being the master of your domain, as Jerry Seinfeld put it, has limitless benefits.
Your work on Mr. Clean was awarded Campaign of the Year by Proctor, how was your experience working on it?
Marc Stoiber: Mr. Clean was named Procter’s Global Turnaround of the Year. We took the brand from being up for sale to being one of the top brands in the Procter stable. Although my experience was beneficial, it also detonated the time bomb that caused me to leave the advertising industry. Once you ask yourself if the world needs 5 more flavors of floor cleaner, that’s a hard thought to unthink.