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  • Athina Mallis

Creative and design thinking critical for brands in 2021 - Digital Prophet Shingy

David Shing aka Shingy is one of the world’s most prolific digital prophets, who has over 20 years’ experience in digital, brand, advertising and marketing with the likes of Verizon Media, Oath and AoL.

He speaks to Athina Mallis, host of the Target Market podcast about the importance of authenticity, how brand equity is critical for today's market and his top predictions for 2021.

Being a digital prophet, did any of your predictions into what would happen in 2020 come true? What didn't come true?

The semantics of how people are happy, which is all I care about, particularly, we're talking about the workplace, is completely changed. Previously, happiness in the workplace were two things that contributed to recognition and contribution. If you can provide an environment that allows people to do both those things, awesome. But I felt like that's really changed, particularly with the onslaught of people trying to be recruited by all these incredible startups. There are different types of incentives. Authenticity, which is really what people are looking for, particularly as we've now locked in our own little spaces. Now you're living at work and that's something that I thought was really quite lovely.

The second thing was, I was talking about a phrase, which was the 'global nomad' and I'd spoken about the digital nomad from many years of which I believe I was one. When I chose to leave Verizon, one of the reasons I did that is that I felt like, it could all be very different. It doesn't matter where you are, as long as you are digitally nomadic, you could be globally nomadic at the same time. I didn't understand the context of what that meant. We are not global nomads, but in our minds we are and we are from the office because we're all unlocked from the office. You can actually be incredibly effective from anywhere.

What are your top 3 predictions in advertising and marketing for 2021?

The first one, understand as people change their behaviours in a condition they don't understand, they're going to rely on those human nature points. Nostalgia is the first thing, how can you actually take things that make people feel comfortable and more cared for and actually fold that into your brand strategy that could be a narrative that could be a hark back to where you started.

There are a number of different things that you could do and what gives me faith in that. Recently Levi's did a collaboration, where they took this retro design and denim colours and it definitely felt like they hopped back from the 80s. You're able to apply Lego to it, too. They have these Lego patches on them. They're two static brands and make people feel comforted and enjoyable, brought together.

The other thing that needs to happen is convenience. We came through summer here, I live in the US. What's amazing is that you know, I think the volume of Ice Cream has gone up through the roof. Haagen Dazs we're looking at a drone delivery, which they did over the summer to try and get almost instant ice cream to you.

As much as you can satisfy somebody that you'd have to do in a way that makes them feel super convenient and you also have to do without feeling like there's some sort of messy ethics. What I mean by that is prior to COVID, the shutdown of all the end of the world, apparently, we were talking about how the oceans are boiling, we need to worry about climate change and yet today, I won't touch anything, unless it's wrapped in six, wrappings of plastic comes in a great big box, I touch it with rubber gloves, and clearly non-recyclable, and I'm wearing a mask that's probably gonna end up in the ocean.

All of those things really challenge me one ethically, but I want to be safe. You have to think about those things. So to be able to understand how you as a brand, build things like sustainability, and it's already built into a digital brand, versus physical brand sustainability is going to be top of mind with most people beyond the ethics of a brand. Is it sustainable? Yeah. So there's a couple of things. They're not to the past to look into the future. Understand how you can create convenience in a world that feels like people want it quickly.

One of the things we specialise in at AZK Media is helping businesses build brand equity. Do you think companies underestimate the importance of brand equity, especially now in 2020?

I would say brand equity today is critical and how you measure that equity is going to be the new challenge for people in marketing. Especially when you think about typical forms of measurement in the past is selling products overnight, and building a brand over time and how you're actually going to justify both of those in this environment is going to be the new strategy.

Another thing we’re passionate about at AZK Media is the power of creative and design thinking in marketing. Do you think it’s still very much undervalued, especially in B2B marketing?

In the media mix, yes. Why? Because creative is still considered the non-performing part of the media dollars, which makes absolutely no sense to me. If you don't have really amazing creative that either tug at the heartstrings, and makes somebody laugh or cry, and what's its purpose? The media is just how you get it out there and the truth is it's the hardest working piece. Direct response creative, shouldn't necessarily be measured against what you would do for brands. If you have this beautiful branding piece that you expected to drive sales overnight, they don't, that doesn't work like that. It's not how we appreciate creative. I would say that not only is it more important than ever before, the way we measure it is radically different. The truth is it has to be a different type of mix.

Final thoughts - what’s a commonly held belief in advertising and marketing that you passionately disagree with?

The same piece of creative is measured for two different things. Sales overnight and brand over time, those two pieces of creative should be radically different, and they should never meet ever in a dark alley. Because they're different executions for different purposes, with different audiences in my mind, or the same audience with different places

What should everyone who is involved in marketing and advertising STOP doing?

I think they should stop briefing agencies. And whether it's creative or media the way they used it, they need to be at the heart of what they want to do. And they should use those agencies to amplify that strategy. And they need to change the way they think about agility. And the reason for that is that we've proven out in 2020, that plans for marketing are going to get thrown out the window anyway. Why not fold that contagion back into your brand and make it more of a consistent cycle.

What should everyone who is involved in marketing and advertising START doing?

What they should also start doing is probably do an audit of all the channels or where their brands are experienced today and make sure that it's authentically, the best way to engage and support people in the way they feel like they need to be sought and supported. As opposed to being an amplifier brand. There's a time to be an amplifier brand, it's a time to actually be consistent in dangerous times or feel challenging and be consistent in those advertising cycles.

Tune into the full episode here.

Target Market, a podcast series by AZK Media, where the world’s most premium thought leaders across technology, marketing and data come together to share their insights. Hosted by Athina Mallis


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