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Warning to Marketers: Break Your Addiction to Storytelling

Russ Klein

I recently read an interesting article written by Avi Dan​, an individual for whom I have great respect. He wrote about the changing landscape and ambiguity around what the 21st century creative agency should look like.

He cites the shrinking, razor-thin margins many agencies can command for their creativity. My view is that it’s not merely creativity that clients are becoming increasingly unwilling to pay for; it’s whether the so-called creativity is being placed against high-yield business solutions that can change the trajectory of a business. I’m here to disabuse all marketers of the idea that the client community needs more artful or emotional storytelling.


Agencies and marketers alike are addicted to storytelling. The advent of so-called content marketing has been the equivalent of a speedball coursing through the craving veins of marketers who think every problem can be solved by telling a better story. Soon they are going to miss a window of opportunity that will quickly end up in someone else’s portfolio. If marketers and agencies don’t come to terms in a hurry with the structural factors that have set the stage for experience-driven brand building, CEOs are going to tap other resources to do it instead. Experience design is the next frontier for brand-building.


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As CEO for the American Marketing Association, Russ Klein is charged with the transformation of the AMA to become an essential community for marketers. Klein is a five-time award-winning CMO who has quarterbacked teams for many of the world’s foremost brand names, serving as president of Burger King from 2003-2010 and holding top marketing and advertising posts at Dr Pepper/7UP Companies, Gatorade, 7-Eleven Corporation and Arby’s Restaurant Group.