Will Burns


Will Burns brand consulting.

Will Burns Independent Brand Consulting


Lynn Paolella, Founder of Cambrooke Therapeutics

Lynn Paolella, Founder of Cambrooke Therapeutics

"It has been a real pleasure for the team to work with Will. His brilliant ideas and insights really shook up the way we think about how we market! I’ve loved seeing all the great communications through all of our social media sites!"

Between and around Ideasicle projects, I work directly with companies on various branding, marketing and communications problems, and I work with advertising agencies sharpening their new business approach.

Let's take those one at a time.

Companies: brand ideas galvanize all behavior.

  • Brand ideas
  • Presentation narratives
  • Creative brief development (read this)
  • Brand/blog writing
  • Communications plans
  • Lead brainstorms
  • In-house agency organization
  • Ideation via Ideasicle

Most of those are self-explanatory, but let me explain why I believe brand ideas are so important. For years, I've been writing on Forbes.com that the only way to get away from "random acts of marketing" is to have a single-minded, powerful, meaningful, truthful brand idea that inspires everything the company does.

It doesn't just inspire the advertising, though that's an important part. But who the company hires, what charities it supports, what products it decides to make (and doesn't decide to make), how the company services customers, only to name a few.

A brand idea galvanizes a company. I've seen it.

Getting to a brand idea.

A simple three-step process that helps them see themselves in different lights, ignites healthy discussions, helps navigate internal politics and ultimately leads to a brand idea:

  1. Immersion. We spend a day together where the client presents to me an overview of the company - products, business health, goals, distribution, competition, etc. Following that, I will personally interview employees and sometimes customers to get a well-rounded view.
  2. Ideas. Coming out of the immersion I will prepare ten completely different brand ideas that I believe could work. If appropriate and budget allows, I will tap into my idea factory Ideasicle. The ideas take the form of tag lines (though may not end up being used as such) with an explanation of the idea and rationale. This presentation is often quite therapeutic to companies as the decision makers are able to talk about the future of the company in the context of these potential brand ideas. Relevant article from the Ideasicle Blog.
  3. Manifesto. Once we land on one of the brand ideas, I will write a one-page manifesto that romances the idea and makes sure it's clear what we mean and what it means for employees. In the end, it's not about what our employees would do in the marketplace, it's about what the brand would do in the marketplace. The manifesto helps everyone internalize the brand idea so that they can channel it into what they do every day. Relevant article on the power of a brand idea from my Forbes Blog.

Clients who have benefited from this branding work: Cambrooke Therapeutics, Deloitte Digital, Ketovie, LogMeIn, Airing CPAP, RR Donnelley and several others.

Advertising agencies: sharpen your pitch.

  • Unpacking The Pitch (presentation with best practices/strategies)
  • Finding your agency's "obsession"
  • Reviewing new business materials/POV
  • Lead brainstorms
  • Ideation via Ideasicle

Overview: I spent 7 years as director of business development at Arnold Worldwide in Boston. I learned a lot about the new business process, about pitch consultants, about how to write an RFP, and generally speaking how to increase the odds of a victory throughout the arc of a pitch.

In your obsession is your differentiation.

Typically, my first assignment with any agency is to go through all of their new business materials and provide a point-of-view against my understanding of "best practices." Nearly every time I go through this process I am struck with how poor agencies are at marketing themselves. They are typically amazing at marketing their clients, so why not themselves?

Part of the reason, I think, is that they, like their clients often are too close to it. Agencies too easily default to "creativity" or "results" as their differentiation. Problem is, "creativity" is subjective and "results," well you better get results!

So what I try to find when I go through their existing materials (e.g. RFP, videos, web site, etc.) is an obsession. Because in your agency's obsession will be your differentiating point-of-view and at least a fresh way to talk about all the same old stuff every other agency, including yours, must talk about in pitch situations.

Is your obsession about a specific psychological effect that truly makes a consumer change behavior? Is it something about your own unique approach that you really believe in? Is it something about how you unpack a brand for its consumer? Is it about a common marketing enemy that you’ve identified and are built to slay?

Whatever the obsession is, find it, articulate it strongly, and then BE it. Watch all of your communications - from RFP to the web site to the presentations to the agency’s culture itself - suddenly galvanize around this obsession. 

I've done this work for agencies like Fuseideas, Heat, Deloitte Digital, Go Full Contact, North, White Rhino, and others. In fact, my work with Heat in getting them to their "Surprise" obsession contributed to their sale to Deloitte in 2016. Very proud of that. Relevant article about finding your obsession.

Mark Ray, Co-founder and Creative Director of  North  Advertising

Mark Ray, Co-founder and Creative Director of North Advertising

“We’ve found Will’s new business coaching service to be invaluable, especially as it relates to identifying an ownable, differentiating raison d’être - our “obsession” - that helps us stand out in pitches."

Elayna Rucker, Director of Marketing at Cambrooke Therapeutics

Elayna Rucker, Director of Marketing at Cambrooke Therapeutics

"Working with Will as a Consultant has been a lifesaver. He brings a breath of fresh air to the work environment. He developed two brand strategies for two different brands. The strategies allowed us to have better customer relevance and communicate more compellingly with our customers. In addition, he helped develop new and innovative marketing vehicles, which in turn has shown immediate results.

John Elder, CEO  Heat  Advertising

John Elder, CEO Heat Advertising

"We think of Will as a secret weapon for new business, whether it's his point-of-view on an RFP response, or his comments on a pitch presentation, we always get a great insight from him. He helped worked with us to find a unique, compelling positioning that is true to Heat's DNA."

consulting CLIENTS :

Deloitte - brand idea for Deloitte, "Everything is branding.

Adobe/Deloitte - positioning for partnership, "Eliminate Random Acts Of Marketing."

Heat Advertising - new business sharpening, "Power Of Surprise" brand idea, which was instrumental in being acquired by Deloitte.

Cambrooke Therapeutics - brand idea, blog writing, communications plans, "Feel Balanced. Feel Better."

Ketovie - brand idea, blog writing, "Everyday Is Everything."

Titleist - organizational work, strategy.

Constant Contact - creative brief development for 2015 and 2017 TV campaigns.

North - new business sharpening.

RR Donnelley - brand ideas.

LogMeIn - brand ideas.

White Rhino Advertising - writing, strategy, brand ideas.

Airing CPAP Crowdfunding - brand work, writing, raised record amount on Indiegogo for a medical device, almost $2,000,000.

Vistaprint - brainstorm lead.

Liberty Mutual - presentation to in-house agency, "Don't Just Brand The Channel, Channel The Brand."

Smith & Nephew - presentation "Don't Just Brand The Channel, Channel The Brand."

In-House Agency Forum - presentation "Don't Just Brand The Channel, Channel The Brand" and "The Science Of Creativity."

Monster.com- presentation "Don't Just Brand The Channel, Channel The Brand."