Learnings from Debbie Millman, Keynote Speaker at Adobe’s Exclusive Event

Associate Creative Director Äbeer Khalique recently attended an Adobe Exclusive Event in New York City featuring keynote speaker Debbie Millman, President of Design at Sterling Brands, author of “Brand Thinking”, and host of the podcast ‘Design Matters’.

“Brands make people think things are worth paying for,” Millman expressed. During her keynote, Millman delved into the five distinct “waves” of modern brand evolution beginning with 1875.

From 1875-1920, building a brand was simple and straightforward. Brands helped consumers buy efficiently because they represented product consistency.

She took us through the 1960s, a time when brands represented quality following the initiation of the Foods and Drug Act, characters began to develop and eye contact helped to build trust. Notable brands included Morton’s Salt, Uncle Ben and Betty Crocker. The third wave took the audience from 1965 to 1985, a 20-year period during which brand self-expression took off, and brand loyalists began to connect. Think Levi’s for the young and rebellious American, and Nike for the athletic and structured. Consumers began to identify with brands and believed they would provide status. In the fourth wave (1985-2005), consumers began to see brands such as Disney, Apple and Starbucks offering immersive experiences that were emotionally transformative.

The fifth and present day wave, dubbed the Limbic Wave for the ways in which we use the Limbic section of our brain, sees brands as shared mutual experiences and connectors. We can thank the Internet, the smartphone and social media for this transformation. We’re living in a revolutionary time, and the information era guarantees connection. Consumers are spending more time in front of screens, purchasing more products and services online (and on different devices) and participating in more of the same things much faster. We are now using brands to create a global community.

Following her keynote, the event featured insightful discussions from Ashley Still, VP of Digital Publishing Suite and Scott Belsky, founder and CEO of Behance and creator of 99U, Behance’s think tank and annual conference devoted to execution in the creative world.

The morning also included a presentation with The Brothers Mueller of Mercury Design, who worked to help digitize the popular food magazine “Gather.” This was a true case study of how the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite can easily facilitate transitioning print media into digital space.

The audience received copies of Millman’s book “Brand Thinking.” All in all, it was a morning well spent with an industry icon and inspiring thought leaders.

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