Dr. Marcus Collins

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From Budweiser to Beyoncé, McDonald’s to Google, Marcus Collins has been the architect behind some of the most famous ad campaigns of the last decade. When he’s not helping blue chip brands create contagious marketing ideas as Chief Strategy Officer at the award-winning agency, Wieden+Kennedy, appearing on the TED stage, writing a column for Adweek or releasing a much-anticipated new book, he is shaping the next generation of marketers as a marketing professor at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan. A celebrated expert on cultural contagion, meaning-making, brand strategy, and consumer behavior, Marcus shows audiences in any industry or profession how to harness the power of culture to get others to share your vision and most of all, take action.


We live in a hyper-connected world bombarded by thousands of messages and interactions per day. How do we break through to not only engage but to truly connect and catalyze action? Sharing his “Contagion Cookbook” of strategies drawn from the most famous ad campaigns and cultural phenomena of our time, Dr. Marcus Collins breaks down how culture influences behavior, driving connection, and ultimately, commerce. Audiences leave with the secret recipes for building Cultural Contagion—going beyond just “going viral” to create ideas that catch on, inspire action and become a part of the culture itself.


Dr. Marcus Collins is an award-winning marketer and expert on cultural contagion, meaning-making, brand strategy, and consumer behavior. He has spent his career translating culture for brands and translating brands for culture, becoming the architect of some of the best-known advertising campaigns of our time. Marcus has championed strategies for blue chip brands such as McDonald’s, Apple, Google, State Farm, Target, Peloton, and Budweiser, and even ran a digital strategy for Beyoncé. He currently serves as Chief Strategy Officer for Wieden+Kennedy New York, the award-winning ad agency best known for its work for Nike and the legendary “Just Do It” campaign. He is also a columnist for Adweek is a TED speaker, and a marketing professor at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan. His honors include being an AAF Advertising Hall of Achievement Inductee, a 2022 Cannes Lions Jury Member, and one of the favorite professors of the University of Michigan MBA class of 2022. He is also the recipient of Advertising Age’s 40 Under 40 award and Crain’s Business’ 40 Under 40 award. His much-anticipated book, For the Culture: The Power Behind What We Buy, What We Do, and Who We Want to Be declares that no matter what we do, we are all marketers trying to influence people in our daily lives and shows how to harness culture to inspire others to share your vision and take action. It will be released in May 2023.


Marcus Collins has spent his career studying the underlying drivers that motivate people to take action—to buy, to watch, to click, to vote, to subscribe, etc.—helping organizations from Fortune 500 companies to startups and nonprofits use this knowledge to create marketing campaigns that catalyze collective action. His strategies and creative contributions have led to the launch and success of Google’s “Real Tone” technology, Budweiser’s “Made in America” film festival, the Brooklyn Nets, and State Farm’s “Cliff Paul” campaign. 


Before joining Wieden+Kennedy, Marcus served as the Chief Consumer Connections Officer at Doner Advertising and led Social Engagement at Steve Stoute’s advertising agency, Translation.


Before his advertising tenure, Marcus began his career in music and tech with a startup he co-founded before working on iTunes + Nike sports music initiatives. He holds a doctorate in marketing from Temple University, where he studied cultural contagion and meaning-making. Marcus received an MBA with an emphasis on strategic brand marketing from the University of Michigan, where he also earned his undergraduate degree in Material Science Engineering. He has spoken for Fortune 100 audiences such as Google, United Healthcare, Toyota, Verizon, and Fannie Mae. 


Sample Speaking Topics- 


Cultural Contagion: Going Beyond “Going Viral”

Today, there is no shortage of brands, business owners, or storytellers who covet the opportunity to have their ideas trend on Twitter, rack up one million+ view on YouTube, or garner thousands of Facebook likes. But are the metrics of social chatter only a proxy for genuine and long-term success? Does “going viral” really lead to reach, or most importantly, drive people to take action?  n this invaluable session, Marcus Collins reframes the benefits of “going viral” and explores how creating Cultural Contagion is a far more powerful way to generate social currency, tell your story, evoke emotion, build trust, activate networks, and ultimately drive action, connection, and commerce. Mixing behavior science and branding, he tells the back stories of brands and analyzes the most culturally contagious phenomena of our time. He also shares the four “Cs” of his “Contagion Cookbook,” the perfect recipe for anyone who wants to go beyond viral and achieve a higher level of connection, engagement, and action.


For the Culture: The Power Behind What We Buy, What We Do, and Who We Want to Be

Every day, all of us try to influence others— to get them to believe, join, buy, embrace a vision, and most of all, to move and take action. In both our personal and professional lives, no matter what we do, we are all marketers. And all of us can learn from top marketer Dr. Marcus Collins about how culture is the most powerful vehicle for influencing beliefs and behaviors. 


In this inspiring talk, Marcus shares stories from his own life and career as a top marketer, from the spearheading digital strategy for Beyoncé to the success of Google’s “Real Tone” technology to the launch of the Brooklyn Nets and a successful collaboration between iTunes and Nike. Combining thought-provoking examples drawn from contemporary culture with a deep perspective based on a century’s worth of data, he shares the tools for catalyzing collective change and inspiring action.


Whether you’re a manager trying to motivate a team, a company trying to improve culture, or a sales executive making a pitch, Marcus draws from his much-anticipated new book, 

For the Culture: The Power Behind What We Buy, What We Do, and Who We Want to Be (to be released in May 2023) to challenge old thinking and give you the essential tools to succeed in a hyper-connected, light-speed world.



Data Analytics: Don’t Mistake Information for Intimacy

We have more data than ever before, yet we still don’t understand our customers, patients, employees, investors…you name it. The list is infinite and universal with one important conclusion: Data isn’t enough. How can we gain genuine insights and intimacy that allow us to authentically connect with any stakeholder?  In this eye-opening talk, master brand and cultural strategist Marcus Collins draws from field anthropology, ethnography, and his decades of research to help marketers understand who their “target” really is. Only by transcending demographics and identifying people according to their beliefs and values-based “tribes” and “collectives” can we know who they are. And only by understanding how they translate information through the lens of culture, can we communicate, connect and drive them to action. Sharing case studies and intriguing examples, Marcus shows how adding culture to the equation will give your marketing and communications a competitive edge over data and analytics alone. 



Going Tribal: The Future of Brand Is Culture

Historically, “brand” was a legal mark that said, “this belongs to me.” Over time, it became a trust mark, assuring quality standards. Next, marketers decided that it wasn’t enough for consumers to simply buy their stuff. The era of “brand love” evolved, marked by evocative brand stories that fortified consumer love. Today, the most powerful and forward-thinking marketers focus on culture. Why? Because culture governs how we behave in the world. The strongest brands have become identity marks that align with our beliefs and values. They have become brand marks for “tribes” of people who share the same cultural identity and mindsets. “My friends use iPhones or Pixels.” “My friends are Democrats or Republicans.” Future brands (starting now) will study and understand the cultural characteristics of certain tribes—their beliefs, artifacts, behavior, and language—and weave their brand into the connective tissue of tribal culture. Renowned brand and cultural strategist Marcus Collins examines the most significant shift in marketing over the last 50 years and how a knowledge of tribes and cultures will become even more critical to successful marketing in the Metaverse. 


Putting The Humanity Back Into Customer Centricity

In today’s competitive business landscape, it’s more important than ever to put the customer at the center of all business decisions. While this truth might be widely held, our ability to build organizations that are readily capable of implementing a customer centric approach is not as accessible as we might desire. This talk uncovers a perspective for customer centricity and provides actionable strategies for adopting this approach within your organization. Key takeaways:

  • Understand the benefits of a customer-centric approach, including increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, and how it can drive business growth and success
  • Discover strategies for creating a customer-centric culture within your organization and building a customer-centric team
  • Learn how to apply these strategies to your organization right away


Dr. Marcus Collins's Experiences

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