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Afdhel Aziz      

Brand Director of ABSOLUT VODKA, USA & Author of "Good is the New Cool: How Capitalism Can Save the World"

Afdhel Aziz is one of the world’s leading experts in marketing innovation and the power of purpose. He is an award-winning marketer who has led brands for Procter & Gamble, Heineken, Absolut, and Nokia, in London and New York. Afdhel has been a speaker at the Forbes CMO Summit, Cannes Lions, SXSW, Advertising Week and more, and his work has been featured in the New York Times, Vice, Fast Company, The Guardian, Coolhunting, Billboard, Hypebeast and more. Passionate about brands and culture as forces for good, he is the co-author of the book ‘Good is the New Cool: Market Like You Give a Damn’ as well as a regular FORBES contributor where he writes about how purpose drives business and social impact.

Speech Topics

Speech Topics

Behavioural Economics

‘Good is the New Cool’

We are at the brink of a massive revolution in the way people (especially Millennials) chose which brands, products and services that they buy. In addition to the classic 4 P’s (Product, Price, Place, Promotion) there is now a 5th P - ‘Purpose’. It starts with the ‘Promise’ (consumers identifying with what higher order value or mission the brand stands for) and then it continues with the ‘Proof’(how a brand activates and brings to life that purpose in a way that adds value to a consumer’s life).

This idea is now so powerful that even Fortune magazine has unveiled its ‘Change the World’ rankings - companies like Nike, Cisco, Vodafone and more who are all ‘Doing Well by Doing Good’.

It proves this topic is now top of mind amongst not only the business community, but also anyone who works in non-profits, public communications and academia.

Harvard Business Professor Michael Porter summarized the stark reality of the situation in a TED Talk entitled ‘Why Business Can Be Good at Solving Social Problems.’ The chart below shows that by an order of magnitude, the world’s resources are concentrated in the hands of corporations.

From the consumer side, the importance of “purpose” as a purchase factor has risen 26% globally (2012 Edelman Goodpurpose Study). According to a survey by Cone Communications, “90% of Americans say that companies must not only say a product or service is beneficial, but they need to prove it.” In 2012, nearly half (47%) of consumers bought a brand at least monthly that supports a cause, representing a 47 percent increase from 2010 (2012 Edelman Goodpurpose Study). Even a recent Brookings Institute report found, “Millennials overwhelmingly responded with increased trust (91 percent) and loyalty (89 percent), as well as a stronger likelihood to buy from those companies that supported solutions to specific social issues (89 percent).”

‘Good is the New Cool’

Afdhel Aziz is currently writing ‘Good is the New Cool’, an exploration of ‘purpose-driven’ brands marketing, showcasing examples from such innovative brands such as Warby Parker, Zappo’s and Citibank. The goal is to inspire others to be better marketers and citizens, by balancing profit and the needs of their consumers and communities; whilst innovating and harnessing the force of popular culture. The ideas behind ‘Good is the New Cool’ distil the learnings down into 7 Principles and 3 Action Steps that are useful and compelling to anyone in business, non-profits or academia.

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Other topics

Innovation/ Marketing / Leadership

‘The Future is Now’

Afdhel’s current role at Absolut Vodka involves running Absolut Labs:

Positioned at the intersection of technology, music and art, Absolut Labs marries artists and creators from different disciplines to develop products and experiences that drive nightlife forward - and inspire people to create richer social connections.

The first project from Labs was ‘Absolut Reality’ - the world’s first livestreamed virtual reality concert, which you can watch here:

‘The Future is Now’ talk is a provocative challenge to marketers to ‘stop advertising and start innovating’ - to create products and services that are of value to their consumers, instead of trying to bombard them with more commercial messages. It talks about how the forces of technology and social media have given marketers a golden opportunity to invent new models of engagement between brands, consumers and communities.

Arts and Pop Culture

‘7 Rules of Music and Brand Partnerships’

Afdhel is one of the most experienced marketers in the world when it comes to building relationships between music artists and brands. He has worked with dozens of artists including Lady Gaga, Little Dragon, Deadmau5, Kanye West, TV on the Radio, Nas, Grimes, Tiesto, Twin Shadow, Zedd, Major Lazer, Questlove, Icona Pop, Santigold, Swedish House Mafia, Rihanna, the Black Eyed Peas, and many more. His talk outlines 7 key rules for success in building successful partnerships with music artists.

Campaign USA Article:

‘7 Rules of Cultural Partnerships’

Afdhel is also one of the most experienced marketers in the world when it comes to building relationships between brands and cultural properties. He has worked with everyone from the TED Conferences, Art Basel, and the Coachella Music Festival, to London Fashion Week, the US Open Tennis and the Andy Warhol Foundation. His talk outlines 7 key rules for success in building successful partnerships with cultural properties.


Purpose is the buzzword of the moment, with billion-dollar purpose-driven brands like Tesla, Patagonia and Airbnb leading the cultural revolution around business as a force for good. But what is brand purpose? What are some of the myths and misconceptions around it? How can older companies reverse-engineer it into their DNA in an authentic and meaningful way? And how can leaders harness its power in order to create compelling brand propositions for a new generation of socially-aware consumers - as well as attracting the best employee talent who want to do meaningful work? In this illuminating talk, Afdhel Aziz shares key principles and examples to help introduce the topic in a clear and inspiring way.


Fast Company Interview


When you hear "think tank," the first words that come to mind are more likely policy, or government, or economics, or the military, rather than, say, vodka. Afdhel Aziz, however, is not constrained by your limited notions of what a think tank can be. As brand director for Absolut Labs, he's in charge of looking at ways that the company can spur innovation in the world of nightlife.

"It's there to do two things," Aziz says of Absolut Labs. "It's there to be an idea incubator, and to be a think tank, as well."

What that means in plain English is that Absolut Labs is looking for weird, unexpected ways to influence the nightlife experience. They started in August with a virtual reality project involving the Brooklyn band Bob Moses, where they provided Google Cardboard headsets to thousands of the band's fans, so they could all have an experience not unlike the one being enjoyed—live and in real time—by the 400 people in Williamsburg on the night of the band's gig. "That was our calling card," Aziz says of the experience. "To say 'this is what we're here to do: We're here to make nightlife better by using art, music, and technology in new and unique ways.'"

The think tank, meanwhile, is looking at unique ways to apply data they've cultivated to the world of nightlife. "We had been doing research with a hundred of the most influential and interesting people doing nightlife in the U.S.," Aziz explains. "If our purpose was to make nightlife better, we had to first find out what's going on in nightlife, and what trends are driving it. So we created an interesting piece of qualitative research where we identified people from different tribes—the people making the music, the people making the visuals, the people promoting the parties—and we talked to lots of different types of people, to gather these insights to put together the report."

The 21-page report Absolut created is full of interesting insights about the state of nightlife in 2015, covering the music, venues, and experiences that people want—and the ones that they're getting sick of. From there, Absolut found ways to develop events and experiences that reflect where people are right now.

"One of the things we’re seeing at the moment is this nostalgia, where we’re seeing a reaction to the rise of the super clubs, the big EDM festival, and the big EDM DJ, where people want smaller, more intimate gatherings, like when they used to go to a great house party back in the day," Aziz says. "They miss that intimacy and that kind of connection, and that’s one of the insights that’s going to underpin Absolut Electrik House, this event we’re staging in L.A. on Friday night. It’s taking the rituals of the house party, but adding art, music, and technology in new ways to take it to a whole new level. On Friday night, people in L.A. are going to see a real-time demonstration of how we took an insight and made an experience out of it."

That experience should be a unique one. Absolut promises "Instagram-worthy moments" that "will raise and measure the energy level of its house guests using custom biometric bracelets." And as the collective energy of the people at the party rises, different rooms in the house will unlock, leading to "a kitchen with drone bartenders," "a robot band in the garage," and a live performance in the backyard from Empire of the Sun.

Putting on events in LA or Brooklyn that capture—and, perhaps, guide—the changing trends in nightlife is a cool opportunity for any brand. But it's also an unlikely investment, in terms of what typically works in those spaces. But Aziz says that, as consumers get more savvy and the world changes, traditional advertising and media will probably not be enough.

"We realized when we set up Labs that Absolut is a brand that was built on advertising and media over the past 30 years, and it was one of the most iconic successful advertising campaigns of all time," he boasts. "But we realized that what’s driving the next 30 years, in addition to advertising, is going to be experiences and content and technology. So what this research has given us is a really good roadmap to start looking at all of the areas that Absolut as a brand can invest in. Whether they’re small startups, or our Nightlife 100 influencer community, or the general public, it's an opportunity for them to say what’s out there, and for us to ask, 'How do you think we can make nightlife better?'"

Forbes Names Absolut Labs Top 3 Marketing Innovation Labs for 2016

Marketers are constantly looking for new ways to one-up the competition, create better experiences for customers and experiment with new technologies. But they are increasingly finding it difficult to focus on optimizing results for the current quarter and to develop breakthrough innovations simultaneously. In order to overcome this challenge, several companies are establishing marketing innovation labs. These labs are not focused on creating new products but on testing new ways to deliver great experiences to customers.

There are several different approaches to setting up marketing innovation labs. Here are three examples that are worth emulating as you evaluate your approach to innovation in the new year.

Absolut Labs

Afdhel Aziz, brand director for Absolut Labs was put in charge of an effort to help define the future of marketing for the iconic spirits brand. “We’re about to see some massive shifts in consumer behavior, everything from consumers cutting the chord from conventional cable TV to using Apple TV, Netflix, Hulu and HBO without any ads, to iOS ad blocking software. What’s fascinating about Absolut is for the last 30 years it was a brand built on advertising. What we have to think about is what does the next 30 years look like? What does a brand like Absolut have to do in order to add another layer of innovation to what we’re doing out there?”

“That’s how the idea for Absolut Labs was born. It’s here to do two things. It’s here to be a think tank, to produce original research like the State of Night Life. And [it’s here] to act as an internal startup, to act as a very lean, fast, agile idea incubator that allows us to beta test new ideas, launch them very quickly, without a lot of money but in a way that allows us to very quickly gain insights and understanding of how the market is working.”

The Absolut Labs started its efforts by trying to understand technology’s impact on the nightlife experience and to explore how the brand could better connect with its consumers. “As our starting calling card we chose virtual reality as the technology that we wanted to beta test, which was the Absolut Reality Project. [It’s based on] an interesting insight that there’s always a concert or event that you want to go to but you can’t get tickets. It’s either sold out or it’s in another city. We took that consumer insight and realized with virtual reality what you had for the first time was a technology that delivered presence and it allowed you to feel like you were right there.”

“We worked with this band Bob Moses, a great band from Vancouver. They were doing a 400 person show at a venue in Williamsburg, New York. We went to them and said ‘Can we come and film the whole show in VR and can we give away 5000 Google Cardboard Headsets free to fans around the country?’ They were kind enough to say yes. We thought it was going to take a week [to give away the headsets], but it sold out in two hours. We learned that there is a powerful role for technology in helping people connect with the things that they’re passionate about. I think [Absolut Reality] gave us a good groundwork to think about what other experiences we can now expand to and test as well.”

Aziz staffs his lab through an agency partner in New York that has three multidisciplinary people dedicated to supporting Absolut Labs’ innovation initiatives.

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