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Meet the Class: Joao Dias

March 30, 2017

Joao Maia Dias is Head of Strategy at Creation and a firm believer that in digital communication, true creative legacy only comes when both brand and business ‘work together as one’.

Joao joined the Executive MBA program after winning the dmexco Scholarship, designed for innovative front-runners in digital marketing. This week, Joao gave us the inside-line on his life-long fascination with branding, the shifting dichotomy between brand and business, and his predictions of the role of agencies in the future.


Catch us up on your creative background and career story. What made you go into advertising?

Time carries so many stories and so many characters that, when you look back, it’s impossible not to see how the dots were all so brilliantly connected. Although, it was only recently that I was able to pinpoint the first milestones in my journey. I remember when I was a kid being more interested in taking a giant storefront logo home than the sneakers inside. Everything became clearer in one of those weekly dinners we all have in our parents' house. There, I saw like never before the ridiculous amount of brands I had gathered in my room over the years. You could find literally everything there, from MTV cups and Coca-Cola shirts to Heineken bar towels and VW Beetle wheel emblems.

I guess I’ve always been somehow fascinated by brands and the way their imagery changes our behavior when we fall in love by them.

From that kid to this grown up kid, now Head of Strategy at a Portuguese advertising agency, some things have changed. But not the belief that every brand should bloom from another purpose than just making money. That kid is still around and I am sure he wouldn't take home brands without purpose.


Digitalization has infiltrated every aspect of our economy, our day-to-day lives, and the way we communicate with one another. How do you think our increasingly “connected” lifestyle will shape the future or branding?

In a world where only a third of the population goes through the process of converting from analogue to digital and where 4 of the 7.5 billion remain without internet access, it is paradoxical to imagine what the future of branding will be.

Regardless of the part of the you globe belong to, and the impact of that Internet of Things (IoT), or even mixed-reality (MR) might have on our lives, the issue should not be as much about what the ‘future of branding’ is, but rather whether it ever existed.

If we look at the purpose it was created for - a method used by brands so that they can build a solid set of associations and perceptions in the minds of consumers - we find that most of them never succeeded, and the reason is simple. Branding only happens when brand and business work together as one.

Branding is not about having the catchiest name, the trendiest visual identity, the clearest positioning statement, the best-defined archetype, or the most appealing storytelling. If the product does not match, branding has failed. It may not have ever existed, given that its purpose never grew. What we have seen has had another result, and I name it ‘BRANDRUPTCY’: The art of leading brands to the collapse of good perceptions, in a model that separates the brand from the business.


How will the dmexco scholarship help you further your research into digital communication?

It seems to me that even more important than helping my research - or even understanding how digital communication will evolve inside the industry - this scholarship will give me a new perspective on the impact that connected leadership can have on a company and its culture.

I strongly believe that leaders who are now devoting time to integrating technology in every layer of their organizations will improve not only decision-making processes in the near future, but also gain the ability to act on real time data.

If treated the right way, data can give leaders priceless information about their organization. Until now I’ve not heard much on the topic, so I hope to expand my knowledge on the subject.


How can brands improve their digital strategy to connect with audiences? What tools do you recommend?

The best tool I can think of is common sense. Technology has so forcefully exposed us to ‘brandruptcy’ that only now do we realize that success in the future will always rely on relevance.

Everything will be about making a product so sincere that it evokes the soul of the brand and speaks for itself.

Regardless of the business, branding will always act from the get-go, or in others words, from the product design. It will think about how the latter - while interacting with the five senses - will be able to create the most relevant and least intrusive perception possible.

Steve Jobs was one of the few who understood this. He understood that branding starts with the product and only then extends to the rest.

No one said branding was easy, it is just simple.


What does the agency of the future look like?

The advertising agency will not be the advertising agency. At least not as we know them today. It will be a kind of intervention company, one that scans everything in a client's business, detects and fixes the "bugs," then plants the basic seeds to build a new inspirational culture.

It will take the problems of the client as its own. It will not simply rely on anesthetizing the symptoms of the problem, but rather eliminating what causes them and pointing to a new path that serves a purpose. It will be a co-creator of this new identity and will be ready to idealize and prototype new tools and products that make it relevant. Most of all, it will be willing to take risks; to share the feats and the disasters. In the future, the ideal agency leadership will never stand in the way of risk-taking, but instead, establish the best possible conditions to face them.

The purpose of an agency will no longer be to just build a relevant communication but to create a relevant company. Only then will it be possible to shorten the gap between the vision of a company and the incorrect perception that its public can have of it.

Naturally, creativity and strategy will continue to be basic pillars of an agency, but eventually, it will not be developed solely by copywriters, art directors and strategists. Maybe we'll be surprised by biologists, mathematicians, screenwriters, Indian yogis, mix-reality designers or even real-time data machines. Co-creation is the future and when we merge under the same roof, science, art, humanities and technology, magic will happen.