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Carolyn Tisch Blodgett, Senior Vice President and Head of Global Marketing at Peloton in conversation with Axios' Sara Fischer. Photo: Beatrice Moritz for Axios

The big picture: Tuesday morning, Axios' Sara Fischer hosted a series of conversations on the need to proactively define your brand in today's media landscape. Covering platforms, agencies, direct-to-consumer products, legacy brands, and publishers, Fischer and leaders across varied industries unpacked the unique challenges presented by shifting consumer needs and expectations, as well as the intersection of politics and brand messaging.

Mr. Alexander Jutkowitz, CEO & Founder, Group SJR
Alexander Jutkowitz, the CEO & Founder of Group SJR talking about the role of politics in advertising. Photo: Beatrice Moritz for Axios

Jutkowitz discussed a shift in brands' willingness to be more vocal about political issues, and have that perspective be a strategic piece of their brand strategy.

  • Brands have always been involved in politics… the difference now is that they highlight and accentuate that they are leaning in to politics.”
  • On the change coming from the top down: "80% of CMOs say that they’re willing to take a stand on a political issue."
  • On taking storytelling seriously: "Storytelling has a strategic outcome."

He also highlighted the role that agencies can play in pushing their clients to be more forward-looking in terms of their goals and vision for their brand.

  • "As agencies, we’re mirrors for our clients. We can be a mirror that points down, a mirror that looks exactly at each other or a mirror that points up, looking ahead.”
Ms. Sarah Personette, Vice President of Global Client Solutions, Twitter
Sarah Personette, Vice President of Global Client Solutions, Twitter discussing Twitter's emphasis on video content. Photo: Beatrice Moritz for Axios

Personette unpacked the sea of change in web content shifting to video, as well as Twitter's role in facilitating conversation online, highlighting its potential to quickly and intimately connects brands and consumers. Part of Twitter's strength as a platform, she emphasized, was that content could be "live, public, and distributed."

  • On the exponential increase in video content online: “Increasingly mobile has become video. In 2012, less than 1% of online content was video, by 2020 it should be 80%.”
  • On Twitter's role as a platform, rather than publisher: “We do not compete for rights. We are absolutely complementary to publishers and the publisher ecosystem.”
Mr. Justin Connolly, Executive Vice President, Disney & ESPN Media Networks
Justin Connolly the Executive Vice President of Disney & ESPN Media Networks discussing the focus on live events for ESPN+. Photo: Beatrice Moritz for Axios

Connolly brought his perspective from a publisher that is continuing to innovate its content offerings. Focusing on ESPN+, ESPN's cross-device sports streaming service with over 2 million subscribers, Connolly discussed how live content is an integral part of ESPN's broader strategy.

  • On the demand for live sports content and recent ESPN partnerships: “There is a deep reservoir of live event content on there, and we’re going to continue to invest and acquire rights to serve that interest”
  • On how sports can act as a unifying force: “We will continue to cover the intersection of sports and politics...Sports becomes an opportunity to engage in a common dialogue."

Ms. Devon Horowitz Gunn, Public Relations and Communications Lead, Honest Tea
Public Relations and Communications Lead at Honest Tea, Devon Horowitz Gunn, in conversation with Axios' Sara Fischer. Photo: Beatrice Moritz for Axios

Coming from a startup company that had been acquired by a legacy brand, Gunn talked about the importance of having a scalable mission and a brand that feels like a brand, not merely a marketing campaign.

  • On what customers are looking for when they're choosing a product: "We see consumers not just going for products -- they want to buy into a brand."
  • On what Honest Tea is aiming for with products ranging from kids drinks to bottled tea: "[We] want a lifetime consumer."
Ms. Carolyn Tisch Blodgett, Senior Vice President and Head of Global Marketing, Peloton

Blodgett unpacked how Peloton has maintained a cohesive marketing strategy throughout massive business changes, emphasizing the power of DTC in the close relationship between brand and consumer.

  • On how Peloton fits into the business landscape: "People don’t necessarily know how to frame us. Are you a hardware company? Are you a software company? Are you a media company? We’re really all of them."
  • On the on-going nature of the relationship between Peloton and its users: "Retention and engagement rates are our pride and joy. Our relationship just starts at the time of sale."

Thank you Group SJR for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper

Updated 39 mins ago - Politics & Policy

House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images

The House voted 220 to 212 on Wednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Why it matters: The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans plan to exact pain before COVID relief vote

Sen. Ron Johnson. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Republicans are demanding a full, 600-page bill reading — and painful, multi-hour "vote-a-rama" — as Democrats forge ahead with their plan to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Why it matters: The procedural war is aimed at forcing Democrats to defend several parts the GOP considers unnecessary and partisan. While the process won't substantially impact the final version of the mammoth bill, it'll provide plenty of ammunition for future campaign messaging.

The new grifters: outrage profiteers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As Republicans lost the Senate and narrowly missed retaking the House, millions of dollars in grassroots donations were diverted to a handful of 2020 congressional campaigns challenging high-profile Democrats that, realistically, were never going to succeed.

Why it matters: Call it the outrage-industrial complex. Slick fundraising consultants market candidates contesting some of their party’s most reviled opponents. Well-meaning donors pour money into dead-end campaigns instead of competitive contests. The only winner is the consultants.