The PSEUDO Network is compiled of brilliant, inspiring, unique individuals across the globe. It's our pleasure to introduce some of them to you, and share their opinions on brands, marketing and life in 2019 and beyond.
EB: Ellie Barber
LS: Leland Sutton
EB Hey, first things first, tell us a little bit about yourself...
LS Hello, I'm Leland, a 25-year-old self-proclaimed connector of dots. I'm originally from Seattle but have been living in New York for the past four years. Professionally I work in marketing and strategy, most interested in the ways interaction is leveraged as a form of influence. My career has taken shape amongst innovative, disruptive industries like blockchain and green tech. On the personal side – I am a diehard sneakerhead, not-so-serious photographer and lover of all things food, keen on maximizing my life experience. I’m in Seattle right now, enjoying the exceptionally nice, humidity-free weather. I actually just woke up—I feel as though my brain works better in the morning.
EB Love that! For you, what is the main thing brands get wrong when marketing to your age group?
LS It's the amount of sameness I see across campaigns and activations. Although many references to millennials are satirical in nature, the current homogeneity in marketing towards my age group feels lazy and uninspiring (for the most part). To provide an example; about a year ago, the pop-up activation model became increasingly popular in New York City. The method? A pastel color palette, a sans serif font, a selfie station, and a hashtag. While certain brands were able to successfully align this with their existing brand strategy in order to create a more interactive experience for their customers, legacy companies’ attempts to hop on-board often felt desperate. Considering the scope of most marketing budgets in 2019, it’s more than feasible that a brand can invest in meaningful activations that don’t dilute their brand equity.
EB Which other clichés or stereotypes do you wish brands would stop using?
LS I’m not sure whether or not you’d consider this a cliché, but I think brands have exhausted the idea of product exclusivity. Things have become so defined by the haves, versus the have nots, which translates into an ugly culture of comparison. The messaging/connotation has begun to outweigh the value and utility of actual product, which has allowed for a decline in quality as well. Additionally, the nostalgia play is getting old, fast.
EB Who are the brands doing it right? That are a stable part of your life?
LS Brands that have been in my life and stayed in my life over the last five years are brands like Patagonia, Comme des Garçons and Snow Peak. For me, Patagonia represents a consumer brand that is cognizant of their impact and actively participates in practices to change the way we consume. I remember a campaign that happened a year ago that loosely asked customers to not buy their products if they didn’t need them. A statement that directly threatens margins, but provides invaluable trust and confidence in their mission. I’ve always thought that change happens more efficiently from the inside out, so to see a high-vis brand take a stance is powerful. My appreciation for Comme des Garçons comes from the depth of history and influence the brand has made over its 46-year tenure in the fashion industry. Understanding Kawakubo’s rationale for different sublines and collections has been an incredibly rich learning experience that promotes a sort of sustained conceptual thinking. I trust that each product made was purposeful in its own right, as well as within a greater context. Finally, Snow Peak is an excellent example of thoughtful, utilitarian design. You can always trust the Japanese to take a concept (outdoor wear and accessories) and rework it to a point of frustrating detail. For God’s sake they made a portable camping pizza oven!
EB Is there a brand that you've moved away from?
LS A brand that I used to trust/buy and don’t now would be Volkswagen. When my family bought the car that would eventually be my first car, our main criteria were efficiency and the possibility of running on biodiesel. The “Clean Diesel” movement, paired with exceptional fuel economy made Volkswagen’s TDI fleet stand out. However, since the 2015 scandal, my trust towards the brand has eroded. The outright failure to meet the EPA’s emissions compliance is an indication that short-term success outweighs long-term sustainability.
EB How would you describe your relationship with social media?
LS My relationship to Social Media is complicated. Since the latest iOS update, my iPhone is able to tell me how much time I spend looking at social media on a given day. It’s alarming to consider what fraction of my day is spent in a virtual simulation of reality, while my physical self is existing in the real, tangible world. At the same time, social media has eliminated physical boundaries, affording me the opportunity to connect with brilliant individuals around the world (PSEUDO team included!).
EB And what about your relationship with money?
LS My relationship to money is, also, complicated. I grew up in a middle-class family that afforded me a sense of economic security growing up. At the same time, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve felt the effects (more indirectly than others) of what it’s like to live without much money. I am more interested in the access, opportunity, and overall sense of well-being that money can provide, but wish that life and self-worth was not weighed against it so heavily.
EB How would you describe your relationship with yourself?
LS My relationship to myself is constantly in progress. Knowing who I am, at a given moment in time, is what gives me the confidence to do things without fear of judgment. Still, I do my best to engage in self-reflection on a daily basis, in order to better understand what my thoughts are, and how they may change overtime as I respond to new information about the world (and myself).
EB If you were a big brand and could use your power to make a difference, what would you concentrate on?
LS I’d concentrate on investing in ideas at a broader scope. Someone once told me that talent is distributed equally, but opportunity isn’t. As a major brand, the opportunity exists to empower people of lesser privilege; to give them a platform to fully-realize their ideas and have them manifest in ways that extend far beyond the framework of their imagination. Something I always try to remember is that the Nikes or Apples of the world came from humble beginnings. Whether it’s in a garage or out of the back of a van, the world’s greatest minds can be hiding in plain sight; so open the door for them and see what impact they can make.
EB As an individual, what are the ways you're trying to make a difference?
LS The ways I try to make a difference personally in this world are through empathy and understanding. Yes—it sounds a little wishy washy, but let me explain. By empathy and understanding, I mean actively pursuing an understanding or appreciation of the other, and to validate their experience/existence despite how different it may be from my own.
EB How do you feel about the future?
LS When I think about the future I feel hopeful, largely because I have to. The future of our world is frightening considering the implications of climate change, social injustice, and other general uncertainties. But it is imperative that we maintain hope, even if it is somewhat misguided. Noam Chomsky has a quote on hope that loosely states, “If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world.” I hope that the future challenges will continue to breed better innovations that are geared toward improving the lives of many, while finding better ways to preserve the (only) planet we share.
EB Finally, is there anything you’d like to plug?
A few things come to mind! First of all, I'm very interested in the idea of collaborating, so its always nice to direct people to my Instagram @brickybrozay (I love when people follow up to chat with me). Sometimes this has led to cool job opportunities or collaborations, which I'm always open to. Second, my best friend and I started a small company called HomeKey which is working to help people start their Airbnb businesses and achieve more financial freedom. Lastly, I think it's a very important time to stand up for human rights and fight against things such as what has happened in Alabama recently. The Yellowhammer Fund is a great organization which provides funding for anyone seeking care at one of Alabama's three abortion clinics.