Moa Netto of RAPP: “Future-proof your legacy”

Future-proof your legacy: I think DDB recently did a great job leveraging the equity of their founders with a modern graphic approach that combines the two Ds from its initials to form the following B. It’s interesting to see how they brought in some nostalgy by including names of the founders in the logo, and […]

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Future-proof your legacy: I think DDB recently did a great job leveraging the equity of their founders with a modern graphic approach that combines the two Ds from its initials to form the following B. It’s interesting to see how they brought in some nostalgy by including names of the founders in the logo, and then contrasting that nostalgy with a simple and modern look, that can be explored in multiple visual ways. It’s simple, insightful and authentic to who they are and what they want to be known for. Kudos to our DDB friends.

As a part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview, I had the pleasure of interviewing Moa Netto.

Moa, Chief Creative Officer at RAPP US, is an award-winning creative with over 160 awards to his name. When it comes to ideas, he is always looking for the WTF effect to push the creative thinking to the next level. On his website, (yes, that domain extension exists) you can see some of the work created or led by him that has helped push the industry boundaries.

Moa has served as a jury member at some of the most important advertising festivals in the world, including Cannes Lions (2017 and 2013), D&AD (2017), London Festival and Webby Awards, among others. And he concluded the Creative Leadership Cannes Lions Programme from Berlin School.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Of course. When I was a kid, I kept saying I would become a professional soccer player — as most Brazilians do. When I was 15, a big soccer team from Rio, Vasco, invited me to join them. My family didn’t allow me to move to Rio (I’d have to quit studying), so I needed a plan B. Besides soccer, I’ve also liked technology and writing. Since I had to pick one, I decided to graduate in Computer Science, mainly because it was the cool new thing back at the time in Vitória, an island in Brazil where I grew up. Not sure if the audience knows, but in Brazil you have to take a rigorous test to be accepted in public colleges, it was about 2,000 people applying for 30 openings. I took the test, had the 5th best grade and started the course, yay! But It took me only two weeks to figure out it was the wrong decision. Even though I liked math and tech, I couldn’t see myself using mostly my left brain for a living. So, I became really close friends with three other disappointed folks in the class, we spent two weeks missing classes, playing foosball and discussing the future of our lives. By the end of the first month we all quit, and I decided to search for professions where I could exercise my creativity. A friend of mine had just started studying advertising, so I packed up my stuff and moved to Sao Paulo, the biggest city in Brazil, to see where my right brain could take me. And here I am, still can’t code, but strongly respect who can.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing or branding mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Couldn’t identify a specific branding mistake, sorry.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?

I think it was when I saw my work on Gizmodo US for the first time. Most of my successful projects are like weird experiments. On this one, called Screensavers Race, in order to promote Intel’s Formula One sponsorship, we decided to synchronize 15 screensavers in the office, to turn it into a virtual racetrack. Each screen had a screensaver installed that featured a specific part of the track, with an animation of an F1 car racing through it, in loop. We had 15 people moving their mouses and waiting for my command to stop moving it, so each screensaver would be activated in the exact right time. As screensavers were being activated, you could see a car moving from one computer to the next, shot in an angle that you could see the whole track being formed as the car progressed. We tried to make this work over 50 times, for over a week. By 1:00 a.m. on a Thursday night, we had one perfect take, and we all celebrated like little kids. Weeks later, Gizmodo US wrote an article saying this was the best screensaver ever. It was the first time I realized my work could have a global impact. And that creativity could be all about intentional experimentation.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Along with other Omnicom agencies, we’re helping an NGO called Girl Effect to promote the international day of the girl on October 11th and raise funds to keep amplifying the voices of girls in Africa and Asia, empowering them to take control of their destiny so they can thrive in life. It also helps them connect with other girls that face similar cultural challenges, using the power of content and mobile technology to unlock change. Because when a girl unlocks her power to think, feel and act differently, her behavior changes, and that inspires other girls to change too. Please take some time to visit their website, learn about the relevant work they do and, if you can, support it:

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Be active about it. Create boundaries. Hard work has nothing to do with long hours. It’s about making the most of the time you’re working. You need a healthy and happy life to be in the state of mind to come up with your best ideas. For creatives, trust your brain and let it do the hard work. You don’t need to be actively thinking about a brief the whole time to come up with the solution. Read the brief, set the problem, immerse yourself on the product and the sentiments you want to associate with the solution. Then get out, let your brain do the work and create associations until they come to you in the form of an idea. The other thing I’d say is that it’s our job as leaders to prevent and address burnout. We should actively monitor our teams hours and stress levels by looking at the sheets and having frequent conversations with them. And we should also encourage them to speak up and raise a flag when things are not right. Ultimately, we need to develop a culture that doesn’t reward for long hours or weekend work, but for working smarter to perform well, be productive and preserve personal lives.

Ok, let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

A brand is the collective result of all interactions you have with a specific product or service. And that includes both your brand marketing and your advertising efforts, along with other marketing components. For me branding is essentially about defining who you are as a brand, how you look, what’s your voice is, what’s your key statement, how you sound, smell — and each of those elements should reflect your core values and what you stand for — ultimately influencing how people feel around your product or service. Advertising, on the other hand, is about active persuasion — where companies actively pay to make people listen about the things that may convince them to buy a product or service. They are both important and interdependent. In summary, branding is working holistically on your identity, while advertising is curating a projection of that identity to persuade consumers to buy.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

In a world that tends to progressively reject interrupting advertising, and as barriers to production and distribution are at its lowest, building a brand is essential to give businesses a sustainable profit margin. In addition to their advertising efforts, it is key that companies build brands by carefully mapping their customer journeys and then making sure every relevant touchpoint is carrying the essence of the brand, while providing a singular experience that is authentic to their DNA.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

There are a few scenarios in which you should consider a rebranding. If the values that are associated with your brand are no longer relevant. If you’re expanding your products or reaching out to a new audience and need to expand your brand perception to accommodate it. If you’re entering a new market, or repositioning your product. If you’re simply lacking differentiation. If your consumers (not you), are tired of seeing your brand. Or if you just fell in love with Comic Sans and feel that should be the face of your brand. (just kidding, please DON’T DO IT)

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

Rebrands take a lot of effort and money, it is a complex process if you’re doing it properly. And, without a solid purpose, it might not take you where you want: consumers tend to trust what they are familiar with and reject change at first glance. So, if you’re considering a rebrand to achieve short term goals, purely drive sales, get some attention or even leave your personal mark as a CMO, reconsider it. Rebranding needs to be connected to your long-term mission and reflect your core values and be a tangible representation of your most up to date vision. Keep in mind that change for the sake of change can cost the loyalty of your fans in exchange or very little. So do it for the right reasons and follow a proper and comprehensive process to maximize the outcomes of your rebranding.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”? Please tell us a story or an example for each.

Future-proof your legacy: I think DDB recently did a great job leveraging the equity of their founders with a modern graphic approach that combines the two Ds from its initials to form the following B. It’s interesting to see how they brought in some nostalgy by including names of the founders in the logo, and then contrasting that nostalgy with a simple and modern look, that can be explored in multiple visual ways. It’s simple, insightful and authentic to who they are and what they want to be known for. Kudos to our DDB friends.

Reinvent your customer’s experience: Domino’s has been doing incredible work when it comes to repositioning the company and evolving its branding. It all started when they dropped the name pizza from their logo to expand their offerings. Then, they recognized the product wasn’t good and completely recreated their pizza. But for me the key moment is repositioning themselves as not only a pizza making company, but also as a delivery company, using technology to keep users connected with the brand in very unexpected ways — from ordering, to making and receiving it. It is a great benchmark for me of how companies can expand their mission and create experiences that totally pay off to their new brand promise.

Own your mistakes: Skol, the Brazilian leading beer brand, created new packages, a new slogan and invited six female artists to recreate some of its sexist posters from the past. The brand had a bit of a history of stereotyping and objectifying women on their campaigns, and finally understood they needed to change and own the errors from the past, adopting a new positioning that embraces and celebrates women.

Embrace individuality: For me this is old but still gold. I love how MIT labs used generative design to create a system that allows people to create their unique version of the logo. It’s like having your own MIT DNA — each logo is uniquely beautiful and the collective of logos is equally impressive. I am a firm believer that personalization at scale, when done right, can be a game changer for the communications industry and this happens to be one of the best examples of that approach, when you consider the world of branding.

Craft, craft, craft: I love the Warner Bros rebranding. The way they reshaped the format of the logo to make it more symmetric. The way they simplified it to work on multiple applications, small or big. The proprietary font they created inspired by the shape of the logo. It’s all so thoughtful. And if you look at both logos, old and new, you’ll clearly see they are very different. But they kind of make you feel the same way, which is quite an achievement for such distinct representations.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job doing a “Brand Makeover”. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

The most impressive rebranding case I believe I’ve ever seen is the from Havaianas, the now global Brazilian flip flop brand. By the time the company decided to reposition the product as an aspirational fashion item, the brand was associated with very low-class consumers, sales were declining and brand perception was poor. They then hired top notch stylists to create new colors and designs and significantly expanded their product portfolio. They also hired influencers and celebrities to use and promote their new flip flops. Their ads were revamped and looked like colorful and vibrant pieces of art, featuring clever and well humored headlines, which helped support the premium price and build the premium appeal. That was the foundation of the rebranding. Then they kept this new DNA while expanding internationally, carefully adapting their products and colors to the tastes of different countries. The lesson here for me is, if you are serious about your rebranding, define a clear vision that materializes your highest brand aspirations and then adjust all elements of your branding system, no matter how complex this seems, to achieve that vision.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Technology has been progressing way too fast. Things like AI and automation are creating a lot of new opportunities that require new skills from all of us. But it is also impacting jobs, especially the ones that require people to perform repetitive tasks.

So, in one hand there is a clear need for more workers that can use AI to generate value (machine learning engineers, natural language processers). In the order hand, there are people who lost their jobs, willing to be trained and reskilled to find new career opportunities. How can we connect those sides in a win/win way?

I’d love to create some sort of fund that can be used to reskill and train people on new careers enabled or powered by AI and automation. Looking for partners for that, if you want to think about a way to build this, just reach out.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? 
“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” — Albert Einstein. 
 I did my best work ever when I was enjoying every single piece of it and surrounded by people who felt the same way. If you think about the Screensavers Race, for instance, we could have faked it by editing one of the versions that went wrong into a perfect video. That would have been an intelligent solution — less hours, less effort, similar outcome. Actually, one person from the team suggested we did that. But I told him, where is the fun in that? We really enjoyed spending night after night trying to make this crazy challenge work. And when you watch the video, you get those vibes and it makes it way more authentic. And I believe the same philosophy applies to my short Computer Science experience. There was a lot of intelligence involved in coding. But I found my real fun playing foosball with my friends and figuring out what to do next. And, boy, I never regretted it.

How can our readers follow you online?

Twitter: @moacyr

Instagram: netto25

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