Marcus Collins


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About Marcus Collins - DE&I Thought Leader, Cultural Contagion Expert, Award-winning Advertiser & Brand Strategist, Head of Planning at Wieden+Kennedy New York, and 2020 AAF Advertising Hall of Achievement Inductee:

Marcus Collins is a marketing expert, award-winning advertiser, Head of Planning at Wieden+Kennedy New York, former Head of Digital Strategy for Beyoncé, and a Marketing Professor at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan. His work helps bridge the academic-practitioner gap for both degree-seeking students and business executives. Over the last decade, Marcus has helped “blue-chip” brands (like McDonald’s, Google, AB-InBev) navigate the challenges of digital transformation to create contagious marketing ideas that extend across both the online and offline worlds of “social.”

Throughout his career, Marcus has been acknowledged for his strategic and creative contributions as an advertiser (Advertising Age’s 40 Under 40 recipient, Clio award winner) where he launched such notable campaigns as “Cliff Paul” for State Farm, the Made In America Music Festival for Budweiser, ”Hello Brooklyn” for the Brooklyn Nets, and the Eggo + Netflix’s Stranger Things conquest. In 2020 he was inducted in the American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame.

Marcus has always been a “square peg in a round hole.” Growing up as a black kid in Detroit who swam competitively, studied engineering, spent his summers at band camp, and loved the Monkees as much as he loved A Tribe Called Quest. The result of this experience taught him how to observe cultural codes and develop an empathic muscle. His years of training and work experience have since strengthened these innate abilities into an actionable practice that allows him to translate culture for brands and translate brands for culture.

Prior to his tenure in advertising, Marcus worked in music and tech as a startup co-founder (Muse Recordings) then led iTunes + Nike sport music initiatives at Apple (iTunes Partner Marketing) before running digital strategy for Beyoncé.

Marcus is an alumnus of the University of Michigan (BSE in Materials Science Engineering and MBA with an emphasis in Strategic Brand Marketing) and a doctoral candidate at Temple University. But most importantly, he is Alex’s husband and Georgia & Ivy’s father.

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What Marcus Collins Talks About:

For the Culture
Since its modern conception, marketing and advertising have relied on creativity as a catalyst for commerce. Marketers use copy and images to evoke desired behaviors from a target populous in hopes that it will impact the brand’s bottom line. While the convergence of the two—creativity and commerce—is considered the hallmark of “good marketing communications” (sought after by ad agencies and ambitious brand managers alike), there is an unspoken factor that frames its relevance and significance. That factor is “culture” and this talk ventures to explore the unwritten rules about culture and why its simultaneous salience and nebulousness should be the backbone of how we approach marketing in today’s hyper-connected world.

You Know What I Mean? A Cultural Look at Consumer Meaning-Making and Brand Consecration
We live in a culturally constructed world where the branded products we consume and display are used to signal our constructed identity based upon the meaning we infuse in them. Understanding this meaning requires radical empathy and the ability to decipher the hidden cultural codes. This session will provide a perspective on how to navigate the cultural world and leverage the data that is made available through today’s evolving media landscape to encode and decode meaning through marketing.

Creating Cultural Contagion
In today’s hyper-connected world, the allure of “going viral” continues to seduce marketers and idea-generators into investing significant time and resources toward the creation of content – videos, memes, tweets, posts, etc. – that spreads. There is seemingly no shortage of brands, business owners, or storytellers who covet the opportunity to have their ideas trend on Twitter, rake up 1 million+ views on Youtube, or garner thousands of Facebook “likes.” Metrics of social-chatter are then used as a proxy for success with the inclination that virality leads to reach and reach implies potential action. Though there are benefits to “going viral,” one must wonder if virality is truly what we’re after or if perhaps there is something far greater worth pursuing. This session reframes the benefits of “going viral” and provides an alternative aim. It explores the impact of culture on consumer behavior and offers an actionable framework that enables marketers to create ideas/messages/ products/content that not only spread but also take hold in culture.

To Legit: Deciding What’s “IN” and What’s “OUT”
From the clothes we wear to the food we eat, the words we use, the shows we watch, and everything in between, our daily lives are informed by what we—the people—have collectively decided what is acceptable (what’s “in” and what’s “out”). However, much of these decisions are heavily influenced by the marketing communications that brands put in the world, which means we—marketers—have an unbelievable opportunity (and, perhaps, responsibility) to make radical change to society at large.

But how do we do that while also tending to our fiduciary responsibilities to our company’s business objectives? How do we make changes in the world while also making our numbers? Well, the answer is simple: social media.

This talk will provide a perspective for marketing managers to frame social media beyond the technology and apply its potential to the business and beyond. Attendees can expect the following takeaways:

  • An understanding of the role brands play in the legitimation process of deciding what’s “in” and what’s “out”
  • The perspective on the true influence of media and how it works to shape our worldview—which, consequently, influences what we deem to be acceptable
  • Predictions for what will likely be legitimated next
  • Actionable steps that managers can take to position their brands as both change-makers and money-makers.


Social Media Workshop
This workshop takes an in-depth look at the relationship between media and human behavior, and examines how organizations can capitalize on social media to support their marketing efforts. Participants will learn the secrets to unlock the potential of today’s tools to create comprehensive social media strategies and share-worthy ideas.

Branding & Brand Strategy Workshop
This workshop, therefore, is designed to explore the building-blocks of branding and how contemporary marketers communicate brand ideas through effective advertising campaigns and powerful creative ideas.

Digital Marketing
This class takes an in-depth look at “digital” to provide an approach that empowers marketers with a perspective to navigate the ambiguity of “digital” with concreteness and actionable skills. Participants will learn how to apply strategic thinking to the creation of “digital” marketing activities that not only change industries but also consumer expectations.

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 Recent Publications

    (After Marcus’ talk) our team felt inspired to action and empathy. I had goosebumps multiple times - was NOT expecting that at all.


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