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Andrea Coville

Andrea Coville

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Trendsetters: Brodeur’s Andrea Coville Talks about “Relevance” as a Single Word to Refocus a Complex Marketing Industry

According to Andrea “Andy” Coville, CEO & Co-Founder of Brodeur Partners, the global public relations and communications agency, “You are either relevant—or you’re history.” Ms. Coville was referring to the concept of “relevance” in marketing, which has become the defining element of the Brodeur ethos and the subject of her new book, published earlier this month, called, RELEVANCE: The Power to Change Minds and Behavior and Stay Ahead of the Competition.

In a complex marketing world, it’s rarely easy to find a single word to capture a sweeping strategy or a new vision; however, Andy Coville admits that she started thinking about the word three years ago when preparing for a presentation. “What really connected for me about relevance is that it’s authentic. It’s not about grabbing attention, being the loudest brand in the room, or being the meme of the month. It’s about quietly, convincingly, substantially changing thinking and emotion in a way so profound as to change behavior.”

Her description of “relevance” in marketing terms in a more specific that the convention definition. She believes that relevance is the most important quality a brand, store or experience can offer. Unlike other marketing objectives—engagement, alignment, buzz, clicks, stickiness, etc.—relevance has the power to change both minds and behavior.

“Today,” she says, “you need to make yourself relevant to your customers or you will not be in business tomorrow. People are awash in choices about where to spend their money and place their loyalty. Facing this staggering range of alternatives, people will connect with what is most meaningful to them-- what seems most important or what is most relevant. If you aren’t relevant, they will go somewhere else.”

After three and half years of researching concepts of relevance in marketing and two decades of experience, Andy Colville easily states: “People want something to believe in, even if it is only a product or service that never lets them down. If your product/service/idea resonates with a customer, if it means something to them, in addition to being utilitarian, then the relationship will be deeper, longer lasting and more profitable.

For example, value and dependability are the bedrocks of the ideal shopping experience. So providing those two things are absolutely necessary, but they give you no competitive advantage, since the other companies who are battling with you to gain market share are going to provide them as well. If all you do is what everybody else does you’ll never gain an edge.

But, a Gen Y shopper, according to our research, is much more likely-- twice as likely as a Boomer, in fact— to say their favorite retailer delivers an experience that they’d like to share. The “shareability” component underscores the new social experiences this cohort is looking for both offline and online. It’s what is required to be relevant to them. It is easy to switch to another brand, company, product or service, unless people feel some sort of personal connection to your offering.”

She is convinced that the world has moved beyond buzz, flash, glitz, shock, schlock, and decibels. “Instead,” she says, It’s time for authenticity, transparency, humility, mutual respect. The world wants substance. It wants us to be relevant.”

When asked about the connection between relevance and innovation, her reply was immediate: “Almost everyone thinks successful innovation starts with a great idea. Almost everyone is wrong.
The great idea comes second. You must begin with the killer insight, a deep truth, one significant enough that it helps you make a meaningful number of sales or allows you to forge relationships with a large number of people.”

Andrea "Andy" Coville is CEO of Brodeur Partners, one of the world's top mid-sized communications agencies. In a quest to bring more science and sensory -based insight to the creative process she developed and refined the concept of relevance, a strategic platform for helping organizations and their brands go beyond the "buzz" and link communications to behavioral change.

For 25 years she has executed high-performing relevance campaigns for organizations in the business-to-business, consumer products and healthcare markets. Her agency's extensive client roster has included the American Cancer Society, IBM, MasterCard, Corning, Phillips, RIM (Blackberry), Bio, Vertex, 3M and GE Plastics.

After joining Brodeur in 1986 and becoming CEO in 1999, Andy diversified Brodeur Partners from a public relations firm specializing in technology to a multidisciplinary communications agency focusing on full-service communications, digital strategies, social change and business consulting. During that process she oversaw the acquisition of companies that expanded the agency's portfolio in life science, policy, online strategy and branding.

She is married to John Brodeur, co-founder of Brodeur Partners, is a mother of four children and has a passion for non-profits and social issues that advance the well-being of children.