Forbes: The Opportunities And Challenges Of Putting A Brand’s Mentality Into Action


Forbes: The Opportunities And Challenges Of Putting
A Brand’s Mentality Into Action

August 23, 2021

By Greg Garunov, EVP Business Development

In my previous article, I talked about the importance of a brand knowing its mindset — its unique mentality. This article explores the opportunities and challenges of codifying and putting it into action so that brands can respond to events in real time.

When Narratives Change in an Instant

All marketers want their messages to appear alongside content that’s relevant to what their brand stands for, but with the speed of today’s news cycle, that’s easier said than done.

Here’s an example: On February 23, Tiger Woods crashed his Genesis GV80 SUV. According to the police, he was “driving in an unsafe manner.” This wasn’t Woods’ first highly public car accident.

Then, on March 10, something very interesting happened: YouTuber and car enthusiast Elliot Alvis posted a video detailing how the many safety features of the Genesis GV80 saved Tiger Woods’ life. (Elliot Alvis openly acknowledges a relationship with Genesis.)

With that single upload, the story took a sudden, viral turn, doing more to promote the SUV’s safety features than a $5 million Super Bowl spot ever could. Consumers all over the world were suddenly talking about the remarkable ways in which Genesis protects drivers and passengers from harm.

YouTube video

Now, if you’re the brand manager for, say, the Subaru Outback or the Volvo V90, this story just became incredibly important, and you probably want to insert messages about your brand’s safety features in the conversation ASAP.

Here’s the upshot: We all know that brands tend to be naturally risk-averse, but sometimes bad news stories morph into golden opportunities. Stories are multi-layered narratives that can twist and turn. Tactics you once relied on (e.g., avoiding car crash stories if you’re an auto brand) can work against you if the narrative becomes core to your brand.

A Lack of Agility Kills the Moment

For the past 20 years, behavioral targeting and programmatic ad tech were the marketer’s primary tools for message alignment, but to respond to the Tiger Woods story, Subaru or Volvo would first need to realize that the story’s twist is relevant to its brand.

Sometimes bad news stories morph into golden opportunities

This begs the question: Is the brand manager even likely to see Alvis’s video until it percolates into the mainstream media? Possibly, but not probably, since the tools the brand manager uses — Google Alerts or some other keyword/regular expression monitoring tool — may not even be set to pick up stories or content related to Genesis.

Second, the competitive brand would need to notify its media execution team that this story has turned into an opportunity. Once notified, they would need to monitor and respond to the story in an automated fashion since this story twist will probably last only a couple of days. They’d likely create a set of keywords to target and then feed the revised strategy into their demand-side platform (DSP) or other platforms’ algorithms. That’s precious time lost.

And how will the media team even know who to target? In all likelihood, they’d build a proxy for consumers who are in the market for a car and are concerned with automobile safety. But is that even the right audience at that moment in time?

Many would say that the content people are consuming is a better real-time indicator of where their psyches are, and I agree with them. It’s critical to craft ad-placement decisions around consumers’ psyches because it’s the only way to really capture them in the right moments with the right message (ironically, all the promises that have been made over the years but never really came to pass).

Sometimes, content signals are just better suited to deliver on that promise than behavioral signals, as the Tiger Woods example shows. Modern content signals, when activated against strategic thought and speed, can deliver on this promise today in a significantly more effective way compared to the behavioral signals of old.

Data Science Delivers on a Brand’s Mentality

Can the industry get to the point where a marketer will know when a piece of content, somewhere in the universe, was posted that aligns with a brand’s messaging? To do this, we need to move beyond keyword detection and flag content based on a deeper level of context.

Fortunately, data science has vastly improved in its ability to read content signals. In the past, there was very little nuance to content data signals because all focus was on behavioral signs. But that’s changing. Today, data scientists have the ability to navigate content at a granular level, which makes it a much more effective tool for targeting than it was in the past.

Data science

To see how, let’s go back to the Subaru/Volvo predicament: What if the company had some kind of mechanism that told it instantly that Elliot Alvi had uploaded his video on the car that saved Tiger Woods’ life? Getting that information in real time would have tipped off the brand manager that the narrative around the accident had changed in an important way.

Getting data on content-origination points is only half the challenge. The other half is understanding a brand’s mentality — a filter that recognizes when a narrative changes to become a golden opportunity and helps execute the right message.

It’s Hard, but the Rewards Are Worth It

Getting a brand’s mentality right involves being sensitive to societal, psychological and anthropological thinking. It means translating business and marketing objectives and inputs in a way that aligns with how people actually think in the real world, not inside a marketing bubble.

At times, those inputs (story of a car crash) and outputs (we want to be part of this story) are off-kilter, and brands must learn to recognize that narratives change, quickly morphing between opportunities and challenges. This is how a brand’s mentality builds on brand suitability and brand safety, ensuring they go further and enabling them to respond in real time to fluid situations.

As you can imagine, that requires a lot of sophisticated analytics driving automation, which I’ll tackle in my next article.


See the original article on Forbes here.


So are we!

Diversity and Multicultural Marketing: Six Keys For Success


Diversity and Multicultural Marketing: Six Keys For Success

July 20, 2021

Marissa Price — SVP, Client Services, Sightly
Edwina Morales — VP, Multicultural Business Solutions, Horizon Media

Horizon Media (HMI) and Sightly have been partners for more than five years to drive outcomes for our brand clients. Recently, we met to share insights about our diversity and multicultural marketing best practices.

Sightly: Brand Mentality™ and United Outcomes Power Multicultural and Diversity

Like a lot of companies, last year was a turning point for us. First, we debuted our new Brand Mentality™ platform, which allows brands to move at the speed that’s really required today for marketing and media.

woman reacting to news on phone

The news cycle is faster than ever, amplified by omnipresent social and viral media. And the only way to be able to keep up is to establish who your brand is and then use machine learning and automation to move quickly and adapt your media approach in response to events as they unfold.

Here are a couple scenarios that we’ve seen…

  • A competitor does something newsworthy or controversial. Do you perceive it as a risk and avoid it? Or is there an opportunity there for you? 
  • There are calls for brand boycotts, or other social issues are heating up the news. How do you respond?

Consumers expect brands to be part of these cultural conversations now. We’re seeing brand loyalty change in an instant based on how brands choose to participate or sit on the sidelines during these big moments. 

Brand Mentality helps marketers control when and how they’re taking part in these cultural narratives.

Second, against this backdrop of developing and launching Brand Mentality, we were also acutely aware of the racial injustices and other difficulties faced by underrepresented groups.

We realized that if we’re going to challenge marketers to be more accountable for their brands, then we really have to do the same thing.

That’s what led to the formation of United Outcomes.

We’ve always said we’re outcome obsessed. Now we’re applying that same approach and mentality to three main focuses: mentorship, internship, and diversity in hiring.

young man in park with tablet device

Getting high school and college students from underrepresented groups involved early in marketing and media helps them discover which parts of the industry they might be most passionate about. And then we can give them resume-building opportunities to fuel diversity across the whole industry.

Horizon: The Boyd Initiative, Promoting from Within & Project Embrace

Diversity, equity and inclusion is Horizon Media’s DNA. We live by this ethos every day and choose to work with clients and partners such Sightly, who are equally invested in pushing this forward. 

At Horizon, we are committed to being a true organization of belonging by creating an enlightened work environment that truly reflects our diverse and unique communities. Our goal is to cultivate an environment where everyone has equitable access to learning and advancement and where our diverse community of employees really are nurtured.

We were fortunate to have a great foundation in place at Horizon to develop these programs, but for companies that need launching points for their DEI programs, a great way is to work with third party programs that already support these goals.

The Boyd Initiative Grads

One such program is The Boyd Initiative, which teaches students from HBCUs the fundamentals of media and advertising, getting them out of the textbooks and connecting them with companies like ours. 

Horizon is employing an intern from The Boyd Initiative this summer in its first virtual summer internship program. By working with third party organizations like this, you can quickly see how your company can walk the walk, promoting inclusion and diversity.

Equally important is cultivating a feeling of belonging once we bring someone into our organizations, fostering an environment that encourages people to be their full and authentic selves.

One way that our organizations elevate that is by promoting from within so that we’re continually investing in our people, making sure they feel valued. Belonging matters. In 2020, more than 30% of the open positions at Horizon were filled internally.

We believe belonging is not just for our employees, but also for brands and the customers they serve. Inclusive and culturally relevant marketing practices drive every conversation day in and day out. These practices are no longer optional, they are imperative.

Our commitment is that multicultural voices will continue to be heard and amplified. Horizon Media does so through Project Embrace, which is our agency-wide effort to empower our teams to think and act inclusively about the audiences we are trying to reach on behalf of our clients.

Now, more than ever, marketers need to transcend linear thinking to reach and engage multicultural audiences. We help our teams and clients apply diverse and inclusive thinking that leads to authentic and culturally rooted media strategies.

Horizon Media Project Embrace logo

We’re proud to have most recently worked with Sightly on a successful QSR partnership in reaching the Hispanic community. It was through this partnership that we understood the importance of Brand Mentality, which gives our brands the finer controls they need to avoid threats without making wholesale changes to their marketing that often wind up blocking multicultural media.

We all know this is an important industry issue that negatively impacts the multicultural population, especially with the constant “urgency of now” that brands face. We look forward to continuing to work together with Sightly to leverage Brand Mentality, which aligns excellently with Horizon Media’s cultural first strategic approach.

In Summary: Six Keys for Building Diversity & Multicultural Marketing Programs

For building diversity, equity and inclusion programs:

  1. Dedicate a business function or passionate group of employees.
  2. Determine the resources you can commit—financial, time, job experience, etc..
  3. Partner with groups that already have a network where your company can make an impact.
  4. Look for ways to provide ongoing support to interns and mentees. Help them discover their passions, act as a reference or check back in with them.

For refining your multicultural marketing practices:

  1. Be authentic to your brand’s/company’s mentality; authentic in your multicultural approach and messaging.
  2. Remember what happens when you assume. As we engage with multicultural audiences, we can also learn from them. That feedback loop makes for more informed media in the future and better brand interactions for both marketers and consumers.

Download the Six Keys One-Sheet to Share With Your Team

all hands in for diversity

Three Things Every Marketer Should Know About Brand Safety


Three Things Every Marketer Should Know About Brand Safety

July 10, 2021

Greg Garunov
EVP, Business Development

Brand safety is a big focus for marketing executives and players across the advertising industry. Organizations like GARM, IAB, MRC and the 4As have or are developing standards. The Brand Safety Institute has begun certifying “brand safety officers” for participating companies. But it wasn’t always this way….

What is brand safety and when did it start?

While different definitions have circulated in recent years, brand safety in its simplest form is a contextual adjacency consideration. Brand managers ask themselves, “Where are our ads appearing and is it appropriate for them to appear there?” Simple questions but not so simple answers today. To understand why, let’s go back to a time when the primary media vehicle was a black and white cabinet television, say, 70 years ago.

Family Watching Television circa 1958

Back then, there were just a handful of broadcast networks to choose from—and a limited number of programs on each network. For an advertiser, it was a pretty straightforward process of understanding where your ads were going to show up. Managing message placement wasn’t really a concept at the forefront of anyone’s mind because it was relatively easy to do.

Plus, content standards were more structured (and stringent) compared to today. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulators, network censors and affiliates, as well as the individual show producers all had interests in ensuring that programming content appealed to the broadest audiences possible—and offended the fewest viewers.

Ads were also carefully scrutinized, not just for the truthfulness of their messages but also for what brands stood for compared to “accepted values.” 

This was what brand safety and brand suitability was in its infancy. Monitoring the programming was very manageable because there were a limited number of networks and time slots. Scrutinizing ads was manageable for the same reason—there were just fewer of them.

What brand safety challenges does today’s media environment pose for marketers?

As you can tell from that 70 year-old snapshot, a lot of things are different today. Over time, more and more media placement opportunities became available with the expansion and fragmentation of channels through technological developments like cable television and eventually, the Internet.

In just the past 15 to 20  years, the explosion of social media and user-generated content platforms, specifically, have exponentially increased the volume of content and thereby, the marketing and advertising opportunities. 

Monetizing all this content has become the focus for the platforms and the individual content creators have essentially become their own showrunners and their own programmers. And since there are millions of individuals creating and distributing new content every day, the sheer volume and variability of the contexts where marketers can place their messages has at times gotten completely out of control.

UGC video creator in back of car

Over the same period, standards around language, sexual suggestion and violence—just to name a few—have gradually degraded in our society and definitely in our media. 

Aggravating circumstances even further, the global pandemic accelerated digital content consumption and helped fuel the always-breaking news cycle and constant waves of social reactions, shares, comments, shares, re-reactions, etc.

Taken together, these factors have created a perfect storm for brand safety. The media ecosystem that marketers have to navigate has transformed from a very static and manageable one 70 years ago to an exceedingly dynamic and volatile one, which, for many, is nearly unmanageable.

What can you do to handle the increased complexity and accelerated pace of social media, news, trends, etc.?

Especially during this past year, we have realized that there is a critical piece missing in the current efforts to navigate brand safety and suitability, and that is a brand’s mindset.

group of young people watching videos on theor phones

It’s become more critical than ever for a brand to respond with speed and relevance to these media, social moments and viral trends. But the challenge is that the mechanisms in the marketplace today don’t support the ability to move as quickly as a lot of brands want, and frankly, need. 

First, each brand needs to define its unique mindset—a comprehensive, granular profile that details their views and opinions and takes into account their values and purpose and how it wants to respond to the blizzard of stories and viral moments.

The other missing element is the notion of opportunity. Brand safety and suitability mechanisms are focused on mitigating risk. That’s important, for sure, but it’s not the same thing as identifying and seizing the myriad opportunities for your brand in all this chaos.

One example of an opportunity could be when a competitor’s CEO makes some controversial public comments. How quickly could you activate on that content with your message today? And how long is the impact of that particular story going to remain an opportunity for your brand? 

Or, if your brand is aligned with a particular influencer that’s made some headlines, what’s the best course of action to capitalize on (or avoid) that narrative that’s in consumers’ minds or maybe take preemptive action against competitor brands?

There are big opportunities like these, as well as thousands of smaller ones, arising and subsiding all the time. And there haven’t been any solutions to accommodate what marketers are looking to do and capitalize on them—until now. We call our solution the Brand Mentality™ platform.

CEO of Delta article

One of the more unique features about it is that we’re constantly ingesting emerging viral trends and breaking news stories to achieve this moment-by-moment response-ability that includes the opportunities brand safety and suitability solutions have missed. 

Another unique feature is the Brand Mentality profile, which allows your brand to codify its mindset, filter threats and opportunities from our massive data stream and activate them in market.

Listen to the eMarketer podcast about Brand Mentality™ and real-time marketing

Reach out to us below to learn more or take the opportunity to listen to this in depth discussion of the platform on eMarketer’s popular Behind the Numbers podcast.

Listen to the full discussion on eMarketer’s podcast

Brand mentality and the future-forward marketing revolution

How Kobe Bryant’s “Mamba Mentality” Inspired Game-Changing Marketing Technology


How Kobe Bryant’s “Mamba Mentality” Inspired Game-Changing Marketing Technology

April 4, 2021

At 9:45 a.m. on January 26, 2020, a helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven other people crashed near Los Angeles, killing all on board. Millions of fans around the world were stunned by the news, including Sightly’s CRO and GM, Adam Katz, who had grown up watching Bryant’s entire career from beginning to end. 

During the days following the tragedy, Katz was struck by the outpouring of positive sentiment for Bryant. Here was a player who at one point early in his career was considered toxic by most brand sponsors. Now, many years later upon his death, he was being widely revered and remembered for how he’d reformed himself with a mindset he’d adopted and called the ‘Mamba Mentality.’

The perfect marketing and media storm

Fast-forward a couple months to the sudden onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic—quarantines, lockdowns, panic reactions, etc. Brands struggled to pivot, especially those with money locked into upfront agreements.

Fast-forward a couple more months to the BLM protests and marches across the country. Brands again witnessed the need for nimble messaging and media placement in the face of dynamically shifting sentiment.

While making continuous adjustments to keep customers’ brands safe and suitable in their digital media campaigns, the Sightly team noted an explosion in the amount and pace of news.

Every day, every hour, even every moment, there was something new happening digitally, socially, culturally that needed responding to on behalf of each agency and brand customer.

Most of the events and viral trends also had become more complex and nuanced as they ebbed and flowed. Reactions to them evolved over a matter of hours or days, sometimes changing focus and sentiment.

No wonder a survey conducted in May showed that brand CMOs in the US felt their biggest challenge going forward was ‘understanding consumer behavior changes,’ and number three was ‘aligning with new/changing customer sentiment.’1

Brand CMOs challenged by change

Polarizing moment leads to aha moment

An eye-popping moment occurred when the CEO of a client‘s competitor came out backing one of the political parties. The strong reaction in the market to this CEO’s statements suddenly highlighted how polarizing politics and cultural moments like these had become. Sightly was able to leverage the controversy for its customer—but the opportunity went away as quickly as it had arisen.

And this is where Kobe came back into play…

Photo by Alexandra Walt - Kobe Bryant and Mamba Mentality

“I went back to his ‘mentality’ concept and I realized that every brand would react differently to all these moments based on their mindsets,” Katz explained. 

It became obvious that brands needed a wider lens—one that could help them define what was truly suitable and safe, yes—but also one that could identify the opportunities.

Sightly had been developing products that incorporated industry brand safety standards from GARM, IAB, the 4As, etc. “Based on what was happening, we felt we wanted to expand on that and create a platform that gave brands the ability to put their own opinions in market as they see fit, to respond with speed to scenarios the way they feel,” Katz added. “We call it Brand Mentality™.”

Kobe Bryant’s mentality came from the Black Mamba persona he adopted, named after a deadly snake assassin in a Quentin Tarantino film.2 Over time, his Mamba Mentality grew to signify the total focus and dedication to his craft, a mindset that drove him to become one of the greatest and most admired players in the history of the game.

How Mamba Mentality informs Brand Mentality™

In his 2018 book, The Mamba Mentality: How I Play, Bryant wrote:

“The mindset isn’t about seeking a result—it’s more about the process of getting to that result. It’s about the journey and the approach. It’s a way of life. I do think that it’s important, in all endeavors, to have that mentality.”

In another section of the book, he added this:

“Keep it real. When I was young, my mindset was image, image, image. As I became more experienced I realized: No matter what, people are going to like you or not like you. So be authentic, and let them like you for who you actually are.”3

“What you see from Kobe is the excellence in the details, and continuous refinement,” observed Albert Thompson, Managing Director of Digital at Walton Issacson. “The whole notion of Brand Mentality is it changes as the story changes. And that is very much how the human mind works. Nothing lives on absolute terms anymore. It’s in and out and then moves to a new narrative or just goes away all together.”

Defining its Brand Mentality helps a brand establish its unique mindset and approach in market. It humanizes a brand so it can move with speed to drive outcomes and respond in real time to events, threats and opportunities that arise moment to moment. 

Listen to the full discussion of Brand Mentality in this recent episode of eMarketer’s popular Behind the Numbers podcast.


  1. Biggest Challenge for CMOs? Understanding Consumer Behavior Changes
  2. How Kobe Bryant’s ‘Mamba Mentality’ changed the NBA, by James Herbert, Jan 29, 2020
  3. The Mamba Mentality—How I Play, by Kobe Bryant, text ©2018 Kobe, Inc.

Brands and Agencies Achieve True Future-Forward Marketing With Sightly’s New Brand Mentality™ Platform


Brands and Agencies Achieve True Future-Forward Marketing With Sightly’s New Brand Mentality™ Platform

March 5, 2021

First-of-Its-Kind Solution Anticipates Threats and Opportunities and Responds With Speed at Scale

Brand mentality and the future-forward marketing revolution

NEW YORK, Mar. 5, 2021 /PRNewswire/ – Sightly, a leading marketing and media technology company, today announced the launch of its Brand Mentality™ platform, which combines emotional and cultural intelligence to empower brands and agencies to anticipate threats and opportunities and respond moment-by-moment in market at speed and scale across multiple publishers and contexts.

“We’ve been dealing with brand suitability and safety for years now,” said Sightly Chief Revenue Officer and General Manager, Adam Katz. “And with everything going on in the world today, we realized that you have to establish a

mentality before you can truly deal with suitability and safety. There are too many gray areas. You have to know how you want to act in market before you can determine what is suitable and safe. Then you can move with speed to drive outcomes and respond to events that are happening in real time.”

Because each mentality is unique, one brand’s risk is often another brand’s opportunity. Brand Mentality™ is built to transcend the typical one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, it responds dynamically to events and trends for each unique client, nimbly scaling responses across all appropriate digital publishers, networks and channels.

By helping a brand define its unique mentality, Sightly is able to identify emerging opportunities as well as threats from the constant barrage of news, reactions, viral events and trends—and then inject the brand’s true opinions across media and marketing channels. Massive amounts of data gathered from social, traditional and popular media provide an unparalleled depth of cultural and emotional intelligence.

“You can’t overlook the importance of speed now that virality has become a major factor,” said Marissa Price, SVP of Client Services at Sightly. “In my experience working with many brands over the years at both media agencies and solutions providers, trending topics have never gained traction as quickly as they do now. Opportunities come and go in a matter of days. With Brand Mentality™, we can help brands jump into cultural moments when it’s right, and gracefully sidestep them when it’s not.”

social listening

The accelerated pace of change has seriously compressed marketing calendars. eMarketer reported late last year that many U.S. agencies and brand marketers had cut the media planning time in half from pre-pandemic levels. One Sightly customer, a major CPG company, echoed this sentiment saying, “Brand Mentality™ has opened our eyes to the reality of media planning today. We need to prepare for all the crazy things happening in the world.”

“From the beginning, Sightly has innovated to accommodate customer needs,” said Ralph Mack, CEO. “It’s a credit to our team that we recognized the extraordinary problems affecting marketers in the past year, seized the opportunity and innovated a first-of-its-kind, next-generation platform. That’s the Sightly way. It’s a game-changing solution and our customers couldn’t be more thrilled.”

For more information on Sightly’s Brand Mentality™ platform, listen to our recent discussion on eMarketer’s popular “Behind the Numbers” podcast, Brand Mentality™ and the future-forward marketing revolution.


So are we!