Building Brands and Crossing Borders: Insights from the 2nd ‘Minds (Wide) Open’

The 2016 Minds Wide Open competition focused on the company Airbnb – a concept proposed by TBWA, one of the advertising agencies supporting the event. Students were presented with the brief at the start of the week and from there they worked together, all day and night for four days, to come up with a creative campaign to promote the brand.​

​“We gave them a few of the things that Airbnb uses, but I think what we gave them was license to explore and take the whole idea of Airbnb wherever they would imagine it would have some kind of an impact,” said Henry Brimmer, assistant professor in the Department of Advertising + Public Relations and lead director of the Minds Wide Open competition. “I think what we can contribute to these companies when they give us a brief is a fresh viewpoint by a generation that can allow them to gain insight to how younger people perceive their company.”​

​The teams were a mix of students from across the world including the United States, Germany and China. Each team was allotted two expert mentors who traveled to East Lansing from agencies in Spain, South Africa and Germany to take part in the event.

​Sergio Alonso, a mentor from Droga5, said the experience brought back memories of what it was like to work on a brief as a beginner.

​​“For most of the students, this was the first time they were confronted with this kind of task. So my goal as a mentor didn't only involve guiding them to put a campaign together but also teaching them how to think,” said Alonso, who was partnered with fellow mentor Terry Sieting from Traction in Lansing. “It was very rewarding for both of us to walk our students through the process of crafting a campaign from scratch and witness their progress along the way.”

​Brimmer emphasized the generosity of the mentors for participating in the competition. He thanked them for encouraging and inspiring students to create amazing work and memories that they can take with them beyond the college stage.

​“[The mentors] became so involved with their own teams. They got into their teams. They became part of their teams,” Brimmer said. “They became a little family for the duration of the event.”

​At the end of the competition, the top teams were awarded Gold, Silver and Bronze awards for their work.​

Gold Winners

​The team that took home the first place prize presented a campaign based on the slogan, “Be yourself without borders.” The advertising tactics they presented were intended to help people see the potential for open self-expression through travel with Airbnb. The idea included short documentaries, a microsite to help users find the location that suits their personality, and a program to help people who want to become hosts.

​One of the ideas involved the construction of “tiny homes” to showcase in an outdoor event. Each home would be designed to attract different types of people such as athletes, creatives, or artists.

​“Inside these homes, users [would be] able to use virtual reality goggles to travel to places that fit the characteristics of the home they chose to visit,” said Savannah Benavides, MSU advertising senior.

​Benavides said that Minds Wide Open had her “falling in love with the creative process all over again.” She added that her team’s win wouldn’t have been possible if not for their collaborative success.

​“My teammates were impressive, kind, and passionate. Our mentors were unbelievably honest and constructive,” Benavides said. “I can confidently say that if we weren’t able to come together and get along and support each other the way that we did, there is no way we could have taken home the gold.”

Silver Winners

​“Become untourist" was the slogan of the silver award-winning team who presented the idea of stepping away from traditional tourism and exploring with Airbnb.​

​“We wanted to show how Airbnb can heal people of typical tourism. We wanted people to become untourist,” said Matt Richter, senior advertising student.

​The team developed a plan to educate people about the perils of tourism through a campaign that involved print, radio and television spots, animation, a rehabilitation program with “6 Steps to Become Untourist," and social media.

​Richter called his Minds Wide Open experience “incredible.”

​“I think my favorite part of the competition was one of the major hurdles we had to overcome as a team: the language barrier. Working with a translator was something completely new to me, and I don't know why, but it made the event all the more exciting,” Richter said. “Coming together from three different countries to create one, international ad campaign is amazing.”

Bronze Winners

​As the only American on his team, MSU senior Quinn Lutkenhoff said that winning their bronze award did not come without challenges. He credited their translator for helping the team to communicate.

​"Without her the team would have failed,” Lutkenhoff said. “She was responsible for the flow of communication and even contributed some brilliant ideas.”

​The team’s campaign revolved around the concept of trust, which Lutkenhoff said is a major aspect of Airbnb’s brand. They used trust falls, the act of falling backwards into another person’s arms, as a way to express their idea.

​“We even bridged the gap into the community and asked our friends from all over the world to send us videos of trust falls,” Lutkenhoff said. “And with all that collaboration, we developed a touching video advertisement that could be viewed and start an interactive trend across social media and many other mediums.”

​In addition to building his professional skills, Lutkenhoff added that he enjoyed building relationships and new friendships with his team members during Minds (Wide) Open​

​"It was cool to see that even though we live in different countries and speak different languages, we really weren't all that different” he said.

By Savannah Swix