Brain Tap Series: Interview 13 – Noah Brier

Hola again. In this week’s interview, I’ve got Noah Brier, Head of Planning and Strategy at the Barbarian Group in New York, ruminating on all the things I asked. Recently, one of his endeavours, Brand Tags, a ‘collective experiment in brand perception’, was much talked-about. Previously, Noah was a strategist at Naked Communications, New York.

The interview:

1. What is the most interesting job you’ve ever held and what lessons did you learn from it?

I don’t know. I mean, I think most people (who voluntarily moved) would say their current job is their most interesting and I don’t think I’m an exception (otherwise I wouldn’t have joined up). In my month at The Barbarian Group, I’ve learned a lot about the role of strategy (and strategists) in a new kind of environment. I mean, I learned lots working at Naked as well, especially about how really large businesses run (I got to work quite closely on the business side of some very large consumer package goods companies). I also worked as a summer camp counselor, which was pretty awesome. I learned that it’s really fun (and tiring) to run around with little kids all day.

2. Does creativity need collaboration to flower? Can you name a project that best illustrates your idea of creativity?

Hmmm … well starting with the creativity/collaboration question: Yes and no. I guess I think it depends on how you define collaboration. I think creativity is ultimately a blending of ideas. It’s about taking things from different places and sticking it together, so in that way it’s about collaboration. However, if you’re talking about collaboration between people, I don’t think it’s required. Lots of people are creative on their own. With that said, collaboration is awesome and can help turn an otherwise one-dimensional idea into something amazing. So … I guess I didn’t really answer that one.

As for a project that best illustrates my idea of creativity: I think it exists everywhere. You’ve got creativity in business with search advertising, which for the first time gives companies the opportunity to target people at different times in the purchase process with amazing accuracy. Then you’ve got creativity in something like Jonathan Harris’s We Feel Fine, which combines design, programming and cultural data. Then you’ve got art: People doing amazing things and
coming up with totally new ideas. So I guess I could describe an almost unlimited number of ideas.

3. Apart from the internet, what has the single most important creation of the media and technology industries been in your lifetime and what impact has it had on your life so far?

I mean, the cellphone is pretty big. It’s had such an impact that I can’t really even explain it because I’m not quite sure what life was like without it anymore. Laptops are pretty important as well. Yeah, I like them. They allow me to have my entire life with me all the time. These aren’t particularly interesting answers, though. Seriously, I have to be able to come up with something better than that, right? Hmmmmmmm …

4. Which campaign or event has been the most influential of your generation? Why do you like it?

Campaign like advertising? If so I’m not really sure. I mean Nike has clearly set the direction for how to do marketing. Another interesting one I’ve been thinking about lately as a result of brand tags is Absolut. On the site, one of their biggest tags is “advertising.” It’s kind of amazing if you think about it: For a generation of people those Absolut ads weren’t ads at all, they were artwork for bedroom and dorm walls.

As for events, I think that’s easy: September 11th. I think you can pretty directly tie any number of current events to what happened that day. For me personally, I was in New York and watched the buildings fall from my window. It’s a day I won’t ever forget.

5. Name a website you think more people should be reading.

Um, Kevin Kelly’s website is a good one. He’s really brilliant. I guess more people should be reading that. The Barbarian Group blog is pretty awesome as well, I always read it and feel incredibly privileged to work with such brilliant folks. Nick, one of the IT guys, had an amazing post about data security at his doctor’s office the other day that really made me feel great to be part of such an awesome bunch. But I don’t know, people should be reading things that make the most sense to them. Probably wouldn’t hurt to read some more newspapers. News is good. With that said one of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot is how to add more serendipity to my reading. I think it’s really easy to fall into just reading things within your specific interest area/biases.

Here are some more:

Apart from Kevin Kelly, another person I don’t know (well): Umair Haque.
And four friends: Faris Yakob, Eric Nehrlich, Kyle Bunch, Ray Cha.

6. What’s your life’s motto?

I don’t really have one. My mom always tried to instill in me that I should treat others the way I’d like to be treated, so I guess that’s a good one. I totally believe in that and generally try to live my life that way.

7. If your life could be described by a colour, what would it be and why?

Green for no reason other than I’ve already built my website and printed business cards in that color and it would seem like a waste to go in a different direction at this point.


Thanks, Noah!

3 thoughts on “Brain Tap Series: Interview 13 – Noah Brier

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