School’s Max Lenderman on Teaching Brands to be Verbs, Not Nouns

school-max-lenderman Max Lenderman is a Principal at School, a division of Project: Worldwide that invents, designs and orchestrates strategy and creative work that focuses on human-connecting mediums –experiential, social, digital – that have been proven most effective in sparking meaningful understanding, mass participation and culture change for our partners and their efforts to do good. The Makegood recently spoke with Max about how he plans to educate companies to “do good.”

The Makegood: Project: Worldwide, is already an immensely successful company, what is it that your team was looking to do with School that wasn’t already being done within the Project: Worldwide network?   

First, we are fervent believers that the future of marketing and advertising lies in connecting the digital and physical worlds for people and brands.  The simultaneous rise of experiential and digital marketing methodologies is poised to rattle and reshape the global advertising and marketing industry. However, a specific agency devoted to a technologically-savvy and experientially-adept creative approach is relatively new to the industry. That’s where School comes in. We believe in creating work with a purpose to help the world. We think that brands that take a stand perform better than those that don’t and that the same principles apply to agencies. We want to help brands, companies and organizations do better by doing good. We are the crafters of stories that get people to share, participate and act.

The Makegood: Now that School has launched, can you give an overview on how you will be working with potential clients? What will your classes be like? 

We work as a core team of senior talent and management on every project we take on. Our model of leanness conditions us to be more nimble, more sensitive to how budgets are allocated and more collaborative with our partners as trusted advisors instead of convenient vendors.  We like to invent stuff. Orchestrate movements. Design multi-faceted platforms. We are most eager to talk about communities, not just consumers; issues rather than RFPs; trends and insights over channels and verticals. Our core strengths are curiosity, delirious optimism and hard work. We welcome opportunities to convene with partners that allow us to think up big and innovative ideas that spark cultural change and mass conversation on their behalf. It’s great when we work with partners that have a voice, and greater still to create a voice for those who need one.

The Makegood: What is the hardest part on working with a company to build a brand that customers will want to engage with? Is there ever a conflict of styles between yourselves and the clients? 

A key challenge is to remind clients that their brands are verbs and not just nouns. Today’s customer is looking to see how the brands and products they buy act in their world. Utility is becoming the differentiator in breakthrough campaigns and launches. People are asking: “what is the immediate benefit to me…and the world…with this campaign?” If the work is not answering these questions, it has much less of a chance to permeate culture and positively affect business momentum. We also don’t really use the word “consumers” anymore. For us, the term “users” of brands, products or services seems to fit better.

The Makegood: Can you talk a bit about the School team, and what sets them apart from other people in the industry? 

We are working with a new model for creative teams. Instead of the age-old combination of copywriter/art director, we are much more digitally focused. Joe Corr is a creative with a master’s degree in interactive design and game development. Before joining School, Joe ran creative teams at Crispin Porter + Bogusky and Deeplocal. Ryan Nikolaidis comes from a research and academic background specializing in robotics and sonification. Prior to teaming up with us, he ran CP+B’s Mixed Reality Lab, which explored ways to connect the digital and physical worlds for the likes of Microsoft, Domino’s and American Express. Both Joe and Ryan teach and publish, most recently at Boulder Digital Works.  This is not a typical combination, but one that is imperative for brands and businesses that are looking for a creative perspective not found within traditional agencies.

The Makegood: How are the minds behind School, and the clients that they will work with, change people’s lives for the better? 

School is more than just an agency.  It is an idea haven, a progressive entity, a leader and a learner.  We think that doing good for society is also good for business. So not only do we help others to create or enhance their social responsibility, we also walk the walk. Our passion lies in providing the ultimate experience for children: school. Education gives people the skills they need to help themselves out of poverty and into prosperity. In many poor countries, with each additional year of schooling, people earn 10% higher wages. We believe that improving education has the greatest societal impact on the world. Not only should it be a basic human right, education is the key to personal growth and sustainable human development. We are therefore committed to advancing educational opportunities and building as many schools as possible throughout the world. That’s our purpose, and it drives the entire agency – from creative and account management to strategy and development. That’s what we mean when we say School is a place for big ideas and great deeds; thought without action is pointless.

The Makegood: Thank you, Max