The Makers series is our semi-regular look at brands, marketing, design and technology through the eyes of the game changing people on the GPJ team who are focused on transforming our clients’ brands through experience design – online, on devices and in the physical world. In this Makers episode, we’re speaking with Jun Gonzales, General Manager of our Shanghai office.

So first things first: what do you do?

I oversee one of the fastest growing offices at GPJ, Shanghai, with about 50 of the most talented creative and production experts in China. As the General Manager, my main task is to inspire and motivate my team and our clients to be creative in everything they do.

Any new client expectations for your role?

Well, there’s always the need for getting the most results we can from whatever resources the client and our team can bring to the table. What’s new now is what I call the “amplification effect.” That is, the need for me to insure that the great strategy, ideas, content and execution of the experience also incorporate the right social and digital extensions on to an event, event portfolio or campaign to facilitate maximum engagement. Even with our clients’ procurement team, the conversation has shifted from “do more with less” to “optimize the budget” across multiple channels to deliver an overall effect.

Where do you go for inspiration?

The environment inspires me. Everywhere I go, I always spend at least a few minutes to stop, look at the people around me and listen to the pulse of the place. One need not go to the beach or climb mountains to be inspired (but I will not say no to that if I get the luxury of time). As an Experience Marketer, I’m a firm believer of getting ideas by living ones life, and definitely not spending hours looking at someone’s Facebook post. We are not machines. We are created to walk, talk, fight, love – these experiences and emotions make us whole.

Do you admire any brands in particular? Why?

I really admire Coca-Cola. I grew up with it, had it as my sauce for rice as a kid, and of course I drink it too. It’s a brand that’s survived generations and keeps reinventing itself, while at the same time preserving its core DNA. That’s incredibly rare. Imagine: from a patent medicine to a soda, now turned into a hydration company catering to different people of different needs. One of the best parts of their transformation is that Coca-Cola never tries to be evangelical. Rather than hyper-focusing on promoting their healthier options, they work on the underlying subtleties of local culture and leave the buying decisions to the consumers. And from within the organization, the employees are its best brand fans –living its culture every day. There is pride in the workplace at every level of the organization, seeming to flow through the veins of everyone, turning them into brand ambassadors that influence others.

How do great clients challenge you?

Great clients challenge us to look at their overall business challenges and goals as part of their marketing and communications assignment. From me, this approach is a strong signal that they see the value of working with us in a partnership model that ultimately makes best use of all of GPJ’s various services. It’s not just about event execution, it’s about the best possible experience marketing answer that will have sustained impact on the client’s business. That’s obviously more challenging than a traditional event assignment but it’s so much more valuable to the client in the end.

Do you see a single trait to successful brands?

Adaptability. Brands must adapt to the changing times especially now that the power of the brand is very much in the hands of the consumer. Buyers are now smarter and information flows much more freely. A successful brand just can’t rely on its heritage or legacy brand value. More than ever brand value now relies on inputs from the market. Marketers have to constantly adapt to that truth.

What experiential or tech trends are you following?

One of the big themes that I want my team to understand is that technology is just a tool to communicate and deepen an experience – which is always human at its heart. In China, there is a problem of what I call “culture leap-frogging,” hence, people often miss out a lot on the organic cultural growth that creates the magic within great brand experiences. It’s all about making people connect with their basic needs and I’ve always been in search of technology that can inspire the team to understand this better.

What skills do you think agencies need to develop more of?

In a nutshell: adaptability and a sense of urgency. It’s necessary for top agencies to stay true to the core of what they do best while always adapting to be relevant and add value to clients’ and buyers’ changing needs and behaviors. The best agencies build great creative cultures and then constantly balance that core belief system with future-forward ideas, technology and behaviors. Lastly, a sense of urgency; today’s agencies need to lean into change on behalf of their clients, to always innovate and to be waiting in the future for brands and consumers.

What’s the best advice you’ve given to a client recently?

Think about the mission of your brand first, then the marketing problem at hand. Everything else will fall into place.