Meet Björn Ekdahl, CEO, who talks about what separates me-too brands from unique, winning brands. 

Björn Ekdahl, Ode Agency

Hi Björn! What do you do at Ode?

– I’m the CEO. That’s short for a combination of chief everything officer and a learn-it-all. I try to be involved in as many parts of the business and with as many people as possible, with the goal to learn and understand as much as possible. Together with my team I’m building the go-to agency for high-quality content marketing in Europe.

– I also make coffee.

What’s your background?

– I’m originally a publisher. I worked for a production, PR and sales company within the publishing industry before founding a publishing house myself. My company got many requests for communication, agency services and international representation, so I started another business focusing on marketing and communication (believe it or not, but the book market doesn’t know anything about storytelling). Words have always been the most important to me, so that was a natural next step.

– The agency had an outspoken sustainability approach, helping big brands in the fashion and lifestyle industries with their sustainability work and to communicate that process. High-end brands used to be either conscious or sexy. What the companies appreciated now was the possibility to combine this. Sustainability is definitely not only something you do to build your image – or to be conscious and environmentally friendly – it’s an integrated part of the business model in long-lasting businesses.

– Given this background, with me living in Paris and with experience of executive roles I was asked to be CSO of sustainable luxury agency 1.618 Paris. Last autumn I joined Ode Agency.

What do you think is the main challenge for marketers today? 

– I see many. One is the fact that marketers still seem to be talking about ’digital marketing’, like it was something new and separated from ’marketing’ per se, like if you could go by with analog marketing. Today that’s a tautology. 

– Another one is to be able to measure and prove the ROI of your marketing activities – to get real value for your investments. PR and advertising might give your brand a boost, your 15 minutes of fame, which is great when running a campaign or launching a product. But to build your brand every day, even while you’re asleep, it takes more, unless you have an unlimited budget. 

And the most common marketing or communication mistake that companies make?

– This goes all the way back to the (lack of) business strategy. Brands communicate and market themselves without knowing who they are, without knowing their raison d’être. They often haven’t even asked themselves ’If we stopped existing today, what would our clients miss tomorrow?’ They are me-too brands, or also-rans, without a unique purpose and position. Before marketing and communicating you have to have a bulletproof reason why people should turn to you instead of your competitors.

What do you do at work, when you think that no one sees you?

– I walk around in circles with a pen in my hand, it preferably resting on my lips. I’ve convinced myself that I think better when I do that, but maybe it’s just a wish to look like the tortured artist. 

Where do you find inspiration?

– In classical music. But most of all in the moment. By chance or a sudden impulse, by something someone says or does. Something I see or happen to hear (read: eavesdrop). Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it’s the task of the sculptor to discover it, if I may quote Michelangelo.