Today's guest is Tim Riches, Group Strategy Director at Principals in Melbourne. I met Tim in Singapore, at FutureBrand. When I joined FutureBrand's strategy team in 2011, Tim was running the Singapore office and serving as Chief Growth Officer for all of Asia Pacific. He left shortly after I arrived, but in the few months we overlapped, Tim made a big impression on me. He's a fast-talking, no bullshit, powerhouse thinker who often seems to be offering solutions before anyone else in the room has even fully grasped the problem. I asked Tim about an article he wrote a few months back, titled "The greatest change branding agencies have faced in a generation," in which he states "branding 101 hasn't changed ... but the shift toward experiences has permanently altered how people assess 'different' and 'better'." He calls out a shift in focus-on the client side-toward a broader definition of "customer experience" that no longer holds marketing or brand as the exclusive "business lens" on the customer relationship. For agencies to maintain relevance going forward, he argues, they must be able to build bridges "between the promise of the brand and the delivery of that promise" by creating actionable principles that experience designers can use to deliver the pillars of a brand. We also talked about brand strategy frameworks and how rigid or flexible they should be. Tim has strong opinions here, which I alluded to briefly in my conversation with Gareth Kay. (When I said a friend referred to some frameworks as "parking lots," I was referring to Tim.) Tim's main point is that, in order for concepts like pillars, values, and personality traits to provide any guidance as to how a brand (or organization) should look, feel, or behave, there must be some coherence between them. "I don't see how you can create a cohesive story unless there is some relationship," Tim says. "At least trying to do that helps you show where you have disjoints and incongruities within the thinking." When I asked Tim about books, he justified his own love of sci-fi by claiming "it's good fuel for the imagination, and I do think strategists have to have imagination-not just analytical skills." He also recommended strategists read The Economist and at least understand the core concepts of books like Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow and Byron Sharp's How Brands Grow. Wrapping up, I asked Tim for his advice to those just starting their careers in branding. He advised junior people to stay focused on what value looks like for each client rather than getting drawn into an obsession with methodology. He also emphasized the importance of having good "practitioner skills," such as being able to run an interview, present to clients, and design and facilitate workshops. To learn more about Tim and Principals, visit Principals.com.au.