Hello, my name is Marco.
I work as a freelance brand & creative strategist armed with a digital backbone. As a hybrid mind, I tame wicked problems for businesses, I reshape the future of brands and I ultimately aspire to co-create a better tomorrow for people.
For more than twelve years now, I have been co-creating brands worldwide: hidden champions, rising start-ups and world-leading companies. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing, a Master’s degree in Cultural Management, and I attended the Miami Ad School’s Creative Strategy program in Sydney. Currently, I broaden my mind by attending the Postgraduate program (PGDip) in Futures Studies at the University of Stellenbosch, Cape Town. My ambition is to cultivate my future consciousness, to refine my skills in strategic foresight and ultimately co-create desirable futures.
As a hybrid mind, I collaborate with brilliant agencies and consultancies like Leo Burnett, Saatchi & Saatchi, Jung von Matt, Interbrand, TBWA, Publicis, DDB, Serviceplan, Ogilvy, KMS Team, Peter Schmidt Group/BBDO, Scholz & Friends, McCann, VORN/Hirschen Group etc. In various set-ups, I have had the pleasure of reshaping the future of quite a few nice brands from various industries globally. All in all, my experience spans 100+ brands across 25+ categories in collaboration with 25+ agencies and consultancies. Occasionally, I also do some more things with passion and purpose: l write to reflect, I lecture to learn and I speak to debate.
As an independent thinker, I am always on the hunt for courageous brands, exciting challenges, and enlightening collaborations with bright minds. Happy to talk to you!
WHAT I DO
What Do I Do?
I call it Hybrid Thinking
Since I started working in this industry, I have been lucky to work with lots of inspiring minds and highly diverse types of agencies. I have also found myself in very different roles: as a team player, as a sparring partner, as a co-creator, as a leader. Moreover, I have had the pleasure of facing an incredible variety of business and brand challenges across nearly all categories. All these circumstances, combined with a versatile mind, have shaped me into some kind of ‘hybrid thinker’. Hybrid Thinking is something that defines my professional identity and impacts my way of working. It allows me to quickly get a grip on any situation, to adapt various ways of thinking, and to tackle wicked business problems.
As a hybrid mind, I tame wicked problems for businesses, I reshape the future of brands and I aspire to co-create a better tomorrow for people.
For that reason, I offer four areas of expertise.
Each area gives crucial answers to the most critical questions brands can raise,
based on a deep understanding of people, culture and context.
WHO & WHY.
Who is the brand?
And why does it exist at all?
Every brand needs to discover what it truly stands for. And it has to state why it does exist at all.
I CREATE BRAND STRATEGIES.
It’s about meaning.
How does the brand look, feel,
sound, smell, and taste like?
Every brand needs to express its character in an appealing way across all points of interaction.
I ENCOURAGE DESIGN STRATEGIES.
It’s about attitude.
What does the brand narrate?
What’s the story it shares with people?
Every brand needs constantly to reinvigorate itself by offering relevant content and inspiring stories.
I UNLEASH CREATIVE STRATEGIES.
It’s about narration.
WHERE & WHEN.
Where and when does the brand
connect with people?
Every brand needs to be experiencable. Ideally, it interacts proactively with people.
I CRAFT EXPERIENCE STRATEGIES.
It’s about interaction.
WHAT I DID
Some brands whose futures I’ve co-created
I’ve worked for rising start-ups, hidden champions and world-leading companies.
Their particular situation has been different. But what they all had in common: the ambition to shape the future.
So far, I’ve had the pleasure of reshaping the future of 100+ brands in 25+ industries. The spectrum of missions to master has been extremely multifaceted. Each business problem to tame and brand challenge to meet has been unlike the next. Amongst others, I’ve worked for iconic brands like Bosch, BMW, Goodyear, Grohe, Hilti, Jaguar, LAMY, L’Oréal, Maggi, Marlboro, Merck, Milka, Porsche, Telekom, Tempo, Toyota, TUI, Samsung, s.Oliver, and ZEISS – but also for hidden champions and rising start-ups. If you’re interested in learning more about things I’ve done, let’s grab a coffee.
Some thinking I’ve picked up along the way
I’ve worked with agencies from all the major advertising networks (Publicis, WPP, Omnicom, Interpublic, and Dentsu)
as well as with the leading independent agency networks in Germany (Serviceplan, Jung von Matt, and Hirschen Group).
During my work with all those agencies, I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with very different, but always gifted, astute, and inspiring minds. This is always a great experience that influences my own way of thinking. Moreover, it’s my ambition to absorb each agency’s distinct philosophy and adopt it within the project we’re together working on. I strongly believe that merging all of these different perspectives and approaches has turned me into a much better strategist. And it still does. I feel very grateful to absorb this variety of thinking. Thanks to all those I’ve worked with so far. I look forward to adding some more chapters to this lovely collection.
Some people I’ve worked with
Michael Jordan once said: “Talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships.”
I feel very grateful to have the privilege of teaming up with so many great people around the world.
Here are some of them. For more quotes check my LinkedIn.
“Once in a while, you get the opportunity to meet and work with unique people, that bring energy & passion, that move things farther than expected. Marco is one of those, a solid strategist with a strong creative lead, a driving force in proactive thinking with a wide range of skills: Talent, honesty, integrity and dogmatic focus.”
Head of Design @ BBDO
“Working with Marco is just a pleasure, he is a genius when it comes to branding and strategy.”
CEO @ Zukunftsinstitut
“Marco is a visionary and progressive mind.
He combines smart strategic thinking with a great sense for outstanding creative work.“
Global Client Lead @ Ogilvy
“Marco has supported creating our brand strategy and rollout. He brings a strong creative mind to the table paired with killer business acumen. I can highly recommend working with him.“
Co-founder & CEO @ homefully
“Marco always brings in fresh ideas and a profound understanding of a broad range of strategic consulting questions. He is a fast thinker and a truly creative mind, always looking for the new and unseen. Also, I have rarely seen anyone coming up with excellent results in such short time. Hope to work with him again soon, but in the meantime: hire him!”
Head of Strategy @ KMS TEAM
“Marco has a very sharp business and marketing mind. He is great in thinking out of the box and making things happen. He makes complex briefs and collaboration situations seem easy. I personally enjoyed having Marco as strategy and ideas partner, with often surprising results.“
Creative Director @ GGH MullenLowe
“I had the chance to work with Marco on an important presentation. He did support us with his excellent planning skills, unveiling target group insights, building consistent communication strategies and providing inspiring creative springboards. Even though our cooperation was on short notice, Marco was able to quickly build a deep understanding of the topic. His experiences were really valuable to us.”
Group Head Strategy @ keko
“Marco has a very analytical brain and a very creative heart, both are highly involved in every project we are doing with him. He has a broad experience across diverse industries and strategic disciplines, a passion for people, brands and unexpected business solutions but the best: it is always a great pleasure and fun working with him.”
Chief Strategy Officer @ Leo Burnett/Publicis
“Working with Marco is always a pleasure. Not only is he a highly digitally savvy strategic thinker but also a very nice person who is fun to talk to, always reliable and very goal and solution oriented. Already looking forward to our next project together.“
Head of Strategy @ Jung Von Matt
“It was more than a pleasure to work with Marco. Especially his view on innovative business models combined with the knowledge to build and develop brands has given the right drive to the project.“
Partner Strategy @ Martian & Machine
“Marco is a perfect team player. I was able to work with Marco on various projects during my time at Saatchi & Saatchi pro. No matter what the challenge was, Marco was always able to familiarize himself with the briefing without any problems. He has managed to solve even complex strategy issues creatively and efficiently.”
Creative Director @ Saatchi & Saatchi
“Marco is an amazing strategist with a high sense of creative ideas. He brings order to the chaos, provides creatives with excellent insights and super useful springboards, and is always a great pleasure to work with. A real lucky find!”
Copy & Concept @ Publicis
“My verdict is brief and concise: Excellent!
Founder & Owner @ GoYa!
“Marco has showed a deep understanding of our client’s business challenges and turned it into real opportunities through reasonable strategic advice. Furthermore, he translated his keen strategic thinking into inspiring creative directions for a global launch campaign. Marco always managed to stay calm and focused, no matter the challenge.”
Jasmin Isabel Wodniok,
Account Manager @ Publicis
“Marco is one of these super rare pros who are hard to find: he is creative and strategic both ways. A true hybrid. And on top of this Marco brings experience and expertise for developing and managing a brand – without forgetting the essence of great storytelling.”
Strategist, Coach & Storyteller
“I have worked with many strategic planners in my career. None of them can be compared with Marco. He combines an incredible talent for brand strategy and creative strategy with an extraordinary sense of client needs and timing. I cannot recommend Marco enough. He is simply a superstar in his field.”
Director Digital @ Grayling
“Who is Marco Ruckenbrod? A brand specialist? A storyseller? I would call him a passionate and skillful explorer of the narrative territories surrounding our communication efforts. Someone who is mapping the unmapped and inspiring others in following him. Someone who believes in the deepening force of conflicts instead of culitvating a teflon-like surface called brand.”
Co-founder @ Beyond Storytelling
“It’s was great to work with you, Marco.
Keep that fresh and smart planning style that inspired us and the clients!“
Senior Strategic Planner @ Geometry Global
“Marco’s a quick thinker. He grasps a strategic task and at the same time his brain is already looking for solutions. The results can be presented quickly. Also in the elaboration phase he goes to work with much love to the detail and accuracy. This is how he creates fresh and sustainable solutions.”
Independent Brand Strategist
“Marco and I have been working together for 10 years now. His strategic thinking is sharp and his creative approach inspiring – a combination that is rarely found. He brings passion, curiosity and playfulness into projects which makes working together with him a pleasure.”
Freelance UX Researcher & Strategist
“Marco was a great collaborative partner, who I would highly recommend to anyone seeking strategy support. Marco was an absolute professional, kept to all deadlines, and was a pleasure to work with. More significantly, the quality of his work, strength of his research and analysis, and unpacking of insights was first class. This enabled us to deliver a strong and comprehensive strategy for a tier one client.”
Strategy Director @ TBWA
“Awww – what to say about Marco… He is: crystal clear, smart, openminded, a good listener, a consultant, a teacher, he is fast, intelligent, helpful, emphatic, agile, structured and highly creative. He is always on my wishlist for dedicated teambuilding. Marco: rock on!“
Director Client Services @ Publicis
“I experienced Marco as an absolute engaged and inspired strategist. He was always on fire, very focused and result-orientated. The collaboration with him was very flexible and reliable.“
Managing Director @ Carat
“Marco has got a very sharp mind combined with the ability to reveal the business issues and turn them into strategic solutions especially for the digital journey of consumers. It was always fun to work with him!“
Vice President Marketing @ E.ON
“He is one of the hungriest, most passionate and committed people I’ve had the opportunity to work with. His unconditional belief that meaningful strategies are those that create value for customers and thus also for brands is inspiring.”
Head of Human Resources @ Outfittery
“We hired him because he promised hybrid thinking – and he truly delivered. Marco is a smart, fast and very talented guy and an absolute pleasure to be around. By working methodically and being inquisitive he’s able to quickly get a grip on the most complex challenges. With his wide strategic know-how and large experience, he adds value to every project. His attitude is positive, motivating and inspiring.”
Senior Brand Strategy @ Cyperfection
“Marco is a brilliant strategist with a great understanding of advertising and communications. He empowered our agency team with his strategic and creative ideas. His strategic vision was always incredibly clear which created a unique platform for the team and the agency to deliver real value to our clients.”
Executive Client Service Director @ Saatchi & Saatchi pro
“Marco is a deep and analytical thinker who showed good audience insights. He was a pleasure to work with, a good team player and I recommend him whole-heartedly for any level of challenge in developing brand strategies.”
Owner & Operator @ Miami Ad School Australia
“His deep understanding of brands and businesses combined with his sharp strategic mind made working with him an absolute joy. With his strong analytical skills he effortlessly turns problems into solutions and creates clear visions for brands. Marco relentlessly aims for a holistic approach and is always open-minded for new perspectives. That makes him incredibly inspiring for any creative team and truly enriching for any brand.”
Freelance Creative Director
“Marco is a great strategist! He is an analytical mind with a creative heart. He has empathy to put himself into the consumers position. No matter, if branding, comms or digital strategy, it’s his home turf.”
Planning Director @ BBDO
“Talented, inspiring, humble and fun. It’s always a pleasure working with him, he makes people, teams and projects better. One of my favorite all-round talents with broad AND deep knowledge.“
Head of Strategy @ Leo Burnett
“Marco is a great strategic sparringspartner as he always challenges the status quo, adds a fresh perspective and is an inspirational source for creatives and clients.“
Executive Director Strategy @ Saatchi & Saatchi
WHAT I BELIEVE
Why are you here?
At Saatchi & Saatchi I once learned that everything starts with purpose. Almost at the same time, Simon Simek became globally famous with his Golden Circle of Questions and the purpose-driven thinking at its core. Likewise, John P. Strelecky reflects on the question “Why are you here?” in his delightfully written book The Why Cafe. Others still might call it ‘reason for being’ or ‘raison d’être’. Anyway, the idea is as simple as it is fundamental: the purpose answers the question of why you are doing what you do. So, everything should start with purpose. Here is mine.
FUTURE OF BRANDS
And ultimately to co-create a better tomorrow for people
I tame wicked problems for businesses
BETWEEN PEOPLE & BRANDS
BETWEEN PEOPLE & BRANDS
BETWEEN PEOPLE & BRANDS
BETWEEN PEOPLE & BRANDS
Besides my work as an independent strategist,
I occasionally do some more things with passion and purpose:
Back in 2009, I had the chance to speak to marketeers at German Marketing Associations for the very first time. In the meantime, I’ve discovered a true passion for sharing my thoughts to interested audiences. So far, I’ve had the opportunity to speak at various conferences, e.g. at Beyond Storytelling in 2017 (‘Narrative Brand Management’) and again in 2018 (‘Reshaping a brand’s future by creating alternative territories’), at Gravity in 2018 (‘Vom Phänomen der kollektiven Identität – Wie eine echte Unternehmens-Wir-Kultur entsteht’), at Plot in 2019 (‘Don’t tell stories. Build worlds – Storytelling evolved’), and at Arctic Design Week in 2019 (‘Beyond Artificial Intelligence: and back to human happiness. Why creativity matters more than ever’).