Kevin Smith talks about building products while delivering services too.



Kevin Smith is a 20-year marketing and branding veteran with diverse experience. His specialty has been leveraging his comprehensive industry knowledge, combined with creative thinking, to lead special strategic project teams to develop innovative business and brand solutions.

Kevin is the consummate hybrid; equal parts creative thinker, strategist and protagonist. Kevin founded brandmachine in 2008, and later invented Virtual Voice and built the team to launch it. He has held senior automotive marketing leadership positions at major OEM ad agencies. As Senior VP Strategic Planning Director at J Walter Thompson, Kevin helmed many high-level strategic business and brand projects for Ford brands. At Campbell-Ewald, Kevin was Senior VP Account Planning Director and led a task force for the Chevrolet brand that clarified the brand promise and crafted the platform and primary brand themeline,“Built to Last. Built to Love.”

We’re open for business!

In this episode, Mike and Brad , talk to Kevin about building products and delivering services. We get to take a look at a really cool augmented reality app. Discover how Kevin broke into the co-branded co-design space. It's a very cool market that we barely knew anything about until we talked with Kevin.

The big ‘a-ha!’ behind this is that we’re engaging consumers on the front end with the interface (of the app) but on the back end we’re also getting a lot of rich research insights.

Join us and Kevin, watch/listen to this episode of Stream Detroit.

To learn more about Kevin Smith and his work, visit 360BrandMachine.

Show Notes


  • (02:16) “I started not one but two companies. Brand Machine is a brand consultancy. We’re in the brand solutions business. (I) Also started another LLC by the name of Virtual Voice, which is a proprietary software tool that we built in the crowd-sourcing and co-design space.”
  • (02:59) “We thought it was kind of the right time to build some tools around those lines and actually allow consumers to cross the red velvet rope of car design”
  • (03:40) “If you look at how cars have been designed in this (Detroit) town since forever it been pretty much a one way process....there is a huge opportunity to shorten the process of getting consumer insights. Understanding what works and sometimes more importantly what doesn’t work....”
  • (06:48) “When we rolled this out at Pebble Beach (Concour d’Elegance) we had a lot of support from the younger designers saying, ‘I love this (Virtual Voice) because I can find out immediately what resonates with consumers and what doesn’t and it can actually help me as a tool to push things that are edgier as designs...’”
  • (10:01) “This is our latest version of the app that was borne out of the original activation at Pebble Beach with Lincoln and we call it SketchPad 2.0. What we did to get to this point is we got some feedback from some of the clients that said, ‘You know what, we’d like this to be even more interactive in the future and we’d also like it with a social share component’”
  • (11:37) “The big ‘a-ha!’ behind this is that we’re engaging consumers on the front end with the interface (of the app) but on the back end we’re also getting a lot of rich research insights.”
  • (12:30) “What we’re doing is trying to engage consumers both quantitatively as well as qualitatively. It’s....about research but it’s also about creating something with consumers”
  • (14:20) “We’ve used this as a research tool but we’ve also used this as a branded content device. I think the big surprise that our client Lincoln experienced at Pebble Beach was that we told them that this is a very transformational type moment for the brand because people are going to be very interested in you (Lincoln) taking a lead role in crowd-sourcing and co-design”
  • (17:14) “(Gawker Media Group’s)....interest in the app was ‘let’s engage our blog community to use the app to develop a next generation superhero car.’”
  • (18:09) “Stay tuned for a couple of activations that we’re looking’s a huge move to the whole STEM thing with education. (There is a) Great deal of interest in bringing kids under the tent in understanding digital tools and how design works.”
  • (19:55) “More recently (we’ve done) some project work with the city of Detroit. The whole city of Detroit - everybody is passionate about the comeback and emerging out of backruptcy....One of the things we’ve been proud to collaborate on with Brand Machine is some of the agency effort downtown to re-brand the City and talk about some of the great things that are happening.”
  • (20:34) “It’s really refreshing to see the culture of governance and change happening in the City. It’s not just some slogan that the City wants to trot out.”
  • (25:25) “This is a more recent activation the we (Virtual Voice) did with our partners at Ford and Team Detroit. The mission critical challenge is ‘how do you engage these folks that love ComiCon and love superheros and how do you build buzz for the relaunch of the Ford Fiesta?’”
  • (25:50) “We reached out to a Hot Wheels designer to have some fun with this car”
  • (26:00) “We had over 24,000 (consumer) engagements on the (Virtual Voice) platform in under 24 hours.”
  • (28:15) “We took this (Virtual Voice) and put it as an embedded widget inside one of the Kinja blog rolls on Jalopnik, io9 and Gizmodo.”
  • (29:42) “Concept cars are really dreams and you don’t necessarily have to build them. It’s not like someone is actually going to buy them. You can actually create them and present them in a lot of different ways using a lot of interesting emerging technologies like Oculus Rift....”
  • (32:19) “...(bringing a new product to market) is a lot of dog and pony going out and selling a new approach that is kind of transformational. It’s really been interesting. It’s kind of cool to go to a new place and doing something that you are really passionate about.”
  • (33:02) “The thing that kept us going on this is when people kept (saying), ‘you know - that’s cool!’ You keep hearing that and it keeps you motivated.”
  • (34:21) “We’re open for business!”


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