Tag Archive: purpose

  1. Human-centricity: the key to marketing in a post-pandemic world

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    A few weeks ago, we posted an article containing insights from this year’s ANA Masters of Marketing. One of the key themes from this conference was human-centricity – many speakers at the conference told how their brands are focusing on people as humans, with all the associated desires, values and flaws, rather than as consumers or vehicles for wallets. This is nothing new – after all, corporate social responsibility has existed for many years – but in the last few years the idea of purpose has really gathered speed, and has become the phrase on everyone’s lips in 2020.

    So what does human-centric marketing mean? And what does it look like?

    From consumer to human

    For a long time, brands have talked about the people who buy their products or services as consumers. This implies a one-dimensional, money-focused view: but consumers are, of course, human beings who are complex and driven by values, desires and whims. In order to appeal better to people buying their products, brands need to appeal to those values, desires and whims – the ‘human-ness’ – and not just target their wallets. At the ANAs, Marcos Spanos, the Senior VP of Brand Marketing for yogurt at Danone North America, set out a new ‘four Ps’; long used to refer to product, price, place and promotion, Spanos claimed it now means people, purpose, passion and positivity.

    ‘Human-centric’ can mean different things for different brands

    Human-centric behavior can mean many things for brands, and will depend on a brand’s identity and mission. It could mean supporting causes that your customers cherish, responsive customer services or treating and paying employees fairly. What it always means is acting with authenticity, because consumers are becoming increasingly savvy about spotting when a brand is authentic and when it is simply talking the talk.

    Having a positive impact

    One of the best ways to forge a connection with a human is to support a cause that is important to them. A study of 8000 people and 75 companies across eight countries showed that people are four to six times more likely to buy from, trust and champion companies with a strong purpose. 83% said companies should only earn a profit if they also deliver a positive impact. At the Masters of Marketing, Intel’s CMO Karen Walker told delegates ‘The brands that are taking action and have a more human-centric approach are the ones driving meaningful change.’

    What does all this mean for marketers in 2020?

    Just like every other sector of business and society, the coronavirus pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the advertising industry, driving fundamental change. Marketing campaigns have a very different feel, with brands changing their messaging to be more sensitive to the plight of many staying at home, missing loved ones and facing unemployment or illness. They have also sought to put their weight behind the causes that have become so important to society: supporting healthcare and key workers, ensuring children have enough to eat and combatting loneliness, to name just a few. Meanwhile, the Black Lives Matter movement has forced brands to have more diverse representation in ads, as well as in boardrooms and among employees.

    Black Friday 2020: from consumerism to altruism

    Black Friday has traditionally been a major income-generator for brands, positioned as it is at the start of the Christmas shopping season. Indeed, it has been transported from the US, where it originated, across the Atlantic to Europe and beyond. But this year has been anything but traditional. The pandemic seems to have unleashed kindness and greater environmental consciousness, with many people waking up to the fact that hyper-consumerism doesn’t do the planet or society any favors. Many brands declared themselves out of the Black Friday discounting race this year, instead choosing to promote more altruistic initiatives, such as Ikea’s ‘Buy Back Friday’ and Deciem’s ‘Knowvember’, which saw it shut down its physical and online stores on Black Friday and christen November ‘Knowvember’ to raise awareness of the climate crisis.

    The behind-the-scenes work is just as important

    The final piece of the human-centric jigsaw is the work that isn’t immediately visible to the customer, but that certainly affects wider society and will reflect the customer’s values. That work includes ensuring that the makeup of boards and teams reflects that of wider society, and makes space for diverse voices; looking at where investments are made; and making sure that supply chains are ethical and sustainable. Diageo’s ‘Society 2030: Spirit of Progress’ approach is very much part of its company strategy, rather than just a marketing strategy – it has, in its own words, ‘infused brands with purpose’. The impact of this strategy will no doubt be used to create compelling and engaging communications campaigns that will resonate with the people that buy Diageo’s products.

    Context is key

    When communicating around brand purpose, the context in which an ad is placed is even more critical than usual. It is more than just avoiding toxic content like that of the brand safety scandals of recent years; it is about choosing spots or placements sensitively so that the brand’s messaging is not negated by an awkward juxtaposition. What’s more, carefully selected placements can enhance a campaign, with the ad acting as a response or solution to the content in which it is placed, for example. We live in an age where marketers will have to wean themselves off targeted marketing thanks to the demise of the cookie; this will likely make way for a return to contextual marketing, which allows advertisers to deliver marketing messages to consumers when they are consuming relevant content. This can only be a good thing for purpose-led marketing, where context is key.

    2020: a sea-change for brand purpose

    ‘Purpose’ has been an advertising buzz word for many years, but 2020 may just be the year that made it the default, not a nice-to-have. Many people are talking about a ‘new normal’ for a post-pandemic world; maybe the new normal for advertising will be to have the human – and not the consumer – at the heart of a brand’s communications and behavior. But it only works if it comes from a place of real care about humanity and causes: people can sense the difference between an authentic desire to have a positive impact, and simply wanting to look and sound good – and if they sense the latter, it can have a very damaging effect on a brand.

    We would be interested to hear what human-centric marketing means for your brand, and how you will be bringing that to life in 2021. Please do let us know on LinkedIn or at – we look forward to hearing from you.

    Header image: Body Stock / Shutterstock

  2. Purpose and authenticity: this year’s ANA Masters of Marketing

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    Our US Business Director Victoria Potter attended this year’s ANA Masters of Marketing from the comfort of her own home. Here are her key insights.

    It’s October, and that means one thing for the US advertising industry. No, not Halloween and no, not even the looming Presidential election. The ANA’s Masters of Marketing takes place every fall, and this year was no different – except of course, it was completely different. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic forced the convention online, and the ANA really rose to the challenge. They hosted some of the industry’s biggest names on virtual stages, all presenting their ideas on this year’s theme, ‘Force for Good. Force for Growth’. This theme was, of course, pertinent in a particularly difficult year, as the world has grappled with how to contain and manage the coronavirus, and how to come to terms with and tackle racial inequality. Brands play a huge role in people’s lives, and therefore have a huge potential to be a force for good. If that comes from a place of authenticity and is tied to the brand’s values and identity, it will resonate with consumers – and that will lead to growth.  

    As marketers from some of the world’s most famous brands spoke to their virtual audiences, some powerful ‘sub-themes’ emerged, all dovetailing back into the official theme. Time and again, presenters emphasized the need to move from consumer-centric to human-centric, how chaos has acted as a catalyst for change, and the importance of authenticity in marketing 

    From consumer-centric to human-centric

    There is a tendency amongst advertisers and marketers to talk about ‘consumers’, which inherently defines people by their capacity to ‘consume’ media messaging, products and services. That can allow us to forget that ‘consumers’ are, in fact, humans, with human desires, values and foibles. There does seem to be change afoot, however: many of the speakers at the Masters of Marketing focused on people as humans and what brands need to do to appeal to this humanity. Marc Pritchard, Procter & Gamble’s Chief Brand Officer, talked of opening up conversations with people, in order to create understanding between them and the brand. That understanding leads to empathy, which drives action. A person is more likely to buy from a brand with which they feel a connection, so acting on what that person values makes good business sense. 

    CVS Healthcare also did a deep dive into how empathy is at the heart of their strategy; indeed, their stated goal is to become the world’s most empathetic company. They have demonstrated that being a force for good can indeed be a force for growth: back in 2014, they acknowledged that selling tobacco went against their purpose of ‘helping people on their path to better health’, so they removed it from their stores, wiping out $2 billion dollars of revenue at a stroke. However, through other efforts based on the same philosophy, they have in fact increased their revenues by $100 billion in five years, making them the largest healthcare company in the US. Force for Good. Force for Growth. 

    Walmart has long adhered to founder Sam Walton’s belief that ‘there is only one boss – the customer’. For them this year, that has meant embracing racial equality and representation, as CMO William White explained: their Diversity and Inclusion review included having 50 marketing professionals weighing in on all aspects of their marketing. But it wasn’t just about ads: they have pledged that 40% of all production will be from women and/or minorities, and they have donated $100 million to organisations that promote racial justice.  

    Chaos as a catalyst for change

    Racial justice has loomed large on the 2020 landscape. The death of George Floyd at the hands of police and subsequent demonstrations have led to a moment of reckoning for the US and indeed much of the world. Many brands responded positively to societal pressure to demonstrate their support for racial equality. The Facebook boycott was one result of this movement, but brands also implemented internal changes. 

    LVMH’s Global Brand Officer Mathilde Delhoume talked about how the luxury powerhouse captured the mood with its ‘acts not ads’ philosophy. Sephora, its chain of beauty product retailers, was one of the first major retailers to commit 15% of shelf space to black-owned companies, and cast its own employees in its most diverse campaign ever,  ‘We belong to something beautiful.’  

    Of course, the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked unprecedented chaos on the world, upending economies, ways of living and indeed lives. Walmart occupies a unique place in American society, with 90% of Americans living within 10 miles of a Walmart store, so it was well placed to help its customers cope with the changes to their every day lives. It has positioned itself at the heart of the community, creating free Walmart Drive-In movie showings, turning their parking lots into town squares, with gameday experiences and farmers’ markets, and launching health centers. It also launched its Walmart Plus subscription service, helping families dealing with extra pressures to save time and money, safely.  

    CVS Healthcare has also sought to support people through the Covid-19 crisis. It has offered drive-thru Covid-19 tests, free home delivery of essentials and clinics with at-home diagnosis. It has placed an emphasis on life research, rather than relying on data alone. 

    Authenticity is critical

    The changes implemented by these brands, and many more, have undoubtedly been a force for good at a time when the world needs positive brands more than ever. However, from a growth perspective, they would be irrelevant if they didn’t come from a place of authenticity. Successful activations around issues that matter must be rooted in the brand’s identity and values, and not just be a nod to prevailing trends. People are savvier than ever and will quickly call ‘bs’ on a brand’s efforts if they are inauthentic. The only thing worse than not acting with purpose is using purposes solely as a marketing tactic.  

    Purpose is here to stay

    Purpose has been a recurrent theme at the Masters for several years, but never has it seemed so important as in 2020, when the world is in crisis and people are turning to the brands they trust. As Danone’s SVP Brand Marketing (Yogurt BU) Mark Spanos said in his presentation, ‘Purpose is no longer a fad, it’s a norm’. Danone has weaved purpose throughout its product portfolio in a way that speaks to their values and identity, addressing hunger, food waste. Spanos quoted Patagonia’s Alex Weller: ‘You can’t reverse into a mission and values through marketing. The organizations that are struggling with this are probably the ones that are thinking about marketing first.’ 

    In our rapidly changing world, where the customer holds the power, success lies in meaningful, authentic activations which speak to customers’ values and needs. A brand that can do that is a brand that will succeed. 

    Image: fizkes / Shutterstock

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