|“Acknowledge and recognize unprecedent disruption. Yesterday’s practices will not work today. What got you here will not get you there. Rethink everything– consumer insights, ads, experience, not just methodology, but everything! Even ask, ‘What is loyalty?’ Everything must be reinvented.”
… Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer- Mastercard
October marks the annual ANA Masters of Marketing— a significant week in the calendars of top marketing executives who represent some of the world’s largest companies. With the theme of “Force for Growth – Force for Good,” there’s no question that this year’s event underscored how industry obligations are changing rapidly to keep pace with both new consumer expectations and shifting cultural values. This year’s speakers— regardless of their subject matter– underscored the profound changes in the connections between brands and society, as well as how the role of marketing is transforming to reflect the increased responsibilities of business.
Rethink, Recalibrate, Renew
If there is one overarching lesson I took from Masters, it is the admission by several of the world’s oldest and largest marketers that they must refresh their thinking, throw old rules out the window, and recalibrate their approach to branding, to consumers, to business contributions… and even to wider concerns in the world today. In fact, the opening eight keynote speakers represented a selection of the industry’s longest-established brands and organizations with sprawling global footprints—including, for several, a presence in over 200 countries and territories: Procter & Gamble (Founded 1837), Mars (1883), Coca-Cola (1892), Crayola (1902), Hilton (1919), Mastercard (1966), Mazda (1920), and newcomer Shipt, part of Target, originally founded in 1902 with its namesake store opening in 1962.
|For me, three interrelated trends emerged:
1. Grow Markets. Don’t Steal Share.
2. “Acts not Ads.” Human Connections & Experiences.
3. A Deeper Understanding & Execution of Purpose.
While our industry has talked for many years about “disruptors” challenging long-established products and services, it is interesting to see “disruption” embraced by legacy brands. I’m not suggesting that DTC/ lifestyle brands or entrepreneurism is slowing. However, I am saying do not underestimate the innovation, drive, purpose, scale, and clarity of larger companies. We used to talk about the immense resources (and budgets) of these giants, but also noted their slow reactions to change or trends. These legacy companies are no longer lumbering; they have learned the lesson of being nimble, proactive marketers operating at the speed of culture. And sharing that message at Masters not only highlights a significant differentiator in embracing brand growth, it can also be a deciding factor in ultimate corporate success.
Even Bob Liodice, CEO of ANA, reminded us in his opening remarks that “it is not a time for the timid.” He said, “Driving brand growth is hard to unlock.” Yet, as he outlined today’s challenges from societal unrest to economic uncertainty to government dysfunction, he added, “The world is ripe for more purpose and positivity.”
|ANA’s Bob Liodice and P&G’s Marc Pritchard on the main stage at Masters of Marketing.
|Grow Markets. Don’t Steal Share.
In discussing “The Next Reset,” Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer of The Procter & Gamble Company and reelected ANA Chair, emphasized that by focusing on the insights and needs of consumers, brands can solve problems to create new markets instead of stealing market share. He showed examples from around the world of many P&G brand innovations, including Pampers® Cruisers 360° Pants and Pampers® Preemie Swaddlers, and highlighted how fun, memorable, or heart-warming creativity can showcase superior performance, as well as how a brand makes a difference in people’s lives.
“Growing markets is our highest-order ambition. It is about creating business, not taking business from others. It’s about a bigger pie, which means value creation and economic growth for goods and society. You can only do that by resetting the bar on the insights of the people you serve by thinking about innovation, inclusion, and impact.“
Mark Weinstein, Chief Marketing Officer of Hilton outlined how Hilton embarked on the biggest rebrand in the company’s 104 years of hospitality— “Hilton. For The Stay” — to accelerate post-pandemic travel recovery and set the foundation for the next century. Interestingly, he echoed Marc Pritchard’s sentiments on growth versus share:
“It’s about growing the market, not about taking share. Our focus is to expose the world to more travel. There’s a growing middle class around the globe who will be first-time travelers. Freedom is fragile; have a tomorrow list, not a bucket list. Grow the pie. Send more people out in the world to experience your brand.“
Hilton’s goal was to return humanity to hospitality. According to Weinstein, “We went back to where it all started with Conrad Hilton and his belief: Fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality. Honestly, we lost the plot of our own story. Now, The Hilton Stay is the protagonist. It matters where you stay. To have a great trip, you need a great place to stay. My advice? Take back the narrative. Solve customer pain points. Grow the pie for all.”
Shakir Moin, Chief of Marketing for Coca-Cola North America, would agree that insights and innovations are critical to transforming how we build brands that drive growth. He is also adamant that “what made us successful in the last 137 years will not make us successful in the next 137 years.” And asks, “How can we be relevant? We must change ahead of the marketplace.”
Coca-Cola has been transforming its marketing and portfolio of brands, not only with a shift to digital, but with a focus on winning consumer behavior— rather than just winning consumers’ hearts, as was their past goal… from changing cultural associations of Santa (from exhausted to jolly) by drinking a refreshing Coke to the sentiments of “Hilltop” and teaching the world to sing.“Our journey from brand love to brand behavior is a simple shift. But it is changing everything.“
One example of this is shift is “Scream,” shaped by insights about Coke and Sports. Shakir Moin felt that Coca-Cola’s association with sports often resulted in advertising the game, rather than selling beverages. So, to create something “uniquely Coke,” they focused on how 100 million people watching an important football game will cheer, hug, and scream as they follow the play. And when you scream, you will need a beverage. Fan work is thirsty work… hence the shift from brand love to brand behavior.
Interestingly, in a time of what Moin describes as marketing’s reliance on “art and algorithm,” he admits, “Our dream remains… to be the best at our craft. Not the biggest. Great people build great brands. They have the wings; it is our job to get them to fly higher and faster.”
“Acts not Ads.” Human Connections & Experiences.
Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of Mastercard, believes that today we face a challenge in building authentic human connections in an age where so much is performed online. He is leading the brand’s passion-driven approach to overcome conventional segmentation by fostering connections across diverse audiences. Mastercard is now committed to 10 key passion areas, such as esports, music and culinary, to connect authentically and in a way that is native to the brand— largely through priceless experiences, or, perhaps better said, experiences money can’t buy, but one can only get through Mastercard.
|“In the past,” he says, “We were ad-led with so many messages receiving low attention. We had to find new ways. In ads you are talking about yourself. With experience, consumers talk about you; they amplify your story by bringing it to life with passion. Yes, this provides scale, but it also takes sophistication and finesse to create. And then, after one experience has finished, there must be another, so this requires extraordinary commitment, but the results are worth it. In the ranking of Most Valued Brands, Mastercard has risen from #87 to #9, and we are punching above our weight as we don’t have the same budgets as the top ten.“
Among these exclusively-Mastercard experiences are the openings of acclaimed restaurants that have reshaped the dynamics between brand and consumer. A recent one is NOTIÊ in Brazil, which brings people the taste of the Amazon with ingredients used by the indigenous community. At the Orlando ANA event, Mastercard’s CMO not only hosted the restaurant’s award-winning chef Onildo Rocha on stage with his translator to share insights, but also flew up enough Amazonian chocolates, flavored with unfamiliar local ingredients, for all attendees to experience. According to Rajamannar, “The power of experiential marketing is incredible in building lasting impressions. Perhaps it is the most underexploited aspect of marketing today.“
Hilton’s Mark Weinstein also understands that “people want experiences.” So, as part of the new “Hilton. For The Stay” platform, he brought “the stay” to some very special guests by literally building a small Hilton venue on the Tenth Hole of the Ryder Cup as part of their sponsorship.
Coca-Cola has also proved the value of experience to demonstrate that “magic happens when we share a meal and a coke.” The brand created an extraordinary dinner table in Queens, New York— home to people from 120 countries and 30 languages. It started with a 4,000 square foot billboard, which initially advertised the event, then was taken down to become a massive community table.
According to Shakir Moin, “This is a recipe that every culture can relate to… a message of togetherness with moments of real connection. Not only did we bring all sorts of people together, which they shared through social media, but it became a memory, thanks to Coca-Cola, they wouldn’t soon forget.”
In many ways, Alia Kemet, Chief Marketing Officer of Shipt sums it up best— “We can never replace the value of human interaction through experience.” Shipt is a membership-based online grocery marketplace delivering fresh foods and household essentials through a community of shoppers and a convenient app. (The company was acquired by Target in December 2017 but continues to operate as an independent subsidiary.)
Alia Kemet stated that 38% of the population believes that shopping is now too impersonal.
She says, “Shipt can be described as ‘tech meets the corner store.’ It’s a critical part of why people like us. We balance retail technology and the personal. Our customers build relationships with their shopper.“
A Deeper Understanding & Execution of Purpose.
Victoria Lozano, Executive Vice President of Marketing at Crayola, can make purpose sound deceptively simple. She asked, “What difference does your brand make in the world? Something must happen that’s better, or why would it exist?”
While Ms. Lozano acknowledges that she has “a passion for brands that mean something,” she also believes that there are very few brands with zero purpose. For her, the role of marketing is to galvanize the organization. Crayola crayons were developed during the industrial revolution— at a time when creativity was important to the collective success of a country and to a child. The best inventors and best problem solvers were considered “creative.”
|Today, fueled by the belief that creativity is a life skill that allows kids to reach their full potential, she shared how the brand combined marketing instincts and consumer insights to reframe its strategy and identify new ways to draw consumers into a purpose-driven marketing campaign that brought the brand to life through multiple touchpoints that hadn’t existed a decade ago.
“Our program was purposeful and systematic, and now our business is bigger and better because of it.” Crayola is now the #3 brand in an annual global study on Cultural Resonance by The Marketing Arm. The definition of Cultural Resonance and its interconnection with purpose? “Cultural resonance surpasses the fleeting nature of cultural relevance and amplifies over time. It describes the relationship between brands and consumers as going beyond the transactional, to having a shared perspective of the world and an understanding of the true value the brand provides.”
Gabrielle Wesley, Chief Marketing Officer of Mars Wrigley North America, often talks about how the company is driven by its purpose – to inspire moments of everyday happiness. While she discussed the transformation of the M&M’S brand, along with instances involving Skittles and Harry Styles, as well as British rocker Yungblud’s association with chewed sugar-free 5 Gum preserved within luxury necklaces, she emphasized that culturally-relevant conversations and purpose are always at the forefront.
She recommends that marketers become obsessed with consumers to be authentic to their brand. “To become truly purposeful, you must do the soul searching. Every brand has a story, especially around origins… Start there.“
|Alia Kemet of Shipt would agree. She believes that storytelling democratizes branding and enables smaller companies to punch above their weight. However, she warns, “Smaller companies should begin by truly knowing who you are… play your own game. Your values are your point of differentiation. They enable you to tell the kind of stories that matter to people.”
She is also an advocate for engaging with new cohorts in meaningful ways. Alia Kemet tested a student membership program at her alma mater, Howard University, with the idea that Shipt could make deliveries easy for those who stayed up all night to study. With students at the center of finding insights, she learned that they preferred the concept of Shipt as offering “wellness moments.” And it turned out that the suggestion worked much better. She calls this, “moving brand perceptions through a human-first approach.”
Mark Weinstein of Hilton also discussed the route to purpose in a similar manner by saying, “Know yourself better than anyone else and know the market better than anyone else.“
Brad Audet, Chief Marketing Officer- Mazda North American Operations has proven that creating a shared culture galvanized by purpose can make a difference to a brand’s success. He led Mazda to be one of three auto companies to grow during the pandemic. He says, “Transformative marketing can’t just be about safeguarding brands from disruption. It has to be about how we safeguard people, how we support people, how we orient ourselves around the human focus in the work we do. This is a true differentiator in my industry, the car industry.”
|Mazda’s point of difference is that “everything we do comes back to our shared purpose. We define that purpose this way: Enrich the life and motion of people we serve.” He continues, “A brand isn’t a logo or a slogan or a campaign. It’s every experience people have with that organization, what they make, what it says and what it does. That starts with our employees. What happens inside a company is a very central part of brand experience. The simple truth is if your focus is on people first, everything else is more likely to fall into place.“
|“Unlocking the promise and power of marketing in the future will require a new kind of leadership and a new sense of purpose for its mission. Only companies that can reboot their marketing mission, strategy, and approach will be successful.“… Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer- Mastercard