WFA’s Stephan Loerke Outlines a Framework for Positive Marketing Behaviors in an Increasingly Complex World
7 mins read

WFA’s Stephan Loerke Outlines a Framework for Positive Marketing Behaviors in an Increasingly Complex World

Today’s marketing environment is demanding— not only due to endless changes to consumer habits and proliferating technology but also geopolitical crises, polarized politics, and nonstop media reactions. Driving brand growth through purposeful and inclusive policies that embrace diverse audiences has never been more complex.

Reflecting increasing demands from regulators, pressure groups, investors, and society, WFA (World Federation of Advertisers) marketer members , as the driving force, expressed that one of their top priorities was to take the lead in developing Responsible Marketing Frameworks.

WFA and its CEO Stephan Loerke are convinced that risk and reputation management and identifying growth opportunities are essential for building resilient brands in an increasingly challenging environment.

Announced at the May 2024 WFA Global Marketer Week in Toronto, The Framework for Positive Marketing Behaviors covers nine critical topics, highlighting opportunities and risks in such areas as AI and data ethics, environmental sustainability, and media governance.

The goal is to help CMOs develop policies using practical frameworks, guidelines, and materials from WFA and global brand leaders.

The Responsible Marketing Framework aims to develop a clear strategy to identify opportunities while managing and reducing risk. Areas include:

Environmental Sustainability

Opportunity: Communicate sustainability credentials with confidence

Risk: Get accused of greenwashing

Responsible Media Governance

Opportunity: Ensure better-performing media and carbon-efficient spend

Risk: Fund harmful content and appear in the wrong environments

AI & Tech

Opportunity: Smarter, more personalized content and efficiency gains

Risk: Reputational damage and wasted resources

Data Ethics and Privacy

Opportunity: Secure competitive advantage by building consumer trust

Risk: Fines of up to 4% of global revenues

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Opportunity: Engage new diverse audiences and expand your talent pool

Risk: Miss growth opportunities

Influence Marketing

Opportunity: Increase reach and exposure

Risk: Be a negative media story

Marketing & Children

Opportunity: Long-term brand loyalty through responsible connections

Risk: Fines, reputational damage, and ad bans

Brand Purpose

Opportunity: Win with CEO, CFO, and investors

Opportunity: Build stakeholder trust

Measure, Report, and Communicate

Opportunity: Secure new levels of engagement and brand loyalty

Risk: Decrease in brand equity and consumer backlash

This framework is an invaluable tool to help brands benchmark themselves against best industry practices to manage risk and identify opportunities in the spirit of building stronger, more resilient brands.’

Aude Gandon, CMO at Nestlé. 

The launch of the Framework is a result of research conducted among some of the world’s largest brand owners. The Bridging the Gap study examined the increasing importance of marketers working with corporate policy leaders, particularly regarding sustainability, reputation and risk management, brand purpose, and responsible marketing.

Policy professionals in corporations analyze and advise on policies in a specific field and often have expert knowledge of the industry and legal aspects of policymaking. Roles include policy analysts, policy advisors, and policy directors. 


Top marketers are eager for even more policy input on critical issues such as sustainability, risk management, and reputation.

All respondents to Bridging the Gap agreed that even more could be done to make policy priorities relevant to marketers, but the two professions disagree on how to do that. Over 80% of marketers feel that policy professionals need to understand better how marketing works and the value it delivers, while only 36% of public affairs professionals think the same. 

Most policy professionals (68%) see potential benefits in collaboration, envisioning policy teams delivering more impactful communications that reflect the evolving expectations of regulators, consumers, and stakeholders. However, only 24% of marketers share this perspective.

Half of policy professionals now advocate for a unified approach between the CMO and the Global Head of Policy, recognizing it as crucial for ensuring alignment on key issues. This shared responsibility underscores the potential for both groups to drive change and enhance collaboration.

The truth is that closer cooperation doesn’t hide the fact that the two functions still have very different perceptions of each other and their relationships. While only 18% of marketers believe policy priorities can stifle creativity and business growth, 40% of policy people believe that marketers think that to be the case.

When asked how policy people would describe marketers, the top terms were creative (76%), results-driven (64%), and in tune with consumer sentiment (56%). However, 45% of policy leads still consider marketers to be short-term.

Sixty-two percent of policy professionals say they collaborate with marketing teams on a regular basis, whereas only 32% of marketing respondents say they collaborate on a regular basis with policy teams. This disparity in collaboration frequency clearly indicates the need for more structured and frequent interactions between the two teams. Forty-eight percent of marketers feel that they only collaborate with policy teams when needed, and one in five say collaboration between the two teams rarely occurs.

Other research findings include:

  • Fifty-two percent of marketers believe that policy teams do not understand the challenges and pressures marketing teams face, and more than two-thirds (69%) believe that policy teams are not familiar with the marketing function and its role in driving business objectives. 
  • Eighty percent of policy teams believe they are familiar with the marketing function and its role in driving business objectives, while only one in four marketers believe that policy professionals understand the marketing function.  
  • Most marketers define policy professionals as “compliance officers” (75%) or “regulatory firefighters” (81%). Thirty-seven percent of marketers think that policy act as an “internal police force” and contrary to popular belief, only 25% of marketers define policy teams as “creativity blockers” and 6% as “killjoys.” 

WFA has long called for greater collaboration between marketing and policy, so it is really encouraging to see that marketers see policy professionals as increasingly relevant business partners and that collaboration is on the rise. As marketers will increasingly have to navigate geopolitics and culture wars while tackling a growing number of challenges, such as sustainability and environmental claims, smart marketers will look to new and innovative ways of systematically integrating policy thinking in order to mitigate risk and identify opportunities. We think the WFA Framework for Positive Marketing Behaviours should be an excellent starting point. 

Stephan Loerke, CEO WFA

WFA is the only global network for marketers. Its goal is to make marketing better by championing more effective and sustainable marketing communications. WFA represents over 150 of the world’s biggest brands and more than 60 national advertiser associations worldwide. Together, they create a peer-to-peer network of the world’s best marketers, offering a unique source of expertise, inspiration and leadership.