The current trend towards positive action and social good being seen across the world is an opportunity for marketers to seize the conversations and turn them away from the traditional negative brand messages around self-improvement, agreed a panel of media and marketing experts from Pinterest, The Atlantic, Deloitte Digital and Salesforce.
Speaking at Advertising Week New York, the session around better storytelling in marketing was led by Hayley Romer, the publisher and chief revenue officer of The Atlantic. It featured Maggie Gross, head of strategy, New York for Heat + Deloitte Digital; Cristina Jones, SVP of customer marketing, brand partnerships and C-Suite engagement at Salesforce; and Judy Lee, global head of integrated marketing for Pinterest.
The session discussed how to drive connectivity through marketing with Gross expressing her belief that with an understanding of human insights, brands are able to observe what creates feelings and connects brands with like-minded individuals through related values.
Jones added her belief that “the biggest compliment” a marketer could receive was from someone advocating the work it was doing but highlighted that more companies needed to ‘walk the walk’ when it came to expressing brand values.
“There’s a lot of conversation around brand purpose and it’s a little hard to buy that narrative. You have to live that narrative and be authentic in the purpose you talk about,” she advised. “Thanks to social media people vote with their dollars, they want to be associated with brands who are reflective of the lives they are living.”
Jones continued to state that any creative that is reflective of the communities their customers lived and worked in was more likely to be effective than that whose culture was not reflective of that community.
“Then it’s easiest to get that wrong,” she continued, later expressing the importance to Salesforce around messages of inclusion and mindfulness in its own campaign activity.
Pinterest’s Lee explained that the social media platform’s mission was to inspire people to create the lives they love: “What inspires you is very different for everyone and we want to ultimately help people realize that vision and help people act upon that.”
The wide-ranging discussion would look at the role data can play in discovering powerful stories and the importance of experiential in solidifying brand connections and allowing people to respond by telling their own stories in turn. However, it was the group’s belief that marketers have an opportunity to build a more positive conversation with their consumers that proved to be the key moment for the panel.
“How do I balance the things I am passionate about with the work that I do?” asked Jones. “There’s so much bad news and we have opportunities to use our platforms to drive change. Instead of thinking that this is just your job and you are going to do these things, think outside of your box about how you want to drive changes and I always like to challenge my team – what could you do should you decide to not stay in your lane?” she outlined.
Romer then posited her belief that people remembered stories more than anything yet it proved difficult to tell them well.
“That is probably at the heart of the human condition,” reasoned Gross. “Anything that truly is memorable is hard. There is a reason that the art that we love is created by masters and there is something that all of us innately deep down inside are probably looking for to find greatness in the world and hopefully have it reflected on us so that we can feel free.”
Jones added that with so much content in the world, it was difficult to cut through unless the message had “a beautiful story” at its heart. “We have seen really inspiring stories of people doing well and driving change… I hope that we don’t stop doing that and this is why I believe that data can help – when you find these incredible stories that would otherwise be lost. You just have to make sure that you layer on top of the data what the real story is.”
Lee followed up by offering her view on how the conversation could develop between brands and consumers; “I think there’s exhaustion with negativity… people bonding over hating something is actually more powerful and popular than bonding over something you all truly like. As an industry in marketing, it’s a good call to action to think about, the world isn’t perfect but as marketers there is an inherent obligation in terms of how we shape culture and how we inform culture.
“So much of marketing is based around what is not good about a person: So men, you don’t have enough hair or women are not thin enough – as marketers, there is such an incredible moment right now to change that story and to think more about positivity and inclusion and how we can do better than having to hate things together as a society.”
Romer agreed: “We really are at a pivotal moment to seize these conversations and to see these openings where people are craving a higher notion of things – they want something that is better than the negativity.”
Follow The Drum’s coverage of Advertising Week New York online and The Drum Arms New York, being held on Wednesday and Thursday at McHale’s Bar, with more details found on the sessions held there at the dedicated website.