“With big opportunities comes great responsibility” – the two things marketers can’t keep ignoring.
There were no elephants in the room at this year’s WFA Global Marketer Week in Athens. Just some of the most influential voices in marketing right now, and the no-nonsense debates and red hot takes flowing between them.
As the WFA’s official strategic content marketing partner, we attended last week’s conference to hear how the CMOs of some of the world’s biggest brands are currently envisioning the industry’s role as a positive force for change.
Unsurprisingly, most of the week’s talks orbited around the two major topics of the moment: sustainability and web3. But these conversations are far from exhausted and there wasn’t a rolled eye in the house as fresh and meaningful insights kept coming. Straight from a few of the brightest minds in the industry right now, here are some of our highlights from the week.
The how and why of sustainability
Any marketers arriving in Athens still under the illusion that their brands could survive or prosper without a serious sustainability marketing strategy left the conference with a harsh reality check.
But as WFA Deputy President & Chief Digital Commercial Officer at Unilever, Conny Braams highlighted, there’s still a delicate balance to strike between brand value and brand values. “In the end, purpose is not a substitute for a great value proposition,” she admitted. “Especially in these times of hyperinflation, the value equation is becoming even more important.”
However, the volume of conscious consumers is rising. And only the brands that embark on sustainability marketing with visible authenticity will have a place in their lives. WFA President and Mastercard CMO, Raja Rajamannar put forward a guiding principle for purpose. “Cause marketing and purpose are not the same thing,” he offered. “Purpose is your north star, cause marketing is the roadmaps that lead you towards it. And only genuinely pursuing your purpose leads to profit.”
Taide Guajardo, Brand VP at P&G Senior Vice President Europe also reminded us of the fundamental place of marketers in this movement. “Sustainability is a business strategy,” she said, “(but) it is our job to bring the voice of consumers to impact the company’s strategy, and we also have an important role in education and nudging behaviour change”.
It was a relief to see sustainability at the top of the agenda for this global marketing community, but the scale of real progress so far was a stark reminder that real change requires a collective demand for action. Bolt-on strategies won’t make an impact. So a lot more experimentation and commitment will be needed to move sustainability into the centre stage position it needs and deserves.
Raja’s reflection on Mastercard’s Priceless Planet Coalition provided an inspiring example. But, as Rupen Desai, Global CMO of Dole reminded us, our universal metrics for prosperity need to be realigned. Unless we collectively reimagine success to consider the planet and the communities most affected by climate change, we’ll stay in our “privileged echochamber” that only rewards very linear models of growth.
The what and when of web 3.0
Let’s get one thing straight. Allowing ourselves to be seduced by the shiny possibilities of web3 before having the fundamentals of a sustainability strategy in place would be, at best, an extravagance and, at worst, a big mistake. As Conny noted, “a single Bitcoin transaction has the same carbon footprint as 680,000 credit card transactions, so this is the moment to understand how to stop web3 becoming tomorrow’s problem to solve.”
What we can (and should) do now as a marketing community is get creative, experiment and innovate in preparation for what’s to come in this “tsunami” of emerging technologies, as Raja described it. “Every one of these technologies is independently capable of disrupting people’s lives and therefore marketing,” he went on.
Conny called for clear governance and guidelines to protect our communities and put people first as we step into the new digital environment. “With big opportunities comes great responsibility,” she stressed. “If safety isn’t coded in from the outset, it will be much harder to secure down the line. So, web3 must be thoughtfully designed with the highest principles of ethics, transparency, and choice.”
Is your marketing organisation fit for the future of opportunities laid out at this year’s WFA Global Marketer Week? Being ready for constant cultural change means moving forwards with agility, resilience, and experimental innovation. Get in touch today and let’s talk about how.