Finding Humanity In An Era Of Change

A perspective from Cannes 2018

By Sharon Love – CEO, TPN

 

Awards for Creativity. Big data. Provocative speakers. Branded beaches. Yachts, parties, concerts, and rose… Some aspects have remained the same over time but the annual Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity has definitely undergone some change—even in the four short years I’ve attended. Beyond the greater presence of big media platforms and the continuing corporate dynamic, there felt to me, this year, a shift in the posture of our industry. A humbling pivot that’s put many marketers in a defensive position. And for good reason. In a moment of transparency concerns, a tech explosion, and the fight for equality and inclusion, how does an agency or brand survive and thrive? The answer may be to rediscover our humanity.

 

Embracing the human spirit in creativity

The list of jobs gobbled up by robots grows each year. And today it seems feasible that new technology, big data, and in-house creative shops may replace the “agency” as we’ve known it to date. Angela Ahrendts—formerly CEO of Burberry, currently SVP, Retail, Apple— went on the offensive at Cannes during her panel “Reimagining the Retail Experience” championing the value of “the human business” with regards to technology, the digital boom, and the future of retail. She acknowledged the importance of technology (she works for Apple, after all!) but was purposely focused on the need for the human touch. At TPN, we share her opinion that retail isn’t dying, it’s merely changing. That truth was complemented in another great panel, “The Not So Secret Life of Creatives”, where they discussed how Pinterest lets you play in a virtual world to generate ideas that you later cultivate in the offline world. My takeaway? Those of us that adapt the most efficiently and find that right balance of man-and-machine will win moving forward.

 

Seeing each other human-to-human

As marketers, an important part of what we owe our clients is a clear delineation of who their target audience is. No one today should be wasting time or money marketing to the wrong person, even slightly. Data has made us more accurate, in a lot of ways. But as I listened to Faith Popcorn’s session, “The Death of Masculinity and its Impact on Creativity”, I was reminded of the limitations of big data. Her take on the constant blurring definitions of masculinity and femininity, and beyond, cannot be captured in data. It’s too nuanced and shifting. Perhaps one way to ensure we’re connecting with our audience in the right ways is to view them as people as opposed to males, females or other gender labels. That would allow us to avoid offensive or alienating stereotypes. Wherever we can, we should ask ourselves how we’d like to be approached by a brand—as a woman? As a man? Or perhaps just as a person of certain interests. That theme seemed to align well with the message Seth Farbman (CMO, Spotify) sent at his panel “Creativity in the Age of Resistance”. He highlighted the voice they give to artists to make positive change—with themes of inclusivity and acceptance of all rising to the top. Seth stressed that using Spotify’s platform for positive change has become “an obligation”. The nature of your brand or platform, of course, figures largely into your ability to deliver this promise. But overall, the thought of steering clear of any level of stereotype and bias is a smart one for the times.

 

Fulfilling the equality promise

Many sessions focused on eliminating bias from our business—both in our internal company structures and in our work. The argument for gender and racial equality as a business imperative has been talked about for a long time and now there is conclusive evidence that companies who have a diverse workforce and leadership team deliver better results than those who do not. Early in the discussions about the importance of diversity, the moral imperative for equality had to take a back seat to business to get all the people who needed to hear it onboard. So why are some brands so slow to act on this and clean up their act? I just saw on Facebook this morning an old friend bemoaning the back of her (unnamed here) breakfast cereal box. It was a heartland story of where the grains had been raised for the cereal and featured the family of farmers who had grown it—there was not ONE female in the picture! It was kind of shocking. But there is reason for hope that the cereal box debacle will be a thing of the past. At one of my favorite panels, “Agents of Change”, featuring Katie Couric, Queen Latifah, Madonna Badger, and Mark Pritchard—they shared that though 29% of ads still portray women negatively or inappropriately, that number is down from 51% just two years ago. It seems like the hard work is beginning to pay off. As Omnicom’s Chief Diversity Officer, Tiffany R. Warren stated in her panel “Diversity—a Values Issue and Business Imperative”: “Diverse teams mean diverse thinking. We need representation in front of and behind the camera at every level, so we can normalize what used to be marginalized.”

 

Applying the good in tech

The power to ‘do good’ using data & technology is very exciting—both as a human being and as a marketer. One compelling session I attended, entitled “Androids, AI and the Future of Creativity” touted a function of new technology as a way for humans to understand what it really means to be human—when you interact with a robot, you begin to appreciate the things it can’t do that a human can. But the flip side (the dark side, if you will) of what data & technology have already wrought is concerning. We need good and responsible data and tech to win the day. Simply vilifying data/tech as bad (taking our jobs way!) or dangerous (destroying our privacy, rigging our elections) is to ignore all of the good it can do, and has done. The opportunity to connect our audiences with relevant, uplifting, and helpful content has never been greater. Our customers look to us to provide helpful information. It’s a great responsibility. But as we work to utilize the ever-expanding network of data, and the power of platforms like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Instagram plus technology like AI, machine learning, and Voice, we need to (somehow) avoid fueling the increasing dependence our audiences have on mobile and social media as personal validation. As Scott Hagedorn, Chief Executive of Hearts & Science pointed out, it’s led to a rise in depression and anxiety (not to mention a polarizing political divide unlike anything we’ve ever seen). It will take human understanding and intervention to help brands utilize the power of data and technology in a transparent, positive, and ethical manner. And the ones who do so will win the ongoing trust of consumers.

 

For an industry a bit on its heels, the unity, positivity, and human spirit in the air at Cannes was palpable. Hopefully, as marketers, creators, thinkers, and—most importantly—humans, we continue to respect the huge responsibility we have to the brands and consumers we serve and harness our platforms and power to make real change, for good.

Amazon: What Does It Take To Win?

For brands today, Amazon.com is no longer just another retailer for selling products. Its a digital content provider, marketing channel, THE retailer and major starting point for all shopping research. 55% of product research leading up to a sale is now conducted on Amazon vs 28% on traditional search engines (BloomReach Survey—Sept. 2016). Because of this, brands can not treat Amazon like any other retailer. They have to take a Amazon-specific approach.

So what does an Amazon-specific approach look like? Well, we can’t give-away all of our knowledge and expertise over a blog post. But, here’s a starting point…

First, to orchestrate a winning plan, you need to start by knowing where you stand. What’s your Amazon.com Product Health Score? Understanding this allows you to build and adjust your actions and determine how to optimize.

Or, if you don’t know your Product Health Score, give us a call. We can help you determine where your product’s overall representation falls on the amazon.com health spectrum. Key elements of this include: evaluating your creative, SEO, inventory, third-party players, merchandising/AMS, and more.

Secondly, you have to build an experience based on the wants and needs of all parties: your target, brands and Amazon.com. That may sound like an simple and obvious thing and in some ways it is. But, if you get it wrong, you can quickly get off course.

YOUR TARGET

Create a plan that will engage your Amazon target in all her retail modes across the customer journey (consumer, shopper, buyer, influencer). Her mindset, behaviors and surroundings change in each so engaging in each will take the right plan.

YOUR BRAND

Understand you brand’s needs and presence on the platform, including your: Brand Position, Reach, PDP Impact, Conversion, Re-marketing, Influence and Overall Product Health.

 

AMAZON.COM

It’s imperative to know where your brand stands on amazon and we are talking about more than just sales – although certainly that is important. Talk to your customers, know how they are using amazon but also look at how they behave. Paint a broad picture that correlates your activities to action. Look at A/B testing, SEO, merchandising, traffic drivers and media segmentation, etc. More than anything, understand what your customer wants from your brand and translate that onto Amazon.com. It’s an environment where you can quickly become commoditized and understanding how it all works together is a full-time job.

Want to know more? Reach out to Joe_Scartz@tpnretail.com

Valentine’s Day Gets a Facelift

Millennials, described as “confident, connected and open to change” by PewResearch, are living up to their characteristics according to TPN’s Seasonal Pulse New Year 2014 study.

Among all generations, millennials are the most likely group to “change it up” this Valentine’s Day. Thirty percent of millennials are planning to celebrate the romantic holiday differently than last year (see graph below), providing a huge opportunity for marketers to influence their plans – especially if millennials are trying to impress a new special someone.

Further, 21 percent of millennials plan to stay home and cook a special meal this Valentine’s Day. As notorious foodies who are always online, millennials will be hunting down new meal inspirations across social media and the web. Grocery retailers and online brands should be targeting this generation as they plan for their night in.

While 29 percent of millennials do plan on going out for a meal, those staying in, including myself, won’t have to make a last-minute reservation or spend an arm and a leg on food. Maybe it’s me, but I think millennials may be on to something.

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Source: TPN Seasonal Pulse, New Year 2014

For more information regarding TPN and our Seasonal Pulse findings, please visit www.tpnretail.com.

Giving Back on the Go

Last week, TPN participated in its Annual Day of Service by volunteering at food banks across the nation.  The Chicago team worked together to unpack, rebag and repack 2,000 pounds of Corn Flakes at the Greater Chicago Food Depository.  It provided a break from the office and gave us a chance to do something different for the day.

It also reminded me how tough it is to make time to volunteer consistently throughout the year, outside of our TPN-dedicated days of service.

So I took it upon myself to look into some online and mobile solutions for those of us who want to give back, but may not have the time:

Snoball

Snoball “turns any action into a donation,” by using the power of social media to raise money for nonprofits.  By connecting Snoball to your Facebook, Foursquare or fantasy sports apps, it “empowers individuals to seamlessly integrate giving with living.”

I personally use this program, and each time I check into a restaurant on Foursquare, it donates a dollar to my selected nonprofit.  I also have a monthly limit on how much money I’ll give (I’m a bit of a Foursquare addict and can’t afford a dollar for every check-in).

FreeRice

Owned by the United Nations World Food Programme, Freerice.com has two goals: 1. Providing education to everyone for free, and 2. Helping to end hunger by providing free rice to hungry people for free.

Simply visit the website and answer educational trivia questions.  For each question you get right, 10 grains of rice are donated to the hungry.  It’s literally that simple.  Monetary support comes from sponsors who advertise on the website.

Charity Miles

Charity Miles, like FreeRice, uses corporate partners to support its cause of allowing users to “earn money and raise awareness for charities by walking, running or biking.”

The app not only tracks activity as any other running app, but users have the power to choose which charity they will run for.  Walkers and runners earn $0.25 per mile and bikers earn $0.10 per mile.