-Jessica Appelgren, VP of marketing, experience and partnerships, Impossible Foods
-Lanie Friedman, senior director, brand, Conagra
-Linda Gharib, director, brand and corporate comms, Wolters Kluwer
-Lori Gross, GM, brand, Microsoft
-Garrett Marquis, global head of external comms, BNY Mellon
-James Wright, global CEO, Red Havas
The relationship that your key stakeholders want with your brand goes far beyond the physical products and services you provide. In turn, when done right, the connections being made between brand and stakeholder are becoming more and more genuine.
They are also happening on more and more platforms than ever, largely because the pandemic has challenged brands to get much more creative in establishing those bonds because “in person” was so hard to come by.
As the world shakes off its lockdown maelstrom, however, brands are gearing up to give consumers, as well as employees, the bespoke attention they crave.
Really putting people first
The year 2022 has taken the bull by the horns as it were — combining what worked in the past with the accelerated transformations that occurred as a result of the pandemic. In turn, brands are forging a path forward that will be more efficient, authentic and creative.
At Conagra, that’s meant letting go of tracking the historical ways people market and, instead, use principles from the laws of growth.
“We're constantly looking at people's circumstances and struggles to understand why they would hire or fire a brand,” Friedman explains. “One of the most important things our brands focused on during the pandemic was inclusivity and kindness; making sure that people felt like a part of the community, helping us curate content.”
As Gharib points out, the b2b space is trending toward customers wanting their business-buying experiences to mirror their consumer-buying experiences.
“Salesforce recently conducted a study,” she shares, “that found 72% of business buyers expected vendors to personalize engagement experiences and 69% of business buyers expected Amazon-like buying experiences.”
Of course, during COVID that was a challenge given the inability to meet in person.
At Havas, “We had to rethink, reappraise and reimagine how our clients’ brands connected,” explains Wright. Taking that experience in the future demands that “brands produce more authentic retail experiences that match consumers lifestyles, as well as their social media [tendencies].”
For Marquis, the biggest challenge has been communication through transformation.
“Historically, the bank has a reputation of being trustworthy,” he notes. “So as we go through this new phase, we’re looking at how to communicate that the oldest bank in the United States is leading the transformation to the future of banking in digital assets.”
Roundtable participants were (clockwise from top left): Appelgren, Friedman, Gharib, Wright, Marquis and Gross.
Speaking of digital, its exponential growth has changed the game for brands, wresting a significant amount of control of the narrative from the brand’s hands. But with that, has come unexpected opportunities to co-create and engage.
With the aspirational goal of transforming the food industry to become plant based by 2035, Appelgren says, “We are definitely going to need young, influential, creators’ voices to engage their followers around our mission if we're going to be successful.”
By way of example, she points out the launch of Impossible Foods’ chicken nuggets in the shapes of endangered species, called Wild Nuggies.
“We got a really amazing, adorable kid influencer, @greyandmama, to post,” she adds. “It was incredible.”
And then Gross brought up Minecraft. With more than 35,000 active creator channels making videos on Minecraft and more than 1 trillion views on YouTube, it is by far the most popular game ever on the platform. And for Microsoft?
“It’s probably the best place we've embraced the influencer and creative community,” she suggests. “One of the things that marketers really have to understand is where there's energy and excitement, and how far your brand can stretch that in new and different ways.”
New things content can do for you
The theme of authenticity has also drastically changed the kind of content people want to see.
“We have moved away from overly produced content,” explains Friedman. “We are now leveraging makers and influencers across our brands. We've really learned that content can be very motivating for audiences, especially as the channels have changed.”
And it’s not only the tone and channels that have changed, but the spokespeople.
“It wasn't that long ago that when people joined a company, they signed forms agreeing that they wouldn’t talk about the brand on social media,” recalls Wright. “That has completely flipped. Now brands want their people sharing their experiences of working at a company.”
Not only has the emphasis on employee satisfaction grown more important, but they are now largely considered to be, as Appelgren underscores, the best recruiting mechanism.
“It’s necessary that we give our employees, who are our best advocates, an opportunity to represent that externally,” she says.
When it comes to recruiting for BNY Mellon, the question for Marquis is how, externally on different platforms, his team can have an effect on it. And he actually got a surprising answer from an even more surprising source.
“Recruiting is a real challenge today,” he notes. “So it shocked me when I had an interview with a candidate recently who referenced that she had listened to a podcast I’d done with PRWeek and liked what I was talking about.”
Proof positive that it is not only smart to think beyond how we’ve historically created content and communicated, but that you have to be in the game on all platforms in all formats. Some unexpected – but powerful – relationships that will bolster your brand may very well come from doing so.
Click here for Red Havas’ recent report on six trends reshaping the brand experience landscape in 2022.