"Listening is not enough," Bacardi’s chief marketing officer has stressed as brands navigate responses to the death of George Floyd.
John Burke joined Facebook’s VP of Global Marketing Solutions for North America Nada Stirratt and Florian Adamski, CEO of media agency OMD Worldwide, to discuss how marketers are navigating today’s culturally-charged landscape as part Campaign Connect—a two-day, global virtual event unpacking the future of advertising in a post-pandemic world.
"You need to listen," said Burke, whose brand joined so many others in posting a black square on Instagram and other social channels for #BlackOutTuesday to support the black community. "And then you need to do more listening to understand and empathize with the situation that’s unfolding. But, clearly, listening isn’t enough and brands need to act. We’ve made a commitment to act."
He said the mass response to this outcry serves as a broader lesson about how brands should react to situations like this.
Burke continued: "First of all you need to take time—this requires a thoughtful response, and we know that brands which have jumped in and tried to be overly-prescriptive or read the signals wrong have been punished by consumer responses. So it’s super important to maintain your own authentic brand voice to speak about topics you have authority to speak about, but at the same time, listening and adapting to what’s going on. This is a pivotal moment in culture and we need to understand how we play our role."
Stirratt, who has a bird’s eye view of how companies are using Instagram and other areas of the Facebook community to respond, said some brands chose to post on Tuesday while others showed their support by pausing activity altogether.
"Every brand—in their own authentic way—wants to communicate their personality and their personal concern to consumers everywhere," she explained. "I think it’s going to be like that for a while and it’s going to be listening to your consumer and really having your finger on zeitgeist right now. It’s going to be fluid. It’s really important."
Meanwhile, Adamski underscored the importance of advertisers thinking about how they behave with regards to their media placement right now.
The CEO noted that a lot of media publishers were starting to see a return on ad spend as the wake of COVID-19 became smaller, but this second, overlapping crisis is a shock to the system and has once again made marketers take a step back. However, he stressed that there is a real danger in further damaging media outlets if advertisers remain hesitant.
Adamski explained: "Obviously, the instinct would be to shy away from these issues. At the same time, I’ve heard this notion and term about commercial censorship the other day which I found quite interesting; We’re seeing quality media and local news media being punished for the way they cover those current crises—it is their responsibility to do that, and all of us are thirsty to stay informed. At the same time we understand that those are businesses that need to be run and we want to have a strong quality journalism segment in the United States but also across the world. It is important to democracy.
"So we should all think about whether it is the right decision to move away from news coverage that objectively reports on what is happening and whether that is truly brand damaging or whether it wouldn’t be more plausible and more thoughtful of supporting also the news organizations by staying with them and being loyal to them in a way that would stay true to your brand."
He added: "From an OMD perspective, we’re not advising every client as a blanket solution to move away from everything dramatic that is going on right now, but do it in a very thoughtful way and manner also considering the wider consequences and ramifications it would have if we further withdraw budgets from certain media outlets."
Discover the whole conversation with OMD, Facebook and Bacardi as well as much more content at Campaign Connect.