Staff Reporters
Jun 24, 2016

Non marketers think marketing is fluffy...and it's our fault: The Economist at Cannes

Marketers must do more to increase appreciation of the business value of their work.

Economist's Alexandra Suich (left), SC Johnson's Mukherjee, Mastercard's Rajamannar and Marriott's Hirzalla
Economist's Alexandra Suich (left), SC Johnson's Mukherjee, Mastercard's Rajamannar and Marriott's Hirzalla

CANNES - The Economist's third panel session at the Cannes Lions festival featured Ann Mukherjee, CMO, SC Johnson, Osama Hirzalla, vice-president brand marketing and ecommerce Europe Marriott International and Raja Rajamannar, CMO, MasterCard.

The panel, which took place on 22 June, was moderated by Alexandra Suich, technology editor at The Economist, today’s session offered some candid views and hard business truths from Ann Mukherjee, CMO, SC Johnson, Osama Hirzalla, vice-president brand marketing & ecommerce Europe Marriott International and Raja Rajamannar, CMO, MasterCard.

Marketing’s measurable contribution to the bottom line was a recurring theme today, with the panel agreeing that marketing KPIs are paramount as ‘leading indicators to the business’ own KPIs’. Unfortunately the bigger challenge is the respect, or lack thereof, that the marketing department typically enjoys from within the business.

Watch a two-minute video clip of the panel here.

“The biggest gap I see today is people outside marketing genuinely think marketing is fluffy and not driving business,” said Rajamannar. “The true value of marketing is unappreciated by the rest of the business—this is our own doing. We isolate ourselves in our ivory towers.”

Emphasising this sentiment, Mukherjee argued that as an industry we are in the business of monetising human behaviour, and as such we have to be curious about human beings.

“It's all about the consumer. We live in a world today where we have got to figure out how to connect what we do from media. From data to media to in store, connecting your marketing, sales, organisations: you have to be a holistic connector as a marketer,” said Mukherjee. “Consumers want to be dazzled. They've seen it all, so if we're not creating unpredictable marketing we're not winning.”

Hirzalla also believes that it is up to marketers to challenge their clients on the most effective route to achieving great creative and authentic consumer conversations rather than relying solely on data output. “We want to connect with what customers want to engage with, not what we think and want,” said Hirzalla.

However when it comes to the all important consumer conversation, Mukherjee argued that we can’t ditch the ‘art in favour of the formulaic science.

“We can’t simply take on board the data without reminding ourselves of the inspiration of why we are here,” said Mukherjee. “Data is latest magic pixie dust. Going back to fundamentals works every time.”

While brand and business building are often seen as separate activities, this is not the case at MasterCard where brand building strengthens how the company’s payment technology is used. Reinforcing the emerging trend from this year’s Cannes Festival that many brands are doing it in-house, Rajamannar spoke about an innovative real time marketing engine that has been developed internally to predict micro-trends, enabling MasterCard to develop a commercial offer from concept to execution within 12 hours.

In similar vein, Marriott has also moved away from a campaign to campaign marketing strategy to an always on platform, much of which is created in house, based on the knowledge that with more and more people using their mobile devices there is no specific right time to target different audiences.
“It's not our world. We need to evolve, innovate, and be relevant in the spaces and ways they want to be,” said Hirzalla. “This approach has realised a 10 to 12 per cent increase in sales to date and given Marriott the courage to establish similar campaigns in other markets.”

“The courage to innovate, and often go it alone, is to be applauded as well another industry wake up call. Mukherjee’s final call to action today is a stark reminder to all of us that ultimately we are in the business of monetising human behaviour,” said Paul Rossi, President, The Economist Group media businesses. “To get humans to buy into our brands we need to be curious and empathetic whilst also orchestrating the support and respect of the wider business.”

Key insights:

  • Marketers need to gain back respect from the business
  • Data is the new pixie dust
  • Brands continue to innovate in-house

Content for this article was provided by The Economist

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