Predictably, there are those who will find fault in Cannes Lions.
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Some feel it has become too big/changed too much/become “a liberal worthy wankfest”. Whilst it’s impossible to ignore the willy-waving “biggest yacht” competition (Blippar beat News Corp by 7 metres in case you’re wondering), Cannes still boasts the best our global industry has to offer; showcasing the best work, attracting the best talent, even addressing our industry’s biggest challenges.
This year WFA welcomed 25 CMOs from our membership to our third CMOFORUM at Cannes to do just that; address the biggest issue brands are facing today: Customer disengagement.
The disconnect between brands and people is clear and the gap is growing. Fragmentation and new delivery systems have made brands feel they need to create more content with (often) less money. As the quality of our output decreases, the number of ad-blockers will increase.
The way to bridge this gap is clear; become more customer-centric. Whilst that’s easy to say, what does that mean in practice for global CMOs?
Firstly, improved human understanding. Echoing the findings of BrainJuicer & WFA’s Future of Insight project, the CMOs in attendance shared how they felt new methodologies could help. Ethnographic approaches were cited as being useful tools to generate actionable insight to drive a more customer-centric approach to marketing.
Yet a recurring theme for the day was resisting the rush to ‘shiny new things’ – which some felt included sexy new marketing research methodologies.
Linked to this, the group also focused on the importance of individual journeys to improved audience understanding. This need was highlighted through one global CMO’s story: He’d learned that some of his marketers had never even tried the (cleaning) products they were marketing as they had maids who used them on their behalf. In some cases walking a mile in your customer’s shoes, or even sampling your own products, needs to be mandated and monitored.
Although content marketing was dismissed by some as “the biggest red herring of our time”, one member shared a practical approach to understanding whether that content is really doing its job: monetisation. As this CMO shared; “It forces you to create content people will actually pay for rather than skip”. Whether related to content marketing or not, most agreed on the importance of “genuinely understanding what people want and knowing the role you can play within that”.
As well as improved understanding and behaviour externally, discussions also focused on the importance of getting your own people onside; as one member shared “customer-centricity starts with colleagues”. There are many ways to tackle this including embedding your core purpose and principles into your organisation, “celebrating fearlessness amongst colleagues” or as another CMO shared; “[we need to] ask ourselves, do we really feel proud about what we do every day?”
Internal alignment challenges can differ by sector. In some categories where marketing is not at the top table it needs to “work harder to demonstrate its value”. In these cases there is often a need to “increase your focus on marketing marketing”.
One of the actions from the day related to metrics. As a member put it; “part of the [consumer disengagement] problem we face is down to chasing short-term metrics”. Another CMO reinforced this by criticising “woolly metrics” and highlighted the need for advertisers to rediscover real-life reporting which relates back to the businesses.
Ultimately the day talked to embracing innovation whilst not being afraid to reject what’s on offer. “Taking responsibility for what you’re inspiring people to do” is the best way to tackle issues such as ad fraud. There is no shame in learning from the past: “We shouldn’t be scared to stand on the shoulders of giants and see further, by going back to the fundamentals.”
Yes Cannes has changed. Yes, many of the logos on the yachts are new, but Cannes is what you make of it. It comes down to the people you meet, exchange with and learn from. Ultimately, if we are genuinely proud of the work we do, we have a fighting chance of getting people to tune back in.
Companies who attended the CMOFORUM included:
As far as I’m aware, this is the biggest gathering of senior client-side marketers at the Festival - Phil Thomas, CEO, Cannes Lions
The next CMOFORUMs take place in Singapore 25th October and Hong Kong 27th October.
The ‘customer disengagement’ focus of this year’s CMOFORUM is also addressed via WFA’s Project Reconnect; WFA’s effort to develop a better understanding of what people want and expect from brands.
For more information on these WFA initiatives, contact Robert Dreblow firstname.lastname@example.org