Consumers today don't just buy brand, but look for a higher purpose - a conversation at Cannes

The Economist kicked-off the first of its Wake Up with The Economist panel sessions at the Cannes Lions festival today and featured discussions among key industry CMOs from lMerck Consumer Health, Anheuser-Busch and Beirsdorf on the subject of creativity, connecting emotionally, and looking outside of the box for inspiration.

Moderated by Daniel Franklin, Executive Editor at The Economist, the event featured candid conversation and debate from Atilla Cansun, CMO, Merck Consumer Health, Jorn Socquet, Vice President, Marketing, Anheuser-Busch, and Neil George, Vice President, Emerging Markets at Beiersdorf.

“As CMOs, we don't take enough risks. We are sometimes too comfortable in our jobs and avoid the hard conversations with our bosses,” said Jorn Socquet, with Atilla Cansun adding that taking no risk is a risk in itself.

As part of being bolder and more outwardly engaged, all panellists at today’s Wake Up with The Economist agreed that creativity these days can come from anywhere, whether internally at the most junior level or else from external sources including agencies, suppliers and customers. The overriding consideration, according to Jorn Socquet, is that marketers must be open to all ideas, and keep the ego out of the room.

When it comes to the agency relationship, consolidation is on the cards with Atilla Cansun disclosing that Merck had reduced its agency roster from 50 to five in the space of a few years to improve the quality of ideas and processes. Additionally, Cansun reitereated what B2B marketers have been realizing more and more when he said that "consumers are much, much smarter than they were just a few years ago in that they don't just buy your brand anymore. They are looking for a higher order of purpose where they can emotionally connect to your product or service. If you cannot at least communicate your purpose, your brand will die away."

To avoid any agency-client mistrust, particularly when it comes to spending client money, ‘100 per cent transparency’ is critical according to Jorn Socquet. Additionally, Socquet advises that consumers are very sophisticated today and they are "looking for a higher order purpose that they can emotionally connect with. They are not just buying into the brand. So, those brands no matter what category that do not have a purpose or cannot communicate that purpose will die away."

Further, as advancing technology breaks down of marketing silos, Neil George sees PR as likely to converge into one stream with other marketing disciplines in the future. And whilst PR may contribute to the creative process, in order for it to retain a place at the table on its own terms it must get ‘more scientific’ in order to demonstrate ownership for consumer outcomes, believes Jorn Socquet, citing the recent Budweiser Superbowl campaign that generated four billion impressions, of which he could only validate 10 per cent.

“Whenever I ask ‘how did this help us sell more beer?’ to a PR agency, they struggle to answer,” said Mr. Socquet. “PR needs to get more scientific and show us what they're doing for our business.”

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