Amazon’s Claudine Cheever and Interpublic’s Philippe Krakowsky explain the power of brands’ point of view
28 October 2021
The virtual audience at Amazon Ads’ unBoxed conference on 27 October may have been a little surprised when Amazon’s VP of Global Brand and Marketing Claudine Cheever opened her keynote address by talking about failure. As she noted, failure has always been an important step toward innovation, growth and having a voice – even at Amazon.
Cheever pointed out an inspiring message from Jeff Bezos in Amazon’s 2019 shareholder letter. He wrote, “If the size of your failures isn't growing, you're not going to be inventing at a size that can actually move the needle.”
She went on explain that while failure is motivating, “It’s also a little terrifying. It reminds us that we may need to experiment more, take even bigger risks. And possibly, fail a bit more, too. How do you build customer trust when you’re a brand that makes big, bold moves – moves that may not be fully understood?”
This is an important ethos for brands to keep in mind as they strive to make an authentic connection with consumers. Amazon has embraced failure in its own advertising, Cheever noted, with self-aware and funny Super Bowl commercials that showed an Alexa toilet seat.
“Tension makes for the best stories, we know that. But finding the tension in your brand is even better,” Cheever said. “If the truth about your brand makes you a bit uncomfortable, if it makes you feel vulnerable, that’s where you should lean in. That’s what’s going to make a good story – one that’s authentic and memorable.”
That kind of storytelling can help a brand communicate their own point of view and connect with customers through shared values. According to a study from Environics Research and Amazon Ads, 80% of consumers in the US and Europe are more likely to purchase products or services from brands whose values align with their own.1
Philippe Krakowsky, the President and CEO of ad agency Interpublic Group (IPG), which Amazon works with, joined Cheever at unBoxed to discuss ways in which his team has helped brands build authenticity through storytelling and shared values.
“People want to engage with purpose-driven brands, and I think they’re willing to pay more to do so,” Krakowsky said. “There’s really no trade-off when it comes to terrific creativity and authenticity. Brand purpose doesn’t just help you differentiate your brand. I also think it’s an important way to connect with your own employees and to motivate them as well.”
Krakowsky highlighted a campaign that won McCann (which is part of Interpublic Group) a Grand Prix in brand experience and activation at 2021 Cannes International Festival of Creativity. This was the “True Name” campaign for Mastercard, which empowers transgender and non-binary cardholders to use their true name when using their credit card.
“That work really kind of brought to life that the most important part of authenticity is how we identify and how you empower people to do that,” Krakowsky said. “It connects organically to a brand that has been a long-standing supporter of the LTBTQ community. Challenging convention and having the courage to take the stand clearly is a door that’s available to you. And right now when you think about folks in that community, particularly those who are part of other marginalized communities, they’re so vulnerable at the moment, that it took a level of saying is this consistent with who we are.”
So how do brands remain authentic while sharing a strong point of view with consumers?
“People are tuning in and they’re seeing how you show up and how companies and brands react to macro events,” Krakowsky said. “You want to stay connected to those cultural conversations. You want to really understand and be tuned into what’s happening in the world. And you need to know that employees are looking to see how we are going to behave.”
1 Environics Research, Social Values Global Consumer Themes, 2021