Why brands need to rethink their general marketing messaging

21 May 2021 | By: Brendan Flaherty, copywriter

Helen Lin believes in the power of gratitude and good intentions, and she attributes much of her success to other people. “Success begets success,” she says. “And not until I understood that we win together, did success come more effortlessly. If you build people up, you will have influential people who will only make it easier for you to succeed in turn.”

That belief has helped shape her career in digital media, which began on the account team at Saatchi & Saatchi in Los Angeles. There, she helped a major auto brand put dealer ad kits on CD-ROM. Now, she serves as Publicis Groupe’s Chief Digital Officer. Along the way, she’s earned many accolades, including ADCOLOR’s 2019 Legend Award, which is “presented to a trailblazer who isn't afraid to be different and who showed brilliance in his/her actions, a singular leader in their industry”.

A key component of her career journey has long been her commitment to mentorship, sponsorship and diversity, equity, and inclusion. She is always trying, she says, to do her part to contribute “to the groundswell and work toward the overarching goal of inclusivity”.

In the video and Q&A below, she shares more.

How can brands ensure their messaging is inclusive?

There’s so much more we can do to make sure our advertising and marketing is inclusive. The US census data projects that by 2044, multicultural populations will be the majority, and if you look at people under 20, that multicultural shift has already happened.

The first thing we need to do is mentally move from thinking about only multicultural marketing, engaging specific multicultural audiences, to recognising that all of our ads need to be representative of the diversity in our multicultural world.

Brand experiences also need to be congruent with messaging. Consumers know when they are being marketed to, if a brand doesn’t walk the walk – in product design, distribution and accessibility.

In the past year, we’ve seen a lot of things shift. How have some brands met the moment for customers?

There are brands in retail, QSR (quick-serve restaurants), grocery, autos and even in industries that aren’t typically known to have their own direct-to-consumer channels – like CPG or entertainment – that have done such an impressive job of transforming themselves to be able to really super-serve people, especially in our time of need. The most successful companies made sure their customers were aware of new access points designed to help them safely and conveniently use solutions and services, including simple things, like adjusted hours of operation or new delivery mechanisms. We’ve seen many brands step up operational excellence, across search and geographic-based messaging, in order to serve people where and when there is a need.

What have these companies had in common? First, the most successful ones took a quick look at their omnichannel marketing experience. They evaluated what could, and what needed to be, the digital and contactless channels that would help them make their products and services available twenty-four-seven. In addition, they evolved their offerings to stay relevant, as our needs during the pandemic have evolved, month-to-month, week-to-week. And the brands that have done these things really well, and evolved, are the ones that have gained loyalty.

What is the connection between a brand’s ability to evolve and customer loyalty?

It’s actually especially true that during unprecedented times, when everyone is still figuring things out, that people are in need of considerably more convenience, as well as new solutions to everyday (and even old) problems. Businesses that are able to provide a service and connect an experience around their brands and products – so they’re packaged as solutions versus just selling their wares – are the ones that are most able to make their mark, not only as reliable and dependable, but as indispensable, during trying times. And that’s what really deepens brand loyalty.

quoteUpMarketers need to usher in that next era of inclusivity.quoteDown
– Helen Lin, Chief Digital Officer, Publicis Groupe

How does your team innovate on behalf of your customers?

Every organisation has those super brilliant, naturally intuitive people on their teams, and at Publicis, we want to enable every single person in our organisation to help us drive innovation for every single client. On that front, we developed a Publicis Digital Maturity Index (DMI), a tool that helps us contextualise where the brands we work with fall competitively, on leveraging insight and technology to enable greater relevance where it matters, in media, as well as in messaging, in both paid and owned channels.

We completed assessments of more than 100 brands, across nearly every category: financial services, pharma, telco, automotive, retail, you name it – along the spectrum, from tactical to predictive marketing capabilities. We found that brands generally fall into one of three categories – 1) data and technology are leveraged, but the application is more campaign focused; 2) those who have made moves to meet their connected consumer CX ambition; and 3) those that are already on the road to becoming personalisation trailblazers. What’s fantastic about a tool like this isn’t just that you’re diagnosing strengths to make sure that you’re leveraging them. By identifying gaps and putting together road maps, teams can uncover new opportunities to innovate.

Why are the major shifts we’ve seen in the advertising landscape permanent?

The shift to digital has been so significant that I think finally digital advertising won’t be viewed as a reach and frequency strategy, but really will be viewed in the context of overall marketing. It will be viewed as a really critical, essential integration tool that helps people move along the consumer journey.

We also know that the old tools that we’ve become reliant on for so long will no longer apply. Third-party cookies are becoming deprecated, creating massive industry disruption; online shopping is taking off; and consumer expectations are forcing brands to better design their value propositions.

What is the key to long-term success for brands looking to the future?

We need to go beyond just making sure that the images and communications we put out there represent the diversity in our world, by ensuring that the experiences and the innovations we design have DEI built in from conception. That includes everything, from incorporating accessible tech to making sure that our experiences serve minority audiences. Marketers need to usher in that next era of inclusivity.