By Emma Mulcahy
Marketing holds a unique place in the modern world; it has the ability to challenge and shape perspectives, to inform culture and to kickstart movements.
Now, in a time of global crisis, we see more clearly than ever the industry’s ability to effect real change, by driving positive messages and offering platforms to those that need it.
It is in the spirit of this fundamental belief that The Drum and Facebook have teamed up to launch the ‘Marketers Can Change the World’ global initiative, which aims to unite and support the industry across three areas: EMEA, North America and APAC.
At its heart, Facebook exists to help create and sustain communities, even from a distance. Now, during Covid-19, that distance is felt more than ever. Pledging to donate $100mn to 30,000 small-to-medium size businesses (SMBs) across these markets, Facebook will support established and rising marketing leaders to rethink how these businesses are run and how we can make them more resilient in times of struggle.
Discussing the exciting new initiative and how marketing can effect positive change in the world is; General Mills marketing head- culture & brand experience (Europe-Australasia), Arjoon Bose, Bombay Sapphire brand director, North America, Tom Spaven, Facebook global industry relations and intelligence lead, Sylvia Zhou, and The Drum associate editor, Sonoo Singh.
What steps have been taken?
“You’ll have seen the Coronavirus Information Centre located at the top of your news feed from the start of the pandemic,” says Zhou. “This was introduced so that our users are up-to-date with news and developments, from a source they can trust.” Facebook has also offered free ads to public health authorities such as the W.H.O, created Community Help where people can support their peers and recently launched Facebook Shops to help users pivot their business online.
Spaven speaks of Bacardi’s commitment to their consumers during this trying period: “The bar and events industry was particularly impacted by Covid-19, so we wanted to give back to the businesses that have continually supported our business.” The project pledged $3mn in financial aid to bars and bartenders facing difficulty during this period, as well as offering up their platforms and marketing expertise for those that need it. For Bacardi, it was a case of serving those that serve them; an idea also seen at General Mills. With the enforcement of lockdown, Bose understood that it was essential to reiterate the kitchen as being the heart of the home and to promote the everyday products needed by families.
What more can bigger brands do to provide support?
“Now is the time to be bold and responsible,” Bose responds. Marketing has always been at the forefront of significant change. He argues that during these difficult times marketing gives consumers a reason to spend and a reason to hope. Now is the time to reiterate brand identity.
Spaven believes that going back to basics is the surest way to engage your consumer base. “The fundamentals of marketing, as well as of human behavior don’t change, only budgets and resources do.”
What are the objectives of the Facebook project?
The ‘Marketers Can Change the World’ global initiative supports small-to-medium size businesses (SMBs) across EMEA, North America and APAC and will focus predominantly on those run by immigrants, senior citizens, or women. “Statistics show that businesses run by these marginalized groups encounter more difficulties in acquiring resources and financial funding,” Zhou shares with us. The project will give rising stars in the marketing industry the opportunity to collaborate with senior mentors with vast experience in the field. Working together on a prescribed brief, the teams will create business policies that give value for the people and communities they impact. Facebook will provide essential training and access to tools that will allow these businesses to thrive both during and after the pandemic.
What knowledge will the mentors be able to impart?
Both Arjoon Bose and Tom Spaven express their sincere gratitude at having been asked to take part in the initiative as mentors. “This is a great opportunity to listen and learn from others, and to experience situations in a new way,” Spaven says. These views are echoed by Bose, who recognizes this opportunity to collaborate with different people and teams, as a teaching moment.
“I hope to be able to provide a fresh perspective to the team members and ask the right questions,” shares Spaven. This initiative lets teams combine the quick thinking of big brands with the even quicker movement of smaller, more centralised businesses.
At the heart of this, is our consumers- and their needs are changing rapidly. How are brands able to keep pace with this?
“Brands have to always be open to change,” states Bose. “Whether that’s remaining open to rethinking your retention strategy, trying out new tools or reprioritizing your products in line with consumer needs- we must be agile.”
Similarly, for Spaven businesses should always be thinking about their brand experience and how this meets customer needs. “Purpose is so important for every brand, but that doesn’t mean they all have to save the world,” he affirms. Understanding your brand’s mission and ensuring you deliver that, ethically and responsibly is enough.
Spaven adds that diversifying the industry needs to be a top priority if we are to truly meet the demands of today’s consumer; “It’s not about ticking a box, it’s about benefitting your bottom line- it’s just good business sense.”
Zhou agrees: “This mission is at the core of what Facebook wants to achieve in this initiative. By channelling our every effort into increasing the visibility of these groups, we want to create a ripple effect throughout the industry. This project will reveal the true power of marketing to influence for good and change the world for the better.”