Cannes Communiqué: Consumer Love

This week, a Ketchum contingent is in attendance at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity in southern France, where the global marketing industry has gathered to celebrate what’s working, what’s coming and what’s hot in marketing communications. Here are some on-the-scene reports.

As quickly and dramatically as the world is the world is changing, the fundamentals for brands dependent on “consumer love” remain immutable, according to drinks giant Diageo’s head of marketing, Andy Fennell. And he should know. Diageo’s brands — José Cuervo, Guinness and Johnny Walker, among them — span some 250 years of history, enduring wars, depressions, booms and busts.

He list four fundamental values, critically important for earning the emotional investment that drives purchase in his category:

  • Flair: You can’t analyze your way to greatness, Fennell says. Success depends on the intangible virtues of creativity, insight and perception.

  • Agility: Speed is good, but a great idea that can’t be executed for a year is, by definition, not good. Success depends on moving with alacrity to meet opportunities and challenges alike.

  • Consumer insight: As always, good marketing starts and ends with understanding what the consumer needs, wants and believes.

  • Execution: Great execution can survive a dodgy strategy, but even brilliant strategies fail to thrive with poor execution.

As important as the fundamentals are, Fennell argues you can’t ignore the changes now confronting brands, and he focused on two of them.

The first is the enormous opportunity posed by emerging markets. Each year more than 100 million people reach drinking age — 20 million of these are in China alone! For Diageo, this means within three to four years, half its revenue will come from emerging markets. This is one change that can’t be ignored.

Another is technology. It goes without saying that technology is completely redefining consumer engagement, but it was Fennell’s example of “fit for purpose” use of technology that was compelling. In sub-Saharan Africa, Guinness is a big seller. So is soccer. Unfortunately, broadband penetration is low, and few homes have a TV. But “semi smart” phones are ubiquitous, and TVs are prevalent in bars where Guinness drinkers gather to watch matches. Guinness created a “low tech” social network to run within the existing phone technology and a corresponding soccer-based reality TV show, giving consumers multiple linked platforms to engage with the brand on their own terms.

Finally, he offered a view on the four traits he thinks will mark successful agencies as they confront a volatile marketplace:

  1. Real integration: Let’s get beyond 360-degree rhetoric about integration, and into truly integrated execution. No more PowerPoint integration — real integration.

  2. Investment in the core creative offer: Agencies that invest in creative skills and technologies, and in talent, will thrive. Especially in emerging markets.

  3. Measurement and evaluation: Let’s put numbers to what we’re doing.

  4. Remuneration: Let’s find ways to share investment and returns in ways that work for us all.