A global conversation: customers at the heart

Event insight from Jay Colan

Gemma Greaves facilitated an excellent Global Conversation: People First, Humanity at the Heart of Business with marketing leaders from Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America about how the pandemic is effecting their businesses, industries, work, leadership style and as well as their personal lives.

Gemma started with succinct introductions by each panelist starting with asking each for one word as their response to this time. What we heard: grateful, positive, excited, optimistic, energized, feeling competitive, feeling creative, anxious (that their child would join the call!).  

The panel

Gemma Greaves, Chief Executive, The Marketing Society (Twickenham)
Craig Inglis, Chair of The Marketing Society (London)
Mike Fairburn, General Manager, SONY Music Entertainment Middle East (Dubai)
Juhie Gorwara, Head of Group Marketing and E-commerce, Philips (India)
Adriana Rizzo, VP Global Marketing, Discovery (New York)
Xiaowei Liu, VP External Relations, APAC, Shell (Singapore)
Derek Hemphill, Senior Marketing Manager, NatWest Group (Scotland)
Karl Gregory, Head of Digital as a Channel, HSBC Asia Pacific (Hong Kong) 

Mike Fairburn sees more collaboration coming out of this. The partnership ecosystem has been turned on its head. How do we keep ourselves open to new partnerships, new service driven partnerships that have the customers needs at the heart of what they do?  SONY is exploring new convergences of music and gaming, music and Ecommerce. SONY supporting artists to engage in different ways including virtual performances on games.  

Craig Inglis said that the brands that stood out changed their brand behaviour, what they exist for, their brand purpose, how they engage  the customer. Brands are looking be more human, more empathetic.  They rose to the occasion in different ways. Some made big gestures of philanthropy. Some fashion brands made essential PPE goods. 

Craig said that some companies have seen the opportunity to streamline. He said that consumers will continue to want to buy and will be even more discerning on purchases. Some brands have Consumers will get behind the brands that will continue to behave as we come out of this. 

Gemma Greaves asked Xiaowei Liu how this time has changed her as a leader. She has had more skip level conversations with people a few steps below her. The virtual proximity has brought her closer to those on the front lines. She was inspired by their suggestion and has picked up ideas from those conversations.  Xiaowei and the company have embraced a learner mindset. She encourages everyone to learn together. 

Adriana Rizzo said that with people being at home watching television, Discovery is bringing their streaming service to market earlier than initially planned. The talent has responded to new ways to produce content including using family members as makeup, camera and lighting people.  Variety said that the series Amy Schumer Learns How to Cook was the must see show of the lockdown.   It has been fun to watch the creativity that has been required for this remote producing. 

It is great to see how well Discovery is functioning in 5,000 different offices and rolling out a new product. Adriana feels closer to her colleagues by being invited into their homes, getting a closer understanding of each other.  They are having more fun activities. 

Karl Gregory sees a pivot to supporting customers especially as some are out of work.  How do we best leverage digital to support customers who cannot come to the bank.  Internally he does more check-in calls with staff.  With everyone working from home and seeing what they are dealing with on video has led to a great understanding of the personal circumstances of staff. 

With digital and ecommerce down Juhie Gorwara said that Phillips is creating content by social media influencers and brand ambassadors to keep brands top of mind.  Some videos have led to increased online sales. These online sales provide data that can be useful. Internally, with all the intensity of Zoom calls and many meetings, she sees a need to lighten things up for staff.

Derek Hemphill responded to Gemma’s question of how leaders of the future will learn from this pandemic. Companies will focus on colleagues. Ask those in the front lines, including branches and call centers. They have the answers. Harness the power of the collective organization. Rapid decisions have come from front line 

Less top down  decision making. Gather data from throughout the organization. 

Gemma asked Craig how will marketing take an essential role in recovery and be taken more seriously by companies and society. He said that the pandemic has given every company an inflection point. What is the business there for? How they can add value? It is up to marketers to step up and be the voice of the customer to make sure some of the changes stick. 

Gemma is an outstanding facilitator keeping the conversation focused and high level while drawing out the best from each panelist.  She noted that the recurrent theme is the focus on people, customers and colleagues. It is essential for brands and companies to be human, to focus on the well being of employees and customers, and to offer connectiveness.  Having listened to this twice I learned so much. This was a truly brilliant conversation.