Five marketing takeaways from Cannes 2013

Beyond rewarding the most creative work to emerge around the globe in the past year, Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity also offered an array of lessons for marketers. Here are five key marketing takeaways from this year’s festival. 

Heineken won the Creative Effectiveness Grand Prix.

Cannes Lions is renowned for is celebrating successful work and there is much inspiration to be gleaned from the shortlisted and winning work. But, of equal, if not more, importance is the discussion around how brands and marketers embrace failure and what can be learned from it.

Embrace failure

A common theme from senior marketers at the event was that if you’re not failing somewhere along the line, your’e not trying hard enough to succeed.

Rather than seeing failure as a negative, successful brands will be the ones that can embrace it, learn from mistakes quickly and strengthen a brand as a result. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer recently introduced a quarterly “award” to officially recognise the value in unsuccessful projects, says Yahoo EMEA marketing director Robert Bridges. Tata Motors has a similar process in place.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is said to have a huge piece of artwork hanging in the social network’s Silicon Valley HQ with the words “fail faster” created from coloured drawing pins – a clear statement of the company’s attitude.

Adapt, readjust and improve

Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s director of engineering, who created Facebook’s News Feed, said he was “proud” that when News Feed was introduced, there were a number of protests outside the Facebook offices from angry users who hated the new feature. He said: “News Feed was unpopular at first but we listened, and changed it and constantly update it. Now it’s one of the most popular features. Even when things don’t go well initially, you listen and refine.”

Similarly, Keith Weed, Unilever CMO, describes marketing as akin to a “heat seeking missile” which is by definition, always slightly off course but is constantly readjusting to meet its target.

Universal Music’s global SVP of branded content Jennifer Frommer, used Robin Thicke’s current number one track Blurred Lines, featuring Pharrell Williams, to demonstrate that not getting it right first time around doesn’t mean it’s game over for a brand. The record label has “relaunched” Thicke’s “brand” with a new look and sound three times before achieving success, she said.

A campaign is not the final destination

The concept of continually correcting the path of a brand strategy should also be applied to the way the marketing industry approaches campaigns, according to marketers in attendance.

Speaking alongside Bosworth and Facebook’s Mark D’Arcy, Droga5 founder David Droga – the most awarded individual in the history of Cannes Lions – says he spent most of his career obsessed with creating campaigns. He has now realised the creative is the beginning not the end point. Marketers should stop viewing campaigns as finished articles but as something that can be continuously added to and improved, he says.

Humanising technology

There is a feeling that digital marketing is still more focused on the technology, than the user. A recurring topic this year was how brands can “humanise” their use of digital technology in marketing.

Rory Sutherland, Ogilvy Group UK vice-chairman, suggested marketers look at technology and digital “from the wrong end of the telescope” adding that it is more valuable to look at what it tells us about human behaviour than at what we can do with it.

Purpose and deeper meaning

According to Facebook’s Mark D’Arcy, the marketing industry used to be about “creating a myth then getting people to believe it” but now the onus is on finding a truth. Building truth and purpose into a brand’s strategy was something marketers from some of the world’s biggest brands including PepsiCo and Coca-Cola touched on.

PepsiCo China chief marketing officer Richard Lee believes that one problem brands and consumers face, particularly in China, is that the price of economic progress has been a “loss of humanity”. He shared the insights from the brand’s Chinese New Year campaign to remind younger consumers that family values are very important in Chinese culture.

Likewise, Coca-Cola’s new European marketer Guido Rosales said he wants to bring purpose to the brand’ marketing in Europe in a similar way to what he has done in Latin America and the way the brand tries to unite people with differing political backgrounds elsewhere in the world. The brand is currently running activity in India and Pakistan that allows people in the divided nations to “touch” each other’s hands via Coke branded vending machine that is fitted with a real-time video screen.

Keep up to date with all Marketing Week’s coverage from Cannes Lions 2013 here

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