Brands struggle with how to respond to death of George Floyd
The world has rightly been outraged by the death of George Floyd in the US. Protests have mounted in the US, UK and elsewhere over his killing, while many more have looked at their own actions and questioned if they are doing enough to further racial equality.
Brands have stepped into this too, with some attempting to show solidarity with protesters. Nike, McDonald’s and Adidas are among the companies tweeting or running comms to show their support, with many applauding their efforts. In the UK, meanwhile, the ad industry has issued an open letter, coordinated by Creative Equals, committing to “take action” on equality.
L’Oreal, however, has faced a backlash for an Instagram post that reads: “Speaking out is worth it”. It comes after the beauty brand ended its deal with its first transgender ambassador Monroe Bergdorf after she spoke out about racism surrounding the Unite the Right rally in 2017.
And others have questioned whether companies and the ad industry overall are going far enough. In the UK, the latest data from the IPA shows BAME representation is going backwards in agencies, particularly at the most senior levels where just 4.7% of C-suite roles were held by employees from an ethnic minority last year – a 0.8% drop on the previous year.
Marketing Week’s Career and Salary Survey 2020 found that a staggering 88% of the 3,883 respondents identify as white, with just 4% identifying as mixed race, 5% as Asian and 2% as black. While 38% of white marketers hold a senior manager or above role, this falls to just 25% among black marketers.
As Ritson points out in his column this week, brands are all too happy to talk the talk but far fewer are walking the walk. Board rooms remain overwhelmingly white, as do executive leadership teams.
As Ritson says: “If you care about black lives, you don’t get inspired by an Instagram post. You get inspired by black faces in the boardroom. Companies need to become the change they are tweeting about. Walk the walk before you tweet the tweet. Though that second step really isn’t necessary.”
New Sainsbury’s boss bumps marketing to the boardroom
Sainsbury’s new CEO Simon Roberts took up his post this week and it looks like he has his best customer hat on.
First, he promoted the supermarket’s CMO Mark Given to the board to ensure Sainsbury’s “really understands” how customers are feeling, what they’re thinking and how this affects the way they shop.
Second, Roberts said he will be spending more time with customers and listening to their feedback himself. “I am really looking forward to hearing directly from people about what they want from us so we can change and adapt to ensure we are always meeting their needs,” he said.
Roberts has had some time to think about his strategy and how he might be able to return Sainsbury’s to profit. Perhaps he is drawing inspiration from supermarket rival Tesco, whose customer-focused strategy has completely transformed the business over the past couple of years.
The changes to his leadership team show Roberts understands the role of marketing in facilitating that relationship with customers. And with a seat at the table, Given has a chance to really flex some marketing muscle.
Just Eat on why it’s ‘business as usual’
As coronavirus and the subsequent lockdowns change the landscape for businesses, delivery is seeing an uptick. Just Eat is finding that barriers to delivery are being overcome, with older people becoming less reluctant to use technology and regular customers becoming more frequent.
In terms of marketing, the brand is carrying on with “business as usual” as it looks to keep up. After postponing due to Covid-19, it launched its global campaign this month. Its research showed consumers were looking for a chance to laugh during the pandemic and would welcome advertising.
Just Eat isn’t the only brand that is focusing on lighter ads, with Maltesers and others opting for humour rather than uplifting words. It seems consumers are fatigued by the relentless brand purpose ads surrounding coronavirus and want some relief instead.
The marketing team are well versed in connecting online and are adapting well but, like many, they are struggling to keep up with the lack of boundaries between home and work.
To combat this the company has introduced a ‘fresh air hour’ to get people outside and encourage people to talk about more than just work in the morning meetings.
Brands urged to open up hiring to military veterans
Brands talk a good game about diversity, but when it comes to their talent acquisition process there is much room for improvement.
One potential talent pool that is being overlooked are military veterans. Annually there are around 15,000 UK military service leavers with an average age of 30, as well as more than 2 million veterans and a large community of military spouses.
Brands have a blindspot when it comes to recruiting from the military community, says head of channel partner marketing EMEA at Facebook, Andrew Mihalop.
An Army veteran and co-founder of the Mike-Alpha Forces Academy, a social enterprise on a mission to help service leavers and military spouses build a career in marketing, Mihalop explains that service leavers don’t know marketing is a viable career option, while employers typically don’t consider service leavers as “valuable marketers.”
There a number of complex issues holding brands back from seeing Armed Forces veterans as potential marketers, not least the perception that service leavers might be suffering from mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While this is true for a percentage of veterans, Mihalop believes this perception prevents others from building brilliant careers and ignores the stories of those starting successful businesses.
Mike-Alpha, for example, wants to show brands that the military community is very well suited to a career in marketing as they are trained to handle pressure, deal with complexity and solve problems.
Once the lockdown has eased, Mihalop plans to visit garrisons and military communities across the country to talk about marketing, thereby opening up the talent pipeline. Going forward, he insists that there will be an even greater need for military veterans in the marketing industry if brands want to thrive post-pandemic.
M&S looks for better ways to measure customer experience
Marks & Spencer is putting more money and resource behind its ability to track and measure net promoter scores (NPS) across the business.
It believes introducing an “end-to-end and multichannel” NPS programme will help it evolve its brand appeal, customer experience and Sparks loyalty programme. Which should, it hopes, help it retain and attract customers and expand the business.
This is all outlined in the retailer’s annual report to shareholders, which – amid a global pandemic and perennially challenged retail landscape – tries to tell the story of a brand that can use technology differently, run stores and make faster decisions
With sales struggling and stores closing, it is not surprising M&S is looking for other ways to measure success. NPS seems like the obvious choice, given its NPS scores are up across the business and paint a picture of satisfied customers and colleagues.
But it is financial reassurance that shareholders want and need so M&S will need to make sure it is really accelerating that transformation plan and shift to digital.
It should also probably think about accelerating its diversity agenda. Only 8% of M&S’s senior management roles are held by ethnic minorities and its gender pay gap actually increased year on year.