Sas Saeidi, Global Client Leader – Nestlé at Wunderman Thompson Global, on action points for brands during the pandemic, key strategic rules for success, and the importance of collaboration.
The word Covid-19 is forever ingrained in our minds. We will look back to this time and remember it as a year of quarantine, school closures, work from home (WFH), social distancing; a year when the phrase “Sorry, I was on mute” will forever be etched in our business vocabulary.
But Covid-19 has been more than a pandemic; it’s been a disruption and has forced us to live a new way of life, adopt new perspectives, new principles, new behaviors, new socially accepted norms.
We all feel and worry about the calamity that is happening around us, affecting our families, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and businesses. We’re all consumed with this massive threat to humanity, and today it’s not business as usual for any of us. Quite the opposite. And while we appreciate the fact that we’re trying to make things work and push along, there are some that are not as fortunate and need help. It’s on all of us to use our power of influence and thinking to push ourselves, our brands and our businesses to do more.
Our industry has gone through its fair share of struggles, massive cutdowns on costs, redundancies, and structural shifts to try to compensate for the global slowdown. But more than ever before, collaboration between agency and clients is critical. This vital, enduring partnership is what has made the difference and will continue to be the formula for a win/win on all sides. I can’t talk enough about this in my role as Global Client Leader for Nestlé at Wunderman Thompson Global, and this is exactly how Nestlé and Wunderman Thompson have sailed jointly in 2020. While the seas have been very rough, support and partnership and loyalty on both sides have not wavered and the results and work talk about themselves.
As a communication professional, let me get specific and simply outline that today brands and businesses need to PIVOT and ACTVERTISE. All of us in the field of commerce and business have an obligation to push our brands, businesses and clients to do more good and to be at the service of our communities – wherever we are and whatever background and affinities we have.
Today more than ever before, consumers are watching. They are observing how companies and brands are behaving; how they are talking and how their experiences are evolving. Consumers are watching from the sidelines, to see if your values are driving your proposition. They are watching to see how creativity and innovation provide solutions.
All of this is based on global consumer research and data; and this data is telling us that what brands do today will impact their consumer loyalty and business success measures in the future. So don’t take the actions that you need to take today lightly. DON’T STOP PIVOTING. Don’t stop changing your mindset. Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t expect the current to go back to your old rules. It won’t.
We all have friends and families that have been affected, whether through health or business. So, I take it seriously both personally and professionally, and if this writeup can inspire action for a few or many, to volunteer, to pivot for the better of business and humanity, then I feel it’s a good deed.
- As a brand play a purposeful role. Today, purposeful is meaningful – stressing on the word meaningful. The power of social conscience is vital. You need to have a point of view on social issues or else you will fail. Advertising for good, creativity for better and ensuring you allow your purpose to guide you and change the conversation is your formula for success. Lean forward and be a concerned citizen.
- Repurpose your brand essence. Most of your consumers have not seen these critical times in their lifetime, so it’s important for brands to update and modify their personality to ensure it fits and strikes a respectful chord with today’s realities. Being respectful is extremely important.
- Ensure your brand values guide your actions. Your values keep you emotionally intelligent and act as your North Star. Following your values will help you connect authentically with your consumers and the community. They will keep you human. It’s important to be human.
- Change your brand success measure. It’s not critical what people think about your brand when they are asked, but its worthy if your brand comes to their mind throughout occasions and moments in their lives. There is a massive difference between the two; the latter is authentically connected and based on more sustainable experiences.
- Eradicate the words “digital strategy.” Covid-19 has changed connected commerce forever. There is nothing called digital strategy; there is only strategy in a digital and connected world. And your brand needs to understand and be part of that experience and commerce.
- Listen to your brand. Today, people are looking for authentic and unique brand experiences. You can only provide unique experiences if you start hearing your brand more. We often use the word “consumer centricity,” but the truth is that consumers don’t know sometimes. And if all the brands in the world wanted to ask consumers what they want, almost all of today’s major brands would have not existed. Put your BX before your CX or else you will lose the brand edge that made you unique to begin with.
- Your company culture is your safety net. They say culture is like the wind. It is invisible, yet its effect can be seen and felt. When it is blowing in your direction, it makes for smooth sailing. When it is blowing against you, everything is more difficult. Brands and companies today need to ensure their culture is employee-centric, values humanity, values loyalty, and puts people first.
- Volunteering goes along way. We have seen a lot of great examples of brands that have come forward and helped. We need to volunteer and give back through service, charity, money, food, supplies, time, creativity, to ensure communities have enough resources and hope for tomorrow. This community service is the job of all of us and we must act as a caring corporate citizen. We are stronger if we are together.
- Diversity & inclusion. Ensure you and your brand are on fully onboard with diversity & inclusion as a force for good. Social responsibility, inclusive design, ensuring your brand values, your communication, are diverse and inclusive is no longer a good-to-have. It’s a must. You need to shift from opportunity campaigns to meaningful brand commitments. I can’t say enough about D&I as part of a brand’s value system and as a key success metric. We all share the responsibility to push this topic and ensure our people get onboard.
There has never been a more crucial time for our clients, for our industry, and for our businesses to bring to life their values, adopt new norms and appreciate today’s realities. The past won’t come back and waiting for it to happen will be bad for business and wrong for the consumer.
So we must lean forward, pivot wisely and quickly, and never stop acting the part and being helpful by trying to do something great for our industry, for our people, for our communities, and for our planet.
Let’s be the reason people believe in the goodness of things.
Pass it on.