Building brands is a people business 

AI might have been the biggest talking point at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, but advertising will always be about people.

During the week of Cannes Lions, the global, full-service research and insights organisation, Ipsos, hosted its Citizen Cannes event at the Contagious villa in Cannes, to demonstrate how creativity and empathy puts the extra in the ordinary for brand success.

The event featured quick-fire talks from creative experts and global brands, and was hosted by Ipsos’ global CEO, Ben Page, and moderated by Contagious’ editor-at-large, Katrina Stirton-Dodd.

Page kicked off the event by highlighting the the structural challenges of the 2020s: inflation, changing demographics, the climate crisis, collectively known as a polycrisis. Stirton-Dodd asked him why it is so important to hear from the general public about the issues that affect them.

Speaking about the polycrisis, Page expressed that even when a crisis hits, people’s fundamental needs don’t change. He then emphasised the role that brands play in peoples’ lives by fulfilling their needs, and their ability to provide a sense of escapism.

He then added that brands need to shape people’s expectations. An important part of that is understanding people’s micro and macro context. He pointed to the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, and the imperative for brands at that time to show empathy and that they were on the consumer’s side.

Stirton-Dodd then introduced the first short talk from Gemma Parkinson, global marketing and business development director of Belvedere Vodka, LVMH who was joined by Shaun Dix, global leader, Creative Excellence, Ipsos. Dix introduced Belvedere Vodka’s ‘Misfit’ Christmas ad, so termed because it is an original experience that delivers value to the audience. When Parkinson joined LVMH, Belvedere had low brand awareness. She wanted to move the brand from a legacy positioning to a bold new point of view. One of the strategies to achieve this was to break through the sea of sameness and build fame. With a new team, new vision, and six months to create a campaign, the brand had to think creatively. The result, a highly creative long-form video directed by Taika Waititi, featuring James Bond actor Daniel Craig letting loose in a leather jacket as he unexpectedly dances towards the Belvedere bar.

The next presenters were Emmanuel Probst, global lead of brand thought leadership at Ipsos, and Amel Lageat, global head of consumer experience and analytics at Sanofi. Probst started by talking about recent extensive Ipsos research into brand success. He outlined three key factors: shaping expectations, harnessing context and acting with empathy. Who better to demonstrate how to talk to an audience in its own context with empathy than a Cannes Lions Award winning consumer health brand?

Lageat carried on by talking about Sanofi’s Bronze Lion-winning campaign for the probiotic brand Enterogemina, “Ready player Mom” which cleverly recruited parents of gamers to enter the gaming world of their children disguised as avatars  in order to talk about gut health. ‘We are trying to build a brand that makes a difference and that goes to consumers where they are,’ she said.

Melissa Furze, senior global director of customer science at LinkedIn and Natalie Lacey, the VP for media development at Ipsos, then took the stage to talk about B2B marketing. Lacey pointed out that 70% of businesses that have over 500 employees are B2B, and 80% of companies get income through B2B. ‘Empathetic brands really need to care and rewrite the playbook for B2B marketing,’ she said. Furze then shared insights from a recent survey that was carried out by Ipsos of 1,500 senior B2B leaders and over 370 C-suite leaders in several markets. First, the B2B market is generally feeling optimistic, and many companies are increasing their budgets. The majority of budgets are going towards new business acquisition, rather than retention.

Second, the influence of the CMO within the C-suite has grown. ‘They are seen as saviours in terms of growth and resilience’, said Furze. The research also showed how valuable a blend of arts and science skills had become to employers. Half of CMOs agreed that B2B storytelling is one of the skills they care about most. Her final insight was that brands are going all in on creativity, focusing more on brand building due to the economic situation.

The final talk, with Arnaud Debia, global creative director of Ipsos, and Sam Southey, the global head of brand equity and creative at Coty, turned to the power and need for diversity and inclusion in advertising. Debia kicked off by sharing that 76% of people believe that advertising has the power to shape how people see each other. With the importance that people place on advertising, it is vital that brands act responsibly, for both the good of society and for brand success.

Southey then introduced Coty’s raison d’être: ‘We like to think of ourselves as serving the communities and consumers that our products are purchased by.’ Using Coty’s Rimmel Kind & Free creative to set the scene for how diverse talent and integrating people’s context and acting with empathy can boost brand success. Part of that effort involves giving people the tools to unlock their own definition of beauty. For Coty, the concept of beauty is plural, fluid, and changing. She finished the evening by saying that, while Coty has had positive feedback from consumers for their approach, the brand is on a continual journey.

To discover more from Ipsos at Cannes check out this page, or connect with them for a full debrief.

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