PR’s Top Pros Talk… Redesigning Brand Communication – Lisa Rosenberg
Lisa Rosenberg, Partner+President of Consumer Brands, Allison+Partners
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About the Host:
HOST: DOUG SIMON
GUEST: LISA ROSENBERG
DOUG: Besides providing some fashion inspiration to Spike Lee at Cannes, you gained some insight into where brand communication is heading. Can you share some of those for us?
LISA: Of course. But first, let me say thank you so much for having me on the show. Really excited to be here. And while I didn’t get to spend two weeks in the French Riviera this year due to COVID, I still think we got a lot out of the experience of being a judge in terms of seeing where brands are going and looking at really what’s resonating for consumers and in culture. I think maybe one of the biggest takeaways for me, we’ve all in the marketing world been talking about purpose for quite some time and purpose with word and finding your brand purpose, and brands were doing lots of interesting things to raise awareness for issues or to get people to think about things that matter. And we’re seeing a decided shift from raising awareness or educating people, to actually brands taking action. And I think where we’re headed and what we started to really see, a real tangible shift in how brands were behaving was purpose that had lasting and sustainable impact.
DOUG: Great, so if you’re advising the brands that you work with, as you do, how do you get them to move from that distinction of talking about awareness actually making a meaningful difference? How do you go about choosing the subject matter, putting those campaigns to work, executing them? And can they be beneficial to the brands long term?
LISA: One of the first things that that we’re doing and we’re talking to clients about any programming that’s grounded in purpose is really understanding what is your long term commitment to an issue? You can’t just say, oh, this is the issue today. I want to be part of this conversation. It really falls flat when it comes to how you’re viewed from the consumer standpoint. So you really have to think about I’m going to be committed in this area and I’m going to build on what I’m doing year after year. For me, I have judged a campaign a number of years ago from Lacoste, and it’s one of the campaigns that stuck out for me as just… it was a great cause related campaign for a pretty staid fashion company. And they had done something on a past runway and a couple of years old. And I was really excited to see what I would call sort of the year two, year three executions, the same the same initiative. And it was all about endangered species. And you know, that to me in a nutshell, sort of summed up how brands need to look at what their purpose is and they need to make a commitment and they need to drive action. If you think about sort of brands needing to take on the biggest problems of today, they have a role to play in those problems. But they’ve got to they’ve got to get engaged in a way that’s going to have sustained and lasting impact.
So it’s not just we’re going to tell everyone about it. It’s here’s what we’re going to do. And I think one other point I wanted to make is brands have to be prepared to take a little bit of a backseat. It’s OK if it’s not, if they’re not front and center, because really it’s about the problem they’re trying to solve. And I think that’s where we’re going to see an evolution.
DOUG: And that’s an interesting point you make. How much of this is about helping the brand move forward, perhaps by chasing the culture of the moment that it needs to be sustainable versus doing something good that might be completely independent of the brand and not have an effect on sales, for example, how do you decide where they are on that spectrum?
LISA: Well, I think one of the things you’re starting to see, and we saw this in the work from Cannes as well, is that, you know, commerce is everywhere. All the variety of platforms that marketers are using today have the ability to drive sales. But what you need to do is, look for those moments when you can surprise and delight consumers and the sales can potentially follow. I think if you’re if you’re in playing in that purpose space, it has to be you. You have to be being true to the purpose and trying to solve that problem and make a difference in the world we live in. I think consumers will see through anything. And we heard the phrase ‘purpose washing,’ anything that’s really just designed to move sales. If you’re playing in an issue or purpose world and you’re not doing it but authentically and you really, you know, you may or may not care about the impact of your work on the actual issue, consumers will see through it. So I would advise any brand to steer clear that that way of that sort of an approach.
DOUG: And you talk about the importance of understanding your audience and diving deeply into customer segmentation. One of the challenges is everyone sort of ends up seeing and hearing everything. So is it harder to segment your audience in terms of what you’re communicating to them and how do you overcome that obstacle?
LISA: That’s a great question. You actually could believe that everyone could see everything because they do have the potential. I think it’s understanding the channels that are going to resonate with a particular audience. So you could have the narrative, whatever your narrative is, and decide on your messages and what you want different segments of the audience to hear. And it may be that it’s a similar message to multiple segments, but it’s really going to come down to the channel and how you map your strategy. So when you think about, for example, reaching a younger audience, one of the things that you’re seeing is a proliferation of brands playing in the gaming space and in fact, as a juror, we were all talking about sort of everything becoming a platform, whether it’s gaming, which is very immersive, or where football as a channel like Global Football is a channel with a lot of campaigns that use football as the medium. So I think the segmentation comes down to the channel that you’re using. And then I think it becomes incredibly important is understanding and really knowing that channel and how to use it in a very authentic and real way. You’re going to play in the gaming space. You need to understand how that game works. You need to understand how that audience engages with the game and determine the most authentic way for a brand to play in that space. So that becomes really important is the deep understanding of the channel and how it works and how the audience engages with that channel, because it’s not a one way conversation.
DOUG: So, Lisa, if you would, just one thing you wanted to share from your experience as a judge, what would you tell people?
LISA: I would actually tell people that the written entry does matter, particularly for Cannes. I think there’s a lot of emphasis on the video settings, which are great, and they all get watched. And that’s sort of the first way in. But when we get to the rounds we’re actually awarding medals. We go back over and over not only to watch the video, but we will go and look at the written case studies to clarify a point. So for those folks who are entering, really pay attention to the content of your written entry, because it does make a difference when it comes down to the awarding of medals.
DOUG: Finally, I’d like to go back to your experience as a judge in Cannes and maybe you can share insights of what you feel makes an award winning campaign. So the communicators who are watching this, what they’re with, the agencies or brands can go back, take a look and start saying, oh, we have to do some things that way.
LISA: Absolutely, I think the first thing is you see a tremendous amount of great work, and as a judge, we all talked about, you know, this is good work. Does it… Is it lion worthy? And there is sort of a distinction that that just sort of comes about as you’re going through the judging process. And we set out to have very sort of robust criteria that we were looking at to work against. But I would say for my agency colleagues, if you’re thinking about entering a campaign, you’ve got to make sure that there’s a strong narrative. I’d say first and foremost, you want to have a narrative that really looks to make connections. And what I think is an increasingly fragmented world. And I think when we’re looking at the PR category in particular, we do want the core idea to have to be an earned idea. And by an earned media, I don’t mean has to generate earned media that’s one aspect of it. But it has to be an idea that that translates and that moves and that is driving earned attention. So I think we were looking for that. And then this year at least, and this was my experience because this was the year that I judged, there was a lot of emphasis on
campaigns that that that have values at the core, but that are also to add value. So whether it’s to an organization, to a mission, to a cause, what is the sustained impact that this campaign is going to have? And those were some of the criteria or filters we were we were using as we looked at the work. And so obviously, Cannes is a festival of creativity. So first and foremost, the idea needs to be creative.
There was definitely discussion. Oh, I feel like I saw a campaign like this in the past or two years ago. There was something in a similar space. So we are looking for something that is new, is different. Oftentimes the best ideas were really simple in their execution or bold. Simple, bold, arresting. You know, there’s always that, ‘oh, I wish I had come up with that’ bit of jealousy from it, from any good judgment. But really, it’s got to have an earned idea to be something like that. That was a critical component for our judging group. This year. We wanted to make sure that it was an earned idea that would garner attention and. I also want to say, and I started by saying, you know, lots of great work doesn’t win a lion, it doesn’t take away from how great the work is.
DOUG: That’s great to hear. And I tell you, if I’m a judge, I’d say you gave us some sustained impact with what you just shared with our audience. Thanks so much for participating.
LISA: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.