On Wednesday, July 15th, I hosted the eighth installment of our Future of Branding roundtable series. We (virtually) traveled the globe to meet five marketing leaders. From Atlanta, Georgia and Sao Paolo to southern Finland and the Middle East, these men and women are distinguishing themselves by building and leading local brands in sectors at the forefront of the pandemic: hospitals, grocery, renewable materials, economic development and entertainment.
One of the universal branding themes to emerge from COVID-19 is the age-old notion that great brands come to life in the context of their community. Our conversation examined that concept, from how fierce competitors have come together to collaborate and support local communities to harnessing a brand’s core values as a north star during periods of crisis and doubt.
In closing, I posed the questions: What have you recently learned that has changed your view of the role your brand plays in your community? And what is your commitment to ensuring your brand plays an appropriate leadership role in your community? Here’s what our panelists had to say.
One thing that is happening and is relatively unique is that the hospital and healthcare systems here in Georgia have started to collaborate. While we are fierce competitors in the marketplace, we have been working together on a c-suite level and on a clinician and physician level, to make sure that we collectively address the needs of the state of Georgia. Competing where we need to compete but collaborating where we should collaborate. We are operating like an integrated health care system instead of competitors. It’s an enlightening collaboration because we all share a similar purpose. Our purpose at Piedmont is to make a positive difference in every life we touch.
When there is a healthcare crisis, people gravitate to those brands they trust the most. And we have seen a lot of people gravitate to Piedmont healthcare in the state of Georgia, not because of advertising or something I did, but because of a foundational brand strength forged over 110 years. Our promise to Georgia is to make a positive difference in every life we touch. Now more than ever, that is important. Doubling down on that existing purpose is key.
—Douwe Bergsma, CMO, Piedmont Healthcare
Our main efforts during the pandemic have been aimed at ensuring that we keep our operations running and our customer deliveries undisturbed. We’re typically the largest employer in regions where we operate; we have factories worldwide. And we’ve, for example, implemented a wide range of measures to ensure our employees’ health and safety. So, it’s two-fold, both trust and responsibility towards our customers, employees and suppliers.
Our brand promise is to help our customers become more competitive in the eyes of their customers. We do that by assisting them to become more eco-friendly and circular. As part of our role in supplying all the critical materials that we do, whether it is in construction, food or pharmaceuticals, we help our customers shift toward a circular bio-economy. This commitment has continued during the pandemic and will continue afterward.
—Katja Ollila, SVP, Communications and Marketing, Stora Enso
In the context of the inward investment mission, the true delivery of your value proposition comes in such times. We stand our ground in the investment aspect of Saudi Arabia as an enrichment ecosystem for the world. What I mean by enrichment is all aspects of enrichment: the enrichment of knowledge, goodness, the physical and monetary, and so forth. When this pandemic occurred, we returned to that essence and that value system. Our country’s ambitious slogan is “ready for the future,” so it was simple to choose the right responses and mechanisms to go forward.
The second thing is the role of brand citizenship. I’m also coming from the private sector. I have seen that sometimes the relationship with the brand and consumer, or the people within the supply chain, the stakeholders, shareholders are just looking for the monetary value. But when the crisis happened, you can see where true customers and brand managers came together, discovered the right insight, and provided the right solution. The role of insight and the role of consumers in the decision-making of solutions is significant. We cannot just sit down as brand leaders and believe that we are the voice of the people. We always need the input of our customers.
We’re committed to enriching investors locally and globally and helping create an ecosystem that genuinely helps to invest, open businesses, and continue growing in future fields and current fields.
—Mohammed Abuazzah, MSc., Executive Director, Strategic Marketing, Ministry of Investment, KSA
Whether its cooking for someone you love, seeing your kid eating vegetables for the first time, or inviting your friends over for a meal, being South America’s largest food retail group means we’re present at every one of those moments. Happiness is a compelling value for us, and we’re proud to stand up for our community. We’re proud of everything that we have been doing during the pandemic.
Now that we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, we’re starting to be more active in our communication, trying to bring optimism and hope to our clients. We are providing recipes for people baking at home. For those with green thumbs, we are distributing what’s called “seed bombs.” You can throw them anywhere, and it will grow by itself because it already has all of the ingredients. We’re saying, at the end of this crisis, we will continue to be happy. We will be even better because we understood what is important for each one of us.
—Othon Vela, Marketing Director, GPA
Our purpose is to serve artists and to help the artistic community. We have a responsibility to the music, and we care quite passionately about helping artists, producers, and writers express themselves and bring music to people. Music is a great connector. It connects cultures, genders, markets and countries. You don’t often remember a TV show, but everybody can recall a song and where they first heard it. Music and song are essential parts of our DNA. Our commitment hasn’t changed. In fact, it’s intensified since March. Over the last four months, we’ve had 200,000 Zoom calls. We are constantly talking across markets about how we can help our artists deliver their music in a meaningful way. That’s driven us for the last five, six decades with the oldest label in the world, Columbia Records, and it continues to inspire us all.
—Mike Fairburn, General Manager, Sony Music Entertainment Middle East
This is a biweekly series for brand-side senior marketers. To request an invitation, visit events.siegelgale.com