Blogs & Comment

Conversations are contagious

Richard Pinder is chief operating officer at Publicis Worldwide. He will be in conversation with Contagious Communications’ Paul Kemp-Robertson at the Dubai Lynx on 29 March

“As social and political unease unfold across the region, the power of conversation is more visible than ever before. From Egypt to Tunisia to Libya and beyond, the situation continues to shift as news spreads vividly and quickly from multiple sources – offline and online.

In Japan, details of March’s earthquake and tsunami broke worldwide as first hand videos showing collapsing buildings and devastated communities sprang up on YouTube within hours of the event. Twitter surged with multiple sources pointing to news reports and information while Google, responding like a traditional news company, set up a People Finder Page. These conversations were global and contagious.

As our world continues to get more interconnected, conversations will grow and grow in influence. And whilst the examples I have given are about life and death issues, the truth is, once we get comfortable operating this way, it will do so for all aspects of our lives. So what does this mean for us as marketers?

Starbucks, the largest coffee house company in the world, leads the way with its My Starbucks Idea, an open community website where customers can submit their ideas which are voted on by other users, the best of which are implemented by the company. With its community of 19 million members, it has become an advocacy brand – it can talk about more products, share more information and more ideas with more people. While 19 million people get a kick out of seeing their ideas become real. All this through conversation.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the uncertain times we live in, I believe that conversation is the most powerful force in marketing today and that the best brands are those who know how to listen and who bring their own conversation to the table. Brands who think editorially with real time creativity, who are generous and relevant with content, are winning. Telecom giant Orange, for example, supported by Publicis in Paris, invited people to donate their time to an Orange Rockcorps partner charity in return for exclusive concert tickets.

The brands who do this whilst providing a benefit to the consumer (with some kind of branded utility) will do best. We’re seeing a world where consumers want purpose-inspired brands – and the best marketers are marketing with meaning. Today, major companies are talking about good rather than profit. Big brands using their outsize ability are helping to solve the world’s problems on the basis that if they don’t, who will?

We may face challenging times but our business is eternally optimistic. And every challenge is an opportunity to reinvent and stand-out. And for most of our clients’ brands that’s good news.”