The Importance of Being Honest

Bronwyn van der Merwe, General Manager, Fjord Asia Pacific, Accenture Interactive
By Bronwyn van der Merwe, General Manager, Fjord Asia Pacific, Accenture Interactive | 2 September 2019
Bronwyn van der Merwe

The foundation and most fundamental component of a long-term relationship is trust. Whether it’s a business relationship, a brand’s relationship with its consumer, or a platform with its users, trust is important. However, trust is often the thing that is first broken and often with significant fallout.

The issue of trust is a recurring topic in Australia and was a topic of discussion at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2019. In between my role as a judge and experiencing everything the incredible festival has to offer, I noted down a few key points in relation to the importance of being honest.

In trust we trust

While honesty may be the best policy, it comes in many forms – transparency, authenticity, empathy and even relevance. Having your brand make a stand or doing the ‘brave’ thing is always a risk but can also reward – and more and more brands are seeing the rewards.

Look at Nike’s ‘Dream Crazy’ campaign. It reaffirmed its support for people of all backgrounds, gathered a legion of new fans, and turned belief into action. It’s this type of action is that is becoming more important especially as consumers, particularly millennials, are more likely to favour a brand that takes a stand on social issues.

Trust is better garnered by people when they can see it, hear it or feel it. This is exactly why Visa spent a whole year creating the perfect sound for customers to hear when their transaction goes through. The confidence that the one-second sound brings was not to be underestimated in the customer experience process.

Domino’s waded into public infrastructure territory with its Cannes Gold Lion winning ‘Paving for Pizza’ campaign, a project aimed at helping cities across the USA by repairing potholes – all so pizzas can make their delivery to customers’ homes safely. With customers able to go online to nominate future cities for road repair grants, Domino’s is becoming trusted not just for its pizzas, but its fearlessness in solving wider problems felt by its customers.

In a mea culpa, Philip Morris International (PMI) is reorienting its business, by asking its 16 percent market share of the world’s one billion smokers to do one thing: quit. PMI now spends ninety percent of their R&D on low combustion products that don’t convert into cancer-causing chemicals. To maintain transparency, PMI keeps all the science from their research publicly available.

Power to the people

#TimesUp #MeToo #TrashTag and even #StopAdani. People are realising that you can now do things without big business. No longer do a powerful few need to create change, but rather everyone just needs to do just a little bit more. It is clear people have realised they have the power to act at scale and turn beliefs into action.

Australian consumers also have more knowledge than ever. They are demanding experiences in their own terms – they don’t care about the brands, only about the products. In fact, Havas’ Meaningful Brands study found over 70% of brands could disappear and no one would care, while further statistics suggest that 90% of CPG brands are in decline.

IKEA’s Thisables campaign which won a Gold Cannes Lion, gave the power back to their consumer. IKEA identified one in 10 people in Israel are disabled, so they created a global range of 3D printable products to solve problems disabled people struggle with regularly – such as easy handles and adjustable couch legs. The campaign championed diversity, while creating solutions and engendering trust for valued customers.

Peruvian supermarket Plaza Vea proved the power truly is in the people, when it decided to re-create three of its supermarkets in Russia for the Football World Cup. The catch was everything stayed at Peruvian prices which are almost one third less than Russia’s costs. Their campaign proved a hit with Peruvians and others alike, earning a Cannes Gold in the process and proving that the power of Peru’s people – and their passion for their football – is now enough to make brands move nations, literally.

We’re well and truly in the era of the consumer – brand doesn’t belong to company anymore. It belongs to customer. It’s power to the people indeed.

All Eyes on AI

AI has moved from the transactional era, to an era of relationship. AI technology is now able to understand, reason, learn and interact. A clear message from Cannes was that we should not fear AI, but rather embrace it. Especially as it’s in our nature for every great technology leap to cause a moral panic – Socrates feared books would compromise children’s memories! Yet, we’ve got ourselves through the TV, internet, the automobile and the smart phone.

Done correctly, AI can enhance every industry – advertising included. It has been proven to have sharper eyes than a radiologist, while you can find it employed as the brain and heartbeat of My Special Aflac Duck—an AI companion for child oncology patients.

What AI can offer us is a future of powerful possibilities, and I am truly excited for what that means in our industry.

Do Data Right

Data is powerful. With it our lives can be easier – it can provide recommendations and product deals you actually want, reduce the amount of time you spend on arduous tasks and give you better informed marketing – but at what cost? And should customers be compensated for their data or should they just profit from the better experiences data yields?

SUPA answers that with an app which captures biometric data on activity and diet, shares it anonymously for disease research, then compensates the provider with valuable coupons. Another app, Floodlight, uses smartphone sensors and functionality to pick up subtle physical progressions in Multiple Sclerosis in its users. Things like shaking hands and walking pace are picked up and then shared anonymously for open-access research.

There are also great examples of businesses ‘doing data right’. Stitch Fix – an online personal styling service – shares size, lifestyle, and motivational data with manufacturers to create better clothes for its customers without transactional data risk.

E.V.A, the Equal Vehicles for All initiative from Volvo was a Gold Winner at Cannes for its campaign championing the building of safer cars. The initiative is focused on sharing a central digital library of real-world crash data that had been collected over decades, so Volvo and other car manufacturers can identify what injuries arise in different accidents for men, women, and children. By encouraging others in the car industry to access the data library, Volvo is championing the building of safer cars for all, while doing data right.

Keep your promises

In between all the discussions at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2019, one thing rang true: nothing derails a relationship like dishonesty, and nothing secures one like trust.

Throughout every piece of work that we do, it is imperative we start with being transparent. Not just with the customers of our clients – but our clients too. As well as our colleagues. And especially our employees.

With AI and data as tools, we can create much better experiences. However, we must make sure that trust isn’t just an add-on – but the foundation.

Bronwyn van der Merwe is General Manager, Fjord Asia Pacific, Accenture Interactive

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