Bendall: Last year I wrote an article suggesting there was now more science than art in modern marketing. With the alchemy involved in getting data and analytics, multiple channels, content and overall customer experience right, I still believe this to be true.
But it certainly doesn't mean a death-knell for the role of creativity in the process. More than ever, I think successful brands are getting it right for their customers. Those growing their overall brand value are successfully tapping in to the cultural zeitgeist and producing brilliantly creative outcomes.
But there's a hitch – a beautifully creative response to a compelling consumer, market or cultural insight can fall flat on its face if you don't have the right to be there or anything meaningful to add.
Wells: I agree. Success and failure can often come down to the difference between 'getting it right' and 'having the right' to be there in the first place.
Whilst there is a set of rational principles against which brands can filter their participation in this space, there is also an absolute need for bravery. Brands and brand owners must be willing to operate at the edge, in the places and spaces where culture emerges.
Sometimes the interaction will be fleeting, sometimes sustainable but almost always it will challenge organisational beliefs. And that's when the real magic happens.
Bendall: If there's no real demand for what you're marketing or no utility for the consumer you're unlikely to make any real impact. It comes back to the idea of tapping into the cultural zeitgeist – what's happening in people's lives, what do they care about, what do they need, what problems are they trying to solve, what friction needs removing? How are you going to help?
One of the most successful pieces of work ANZ did last year was an integrated campaign called Job Ready. The insight: teenagers are looking to manage and spend their own money from a younger age and the trigger for that first (and often last) bank account is their first part-time job at 14 or 15.
The response took us a long way from the traditional marketing of everyday bank accounts. These kids needed an account but they also needed a debit card to access the money, an app to manage it on the go and a super account to go with it. In short they needed an easy way to use, manage and move their money, not a bank account per se.
Wells: Similarly, David Jones' #shotbysound campaign is a wonderful fusion of fashion, technology and music.
How as a traditional retailer do you remain relevant to a fashion forward audience, constantly on the lookout for the next best thing? You find a new conversation point to challenge the category conventions and you borrow relevance through unique collaborations.
The collaboration with Daniel Johns set David Jones up to have a conversation like never before. Johns is mercurial, fashion forward and a creative genius, a great fit for where David Jones was keen to take its brand.
The executional layers gave depth to the campaign. There was no high-profile photographer. In fact there was no photographer. The fashion shoot was captured by 42 customised cameras set up on a rig and triggered by Daniel's vocals and the bands instruments culminating in a 5-minute music video.
The discovery of this 'new relevance' for David Jones has set the brand soaring. Its latest campaign #itsinyou, featured not models but roles models capable of influencing culture and sparking conversations. The message is very clear: "whoever you need to be, it's in you".
Bendall: There's a raft of social, political and popular culture issues out there at any one time. But equally there's growing consumer cynicism about brands seen to be merely jumping on the bandwagon to give themselves visibility.
ANZ's GAYTM campaign received global recognition back in 2014, as a strong statement of our commitment to diversity, inclusion and respect. There's no doubt the brilliantly simple creative idea and beautiful creative product played a role in this. Beyond that, it was the fact ANZ, a major organisation in a traditionally conservative industry, was willing and able to put its brand behind this idea that won the day.
With a well evolved and supported Pride Committee and a long history of sponsoring the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, ANZ was able to tap into the heightening cultural sentiment around equality and inclusion and authentically put the brand behind it in a dazzlingly impactful way.
Wells: GAYTMs is one of my favourites. In working through this campaign we were ever conscious to balance the frivolity of Mardi Gras with the importance of the message.
At its heart authenticity is about practicing what you preach and ensuring the brand rhetoric is always in sync with what the customer experiences. ANZ's work in the areas of diversity, inclusion and respect were not well known.
And that's the rub. The burden of proof is paramount when a brand wants to attach itself to cultural trends and social conversations. Think back to the original #McDStories campaign from the United States. No-one believes McDonalds makes fresh, wholesome food so why then put out a tweet saying “When you make something with pride, people can taste it."
You are naturally opening and inviting a response about chicken nuggets made from foaming agents. So you better be ready to hold your brand as accountable as your social public do.
That said, when you get an authentic brand story right the response can be overwhelming. We worked with Medibank on the recent “I am better" campaign. The ambition was to modernise the brand and in doing so reconnect it with its public by showing them what Medibank sees.
It featured people from varied backgrounds, cultures and family configurations which up until now had been ignored in traditional media and campaigns. No models, make-up or set, just a true-to-life lens into modern Australia.
Bendall: Above all, I feel the most critical element to marketing at the speed of culture is to be clear on your purpose. Purpose-driven organisations are not only far more likely to get it right with their target consumers but can do it a whole lot more quickly because they're clear on why they are doing it.
Take ANZ's Equal Future campaign. It centres on the insight that while young girls develop ahead of boys, they end up far behind financially because the system isn't geared for them to succeed. In response to this, we led a campaign that sought to not only raise awareness of this fact but in doing so challenge the system itself.
We commissioned a white paper to uncover the extent of the issue, teamed with award winning director Jane Campion to deliver a compelling film and addressed ANZ's own policies on superannuation.
Inclusion lies at the heart of ANZ's brand beliefs so when a statistic like 90 per cent of women retire with inadequate savings is uncovered, the brand has a responsibility to act.
Wells: Contrast for a moment the differences between Pantene's #LabelsAgainstWomen and ANZ's #equalfuture. The similarities begin and end with the shared desire to address equality. Whilst advocacy for the issue from any brand should be applauded, it quickly becomes misguided when it ends in gratuitous self-appraisal, as was the case with Pantene.
The correlation between challenging gender norms, battling inequality and selling more shampoo is a contradiction of sorts. The insight is bang on – women should stop apologising for themselves. Creatively it is a beautifully written and executed piece of work. But it becomes mere marketing at the resolve. After all, the commercial is saying women shouldn't care about labels but should have strong, swishy, shiny hair!
Using brand purpose as a filter for the cultural conversations you choose to tap into shouldn't be underestimated. It forces a focus to 'do' and not just 'say'. It moves outward looking brands to take a stand on external issues rather than boasting about their own 'do-good' contributions.
But in pursuing this path, you must also be prepared for the dissenters. If the issue has groundswell (which it should if you have taken an accurate read of the cultural pulse) you need to have faith in most instances good will prevail over aggressive, sometimes well-mobilised anti-supremacy groups.
Wells: Whilst we have treated relevance, authenticity and purpose in isolation in order to make a point, it is actually at the intersection of all three that leading brands should aspire to live. Authenticity without purpose is too short-term. Purpose without relevance is misguided. And relevance without either is disingenuous.
But, of course unless you are working in an agile way, none of this actually matters. Culture moves quickly. Blink and the trend you agonised over harnessing might already be yesterday's news.
Bendall: Nobody said it was easy. Success is about tapping into the cultural zeitgeist, developing a distinctively creative response that is relevant, authentic and on-purpose for your brand, and weaving together all elements of advertising, media, experiential and social to offer truly authentic brand experiences.
It's the art in this that is often the distinguishing factor between what gets true traction and spurs the social debate and what simply fades away into yet another campaign.
Carolyn Bendall is head of marketing for Australia at ANZ and CEO Kimberlee Wells is CEO at Whybin\TBWA.
This is an edited version of a presentation shown at the 2016 Brand Forum on 25 February 2016.