Ad Age is marking Hispanic Heritage Month 2023 with our Honoring Creative Excellence package, in which members of the Hispanic community revisit some of their favorite creative projects. (Read the introduction here.) Today, guest editor Marissa Solis turns the spotlight to Lili Gil Valletta, CEO and co-founder, Culture+ Group / CIEN+, who writes about embedding empathy and inclusion into marketing.
As marketers and business strategists, we’re often guided by the brief—but what if we could achieve the brief’s objectives by transforming our brands into forces for good in both society and business? It’s not only possible but essential, and it requires a shift in mindset—one infused with human curiosity, anthropology and cultural intelligence, enabling us to decode people’s motivations and needs as humans, not just as shoppers or customers.
Ironically, conventional corporate thinking often keeps corporate social responsibility (CSR) and commercial efforts in separate lanes. This separation limits a brand’s potential to stand out, not merely due to product features, good pricing or creative ads, but because it genuinely means something more to people—a quality that unlocks purposeful profits.
This belief led me to transition from my beloved role at Johnson & Johnson to become a business evangelist and founder of Culture+ Group, a fully minority-owned family of Cultural Intelligence companies. Why? Because today’s consumers demand alignment between their values and the brands they support. When 82% of shoppers express this desire, it’s time to integrate the social science of marketing with the understanding of people’s hearts. This is why I introduced the “marketing macarena,” a three-step move that stresses the importance of reaching the heart before the mind and the wallet. You can witness this approach in action in my TEDx Talk, “Diversity is Overrated: Why Leaders Need Cultural Intelligence,” which invites us to embed empathy and inclusion into daily business decisions.