Context matters. Respect matters. And authenticity matters. Brands need to be thinking about these qualities if they want to successfully reach consumers today. The consumer hunger for brand authenticity was apparent before the pandemic, but the past year’s events sent it into overdrive.
Kirk McDonald is the CEO of GroupM North America and an accomplished media leader. I had the chance to have him join me on Conversation Nation to discuss business ethics and a new era of media built on diversity and inclusion. His insights into creating business programs that work, and building meaningful relationships with consumers, resonated with me, particularly because of Kirk’s people-first approach to both advertising and leading.
Authenticity is what Holler’s brand product is built on. Since we operate in people’s private messages, brands that run campaigns with us are required to be authentic and useful, ensuring that we’re giving our users the best possible experience. Knowing that banner ads would never find a place in people’s text messages, we created a privacy-safe solution that allows brands to become part of chat without being intrusive. And this useful, context-forward approach to advertising is something that is becoming increasingly more important.
Kirk reiterated that fact throughout this episode; he noted that not only do brands need to connect with people in a meaningful way, they need to do it with respect—by engaging with consumers genuinely and without infringing on their data-privacy rights.
Diversity was also a main focal point within this episode. I’ve been extremely vocal about my opinion on the need for diversity, not only within organizations but also across media, so this conversation in particular struck a chord. Kirk has already been making strides when it comes to investing in Black-owned media and diversifying his organization from the inside out, something we’re also focused on both at Holler and Group Black, which focuses on the advancement of Black-owned media properties. And he noted that there is no time to waste when it comes to these initiatives.
Kirk says, “If you want to own the responsibility of shaping the next era of media, then you have to also do the forward investment.” He also made the point that if you only do something as a direct response to a certain moment in time, it will not have a long-term impact; sustainability is key. At Holler, we’ve put long-term initiatives into place by incorporating things like in-depth diversity and inclusion training, a more inclusive hiring process and company-wide town halls. When it comes to the media aspect, I’m hopeful that organizations like Group Black will help to propel diverse talent forward and create a more inclusive media landscape.
Some key takeaways
- Brands need to adapt to meet consumer needs; context and authenticity help.
- Business leaders need to marry their purpose with their business initiatives; sustainability is a necessity.
- When it comes to diversity, action is the only way to bring about real change. You need to be in it for the long haul.
Kirk is a powerhouse with lots of advice to share, both from a brand perspective and as someone striving to make the world a more inclusive place. Don’t miss this episode.