Episode 7

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AI, Sustainability, and the Future of Marketing

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Predictions have a rite of passage at this time of year. As the end of one year ties up there is a flood of ‘what’s going to happen next’ across most websites.  

Marketing offers such a diversity in approaches that when Forbes shared some leading insights, there had to be a discussion from experts on the ground about the predictions for the year. 

Sharing their insights with us are Olumide Aniyikaiye, marketing director with more than a decade of CPG experience, and Miguel Magalhães, senior brand manager for Procter & Gamble and marketing lecturer. 

Q: How do you see AI impacting the creative processes in your company? And are there specific initiatives to integrate that into developing brand voices and styles? 

Olumide: I think when you look everywhere, you find someone who is with an AI consultant. They're teaching you about how to write prompts, and talking about AI. All the data that I've seen and all the research is pointing towards this. The hype level is still very high but the actual experimentation on the business side is still relatively low. 

Everybody's talking about it, but there are a few companies that are using AI-oriented tools for their creative process or the marketing process. And yeah, so there's a lot of experimentation going on. Companies are like hey let's play around some of these tools and language models and let's see you know what's happening. But in so many cases what we're finding is there's still a lot of fear and uncertainty about chat GPT in the area of the risks in the area of the legality of AI. 

The biggest problem that I have personally seen in the experimentation so far, especially from a creative side, nobody knows the outcome. Nobody really knows what they're doing.  

From a creative side, what I've seen is it's also going to add more work and complexities because it's still going to take a lot of time for people to learn how to use chat GPT to be able to get the best output from that.  

 Generative AI has a lot of capabilities in terms of personal research, in terms of user persona, and all of those things. But how it will basically morph or how it would change or radicalize the creative piece of marketing is still a topic for some research. Chat GPT, generative AI can help marketers come up with, very great ideas, of course, but will it really replace the work? I mean, it's something that we're still trying to see how, what will happen in the next couple of years.  

Miguel: The only thing I would add to that would be we're still trying to figure out within all of the things that we need to worry about, all of the issues that we currently have, all of the things that we need to tackle. I'm particularly talking about, I mean, in the past two, three years, what happened with us having to either price or downsize, or seeing a lot of shoppers going to private label, and that raised a lot of issues where we're really trying to nail that right message to bring people to our brands, to bring people back.  

When we look at AI, we already see ways where we integrate this into our approach. One of them would be how we use AI to improve creative. So, what kind of benefits, what kind of images, what kind of colors, and what kind of claims actually help better and resonate better with any specific type of audience, particularly price-sensitive or value-centric type of shopper? 

Another way that we try to look at and actually something that probably we don't use as much from comparing to the creative part is how can this help with data analysis. We obviously use a lot of household panels; we use particularly qualitative data. AI does help somewhat with that, but in terms of the actual adoption of usage that I see within this tool, it's really mostly from a creative perspective.  

More individually, what open-source AI brought that we all wanted, which is our own personal assistant, whether it is I'm writing an article, and I need help to understand if I'm writing the right words, because I'm not native, or I need them to summarize a set of articles that probably would take time. But at the same time, the bad part of that, and particularly when I look at this for lectures, when I try to summarize learnings from articles, what I see is a summary that is very top line. 

Q: How does your company balance that with cost-effectiveness in its marketing and product strategies, and are you currently using AI to your knowledge to kind of get that balance right for environmental responsibility? 

Miguel: Sustainability is one of the things that we were always very careful with. We want to make sure that we deliver the best product and the product that delivers the most important or the prototypical benefit of the category we work on.  

Whether it was on tampons, making sure that they are as comfortable as they can be and they protect as much as they can be, particularly in a category that has such a high risk and is such a personal category, where obviously what people prefer, regardless of the material, is really they want it to be comfortable and they want it to protect.  

Or the same thing in dish, in Fairy where we want to make sure that it cleans as well as possible. We try to go for not just getting the short wins but actually seeing what will impact the most in the long run. For example, in dish, 90% of the pollution in washing up liquid has to do with usage, particularly using hot water. One of the things we focus on is communicating that you can use Max Power in cold water. That massively helps with changing a behavior that is ingrained in people, which is they think you need hot water to actually get through that grease when you actually don't. We do tackle this with better products, and innovation, and I do think that this conversation of sustainability has to be part of a greater conversation of innovation.  

I'm thinking of a few cases of smaller brands where we see them using sustainability also as a way to be different. But when you look at the numbers, particularly mass markets, you see that it doesn't move the needle as much as we would with things like better prices or anything else. The way we look at it is mostly from a perspective of is the product innovative enough and does it still delivers on the benefit. 

Obviously, that will then bring a conversation about being cost-effective. But what you'll see is that a lot of these products have a higher margin or they tend to cost a bit more, particularly because of the innovation that they bring. 

Olumide: Logitech is also very big on sustainability and we have a roadmap to sustainability that we are following I think as of 2021 we already achieved carbon neutrality as a business. The next focus is climate positivity and you know net zero. 

At the moment, Logitech is continuing to work with all of the supply chain partners to ensure that we reduce carbon emissions by more than 90% by 2030. If you look at the moment, if you look at packaging and end-of-life products, so we used to use capsules but we moved all of that to paper and box packaging because of their biodegradability. 

 Also, on the product side, if you look at some of the materials that we use, we basically use a lot of recycled plastic in coming up with some of the new products. Take for instance, this is a mouse, most of the products, and most of the materials around this mouse, it's almost 100% biodegradable. And when the mouse is no longer in use, rather than going to landfill, they go into the process of actually manufacturing. That's one of those things that Logitech is doing, addressing residual wastages, bringing them back into the manufacturing ecosystem, and reducing emissions. And this has also been some of how we drive some of the products. 

 This is now infused into the marketing campaigns as some of the key reasons to believe, especially for people who are environmental sustainability advocates, one of the key selling points will be 100% biodegradable, and 100% recycled. And we're not the only company that does that. A lot of the other big tech giants now do that. 

This is how we're reducing, you know, our carbon footprint and at the same time, working to drive, you know, sustainable production and adding value to the environment in which we live. 

Q: In 2024, there's a predicted shift towards more inclusive and authentic brand representation, which largely focuses on that trust we just spoke about. How do you address the shift and what challenges are you encountering doing this? 

Olumide: There's the rise of the Afro-consumerism. African consumers are becoming more aware of their identity. And even within Africa, there's also a breakdown. I'm based in Nigeria. And there's what we call the Niger-centricity, which means that a Nigerian consumer will tell you that he is different from a Ghanaian consumer. Of course, on the outside, we look like one. But we're essentially different. And we're very different. It's no longer a place where we are homogeneous. And that way, a brand now has to be able to speak and connect with the consumer on very individualistic levels, which means understanding the hearts and minds of the consumers that you're dealing with.  

AI can help in certain ways, but a lot of that information will be gleaned from directly interacting with the consumers, understanding their habits and attitudes, and the triggers that really drives this consumer. And in that aspect, traditional marketing hasn't really changed. Of course, you find that, yeah, there's a lot of leaning towards more digital, mostly channel marketing. But you still find that the core traditional marketing cannot be where you derive some of the insights. 

We've been addressing the shift by listening to the consumers. So more often than not engaging and interacting with the consumers and the customers on an ongoing basis. So having a focus group discussion, having market visits, having retail audits, you know, and all of those very quantitative and qualitative interactions with the customer to understand the trends. I mean, it's from the interaction with the customers and the consumer that you can understand beyond what they are saying, what are they really saying. The only advancement right now is there are tools and processes to simplify customer centricity, but it's still the same way it's always been over the years. 

Miguel: Especially in a country like the UK and Ireland, where you have such a multicultural society.  Nowadays we do need to create a lot of different content. One of the ways that we kind of implemented this, and it was such a rich experience, was first of all, we started creating a lot more content, still content that everyone would see.  

This is not necessarily just looking at different places in the UK and just targeting those places. What we're actually doing is we’re trying to look at the different types of communities that we have. We create content with them and then we just push it across the UK.  

 I've seen amazing types of content because you find different types of humor. You would find different approaches, different languages, different accents. One of the things that I've even been told, particularly from some people from the Irish team was I love that now I'm seeing someone with that tough Irish accent making an influencer ad for Fairy 

I see the results of it, and we have amazing results, particularly with really creative people. And then people find it interesting to see these things because it's the real world, the real accents that they hear, the real people that they see in the streets, in their houses.  

I've seen great work from Pantene, for example, where it's different types of hair that demand a different type of product. I really like their work as well. I see them being more inclusive. Even if you look differently, if you look at their main influencer, it's someone that's blind and they talk about the importance of also touching the hair. Keeping the benefit in the center, but having a big representation is as inclusive as possible. 

Some great examples of how these leading brands are part of the conversation around AI, and sustainability. The importance of consumer-centricity, representation, and inclusivity lives on, it’s about finding clever ways to optimize that for greater success. 

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