Margaret Molloy, Global CMO of Siegel+Gale, is one of the world’s foremost marketers when it comes to branding. The 2020 Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought into focus some of the key tenets of great brand strategy and implementation.

In this comprehensive Q&A, Margaret addresses some of the challenges facing brands and marketers alike during this period of change, as well as what they can do about it.  

You’ve been working from home for a few weeks now. Tell us about that on a personal level.

On a personal level, it’s quite a change. Like in London, today is a glorious day in New York, but we are homebound. I live in Manhattan, middle of the city. I have two teenage boys who are homeschooling, and my husband is also working from home. So it’s a fascinating time, it’s getting us all to develop new muscles and new tolerances. But all in all, we’re just fine. On a professional level, I’ve observed Siegel+Gale are doing very well in this transition. And when I reflect on that, I believe there are a number of reasons. One, we have a very clear purpose. We’re in the business of making it easy for our clients and colleagues to be successful. So that clarity of purpose has helped us. We also have very clear values that we recruit for and live by, and those values are smart, nice and unstoppable. So when you have a clear purpose, when you have values, it really helps inform your behaviours. Now stepping back from our own experience in terms of working at home, to more generalised comments around working in a distributed environment, I’ve been thinking about framework. Because for me, we need frameworks to provide a scaffolding for our thinking, I think of this idea of an A.C.E in flux, Action, Communication and Empathy. So, beginning with empathy, it’s really important in this environment to recognise people are different, and to challenge the assumptions around how people work. For example, not everyone is comfortable with a video conference in their living room. They have boundaries between work and home that are being challenged. Employee communications are vitally important in a distributed workforce and it might surprise you for me to say I’m putting a premium today on written communications, because good writing is good thinking. So everything we’re doing, we have in a very clear, codified brief. Other communication artefacts I found intriguing as we work in a distributed way, include emojis, emojis let you express tone, and tone is really difficult when you’re remote. The third thing I would say in terms of my A.C.E framework is action, how we bring ourselves to that place of balancing empathy, and action. One insight is the tools work really well. The video conferencing tools, the slack tools are really quite powerful. Another is time, I have a number of colleagues working in different time zones. So the ability to do asymmetric work is quite powerful as we follow the sun. So I would suggest our productivity is quite strong at this time.

Is your framework something you’ve sort of acknowledged and created over the course of time? Or is it something that’s been developed by Siegel+Gale, as a way to operate as a company?

I think culture, so much of this is culture. Our culture around our client’s centricity and our quest for simplicity, which we’ll touch on later, really helps inform our behaviours. And then in the context of my team in general, I lead our business development and marketing team. We sat back when Covid-19 came upon us and said, let’s articulate a series of guiding principles that will inform our decisions and serve as a filter for us. So, perhaps I would highlight a few. One guiding principle is, internal first, or as one of my colleagues expressed it, put on your own oxygen mask before you help the person beside you. It’s about making sure we’re really taking care of our colleagues, that we have processes, procedures, daily stand ups that really deal with the internal component. Another guiding principle is, embrace constraints. So, we’re in a constrained environment and like you, we are identifying areas where we can be creative and build new muscle. So using video conferencing and experiencing asymmetric work for example. Another guiding principle is simplifying. Priorities change, so making sure we simplify our work and our communications with each other. The fourth one is listen really hard. Listen to our clients to find out what they need. Listen to do better in new business opportunities as well. And perhaps the most important guiding principle we’ve articulated is, how to be useful. This guiding principle informs our communications with each other, with our clients and with the community at large. And when we take these guiding principles, they help us decide, how to communicate, what to communicate, when to communicate, and what to prioritise.

CMO roles vary a lot, tell us about yours.

Let me elaborate on Siegel+Gale as a backdrop. As you mentioned at the outset, Siegel+Gale is one of the world’s pre-eminent brand strategy, design and experience consultancies. We work with clients to help build brands and we’re part of the Omnicom group. Our work spans the entire brand process, from designing the NBA logo, to standing up Hewlett Packard enterprises when they split from HP, and to a myriad of other wonderful brands around the world. In our experience, clients come to us at inflection points. So at a merger, acquisition or split they need to stand up a new company, give it a new identity in your presence. They also come to us upon the arrival of a new CMO or CEO, when that executive’s ambition for the brand is greater than its current state. A third scenario, quite common, is when a client wants to improve their customer brand experience. So given that context, those are the scenarios in which clients call on Siegel+Gale. My role as our chief marketing officer and that of my team, is to make sure Siegel+Gale is discovered at those points. Often that means creating content, that’s thought leadership and orientation, hosting a lot of events around the world, and indeed responding to client inquiries. So that’s the heart of the job. It’s putting the Siegel+Gale brand in-market, in a way that’s relevant to our client population, and to our colleagues of course.

It seems you deal with companies that are going through periods of great disruption, so whilst we’re seeing an example of a global pandemic being a disruption, it also strikes me that you probably speak with a lot of people at a lot of uncertain times day-to-day. So, do you recognise any similarities in these inflection points where people are looking to change how they’re perceived or how their brands are going to be looked at, in today’s scenario vs a more day-to-day scenario?

That’s a very interesting inference, Joe, I haven’t thought about it like that before. But I think what is important is we anchor the discussion in, what is brand. Because very often that term can be misunderstood. Now for me, I’m a simplifier, I believe in the old fashioned definition that brand is a promise kept. I’ll tell you a story. You mentioned at the outset, I’m Irish. Well I grew up very modestly in Ireland and my father was a gentleman who cared a lot about reputation, sixth grade education, he was a man of great integrity. And I remember as a child growing up, he would repeatedly tell the story of his school master, master Cox. Master Cox he said would admonish the children for writing their names on the desks. Instead he would say, you will be remembered by the deeds you do. And to me that’s a really interesting story because in my father’s context it was about, he would never use this term, building your personal brand, but it’s also true of brands today and always, today even more so. To your question, brands will be remembered by their behaviours. How they behaved will inform their reputation and how they behaved in this environment is going to be crucially important. So in an interesting way, it’s giving brands a context to show their purpose. So we work with many clients and often the beginning of the engagement is helping to articulate a compelling purpose. But in this context, it’s putting purpose to the test. It’s forcing brand leaders to live that purpose and make the necessary sacrifices that sometimes are inherent in living purpose.

You speak regularly about the importance of simplicity in branding, why do you think simple is better?

So at Siegel+Gale for the past 50 years, we’ve believed simple is smart. It’s the ethos upon which our firm was founded, and it is perhaps that North star, that informs all of us when we choose to work with the firm. And indeed our clients quest for simplicity is often the reason they choose Siegel+Gale as their branding partner. But in all of these situations I think it’s helpful to step back, because simplicity is often misunderstood. Some people believe it to be a very reductive concept, others yet think it’s about clarity, yet at Siegel+Gale, we see many dimensions to simplicity. Clarity, of course, which is the ease of understanding. Freshness, in creating a fresh customer experience. Transparency and utility, being useful. Those are the dimensions of simplicity. So, for example people talk to me about simplicity as just clarity, well frankly, if simplicity is just clarity, it runs the risk of being dull and boring. So you need freshness, to create a remarkably clear and fresh customer experience. That’s a little bit of background, your question is more pointed towards why. We’re also a very fact based organisation, we have over the years done extensive research around simplicity, very specifically around simple customer experiences. And at a high level what we have learned is customers reward brands that deliver simple experiences. They reward them with their loyalty, they’re more likely to recommend a brand that provides simpler experiences. They’re also more willing to pay a price premium for brands that afford simple experiences. And finally, we have over the past decade embraced an interesting exercise of ranking the world’s top brands. We call it our world’s simplest brand study. We look at the top performers in that index and compare their stock market performance to their ranking in the index. Interestingly enough, the top 10 brands in the simplicity index consistently outperform the stock markets, which is an indication that perhaps Wall Street rewards simplicity too.

Where can people look to simplify their branding? 

I’ll offer a number of ideas and I’ll refer people to siegelgale.com for more depth. The first idea I think begins with a mindset. It has to be intentional, you have to want to simplify. Second point, it has to come from the top down. Leaders have to embrace simplicity as part of their value system, reward behaviours that exhibit simplicity and embedded it into everything they do. Very tactically, clean language is a great place to start. So often we have a tendency to be excessively verbose. There was a time and era when using jargon projected knowledge, with this it’s the opposite, it’s around using simple language. Another opportunity is presented by design. How can we use iconography and visuals to simplify. And of course, intrical to all of this is understanding your customers journey and identifying the points on that journey where you can remove friction. For me a lot of these conversations come down to mindset. If I look at the brands who are doing well on simplicity, firstly, they’re very intentional about it, but secondly, they’re positioning their companies, not just in the thinking of consumers, but in the doing. They’re focused not merely on the buying experience, but how the customer experiences the product when they use it. So that’s a meaningful distinction. They spend less time thinking about winning an award in award shows and more time getting a referral in applications like Yelp. So, it’s really about thinking in a truly customer centric way and using simplicity at every point where you can simplify the customer’s interaction. I’ll leave you with a final thought. For me, as I reflect on simplicity and customer experience, it’s about reducing the cognitive load on your user, your reader, anyone in your constituency to interact with your brand.

How does an agency prepare for a crisis like this?

There is certainly no blueprint for a pandemic like the one we’re experiencing. But I believe some of the points I touched on earlier, having a clear purpose, having clarity around your values, having a culture where people feel they’re about something greater than just their individual performance. Those qualities will work for any company in terms of standing any shock it will experience. Leadership, having leaders who really empathise with their colleagues, having communication systems that work are really profoundly useful. And when I say leadership, of course, there are the CEOs and the C suite, but also, everyone can be a leader. What’s fascinating about this experience, I’m observing at our own company and in the clients I speak with, is the emergence of leaders, people stepping up and being what we would call at Siegel+Gale, culture carriers. They’re exhibiting the culture and they’re serving as role models for others. Another aspect that’s important is for CEOs and others in leadership positions to have access to clients. Be of direct access of course, but also through platforms like LinkedIn. Using these platforms to communicate their message directly is vitally important with the market. And the messaging has to essentially balance the showing of gratitude to the employees, showing business continuity and thirdly, articulating what that company is doing, be it an agency or brand, for the community. And we’re seeing C level leaders across the board use LinkedIn to exhibit those qualities.

In your opinion, what is the role of leadership and communication in times of crisis like Covid-19?

I think in times such as this, we all look to leaders for guidance, we look to leaders for empathy. What will be interesting, is after this crisis settles, and we look back, I think would be an exploration of leadership styles. In recent years, laissez-faire leadership has been very much in vogue. The traditional command and control approach hasn’t been as popular, at least in the literature and popular culture. I suspect there’ll be something of an upheaval in that going forward. There’s a demand for leaders who will be decisive, who will make decisions, because speed is of essence. I think also brands can be leaders and we may get to that in a moment. With leaders who have the courage of their convictions, are able to empathise with their colleagues, their employees, and also the larger ecosystem to create partnerships that may not previously existed. It’s also interesting when we reflect on our own lives, brands and for that matter, corporations are more important, arguably and have more muscle, than sometimes government. So there is in this era, tremendous obligation and responsibility on brands and companies to show leadership. It’s an opportunity, but it’s also a responsibility I believe.

Should brands who are short in their positioning and tone of voice, who are still doing well at this time, in this time, use this as an opportunity to try new things? Or, if it’s working should they just be carrying on? (asked by James Sandbrook)

I think it’s always important to take the temperature of your environment. So I’m looking now at many brands, and I’m very impressed by the number of brands who are acting very appropriately in this environment. I put them into a number of camps, which may have James sort of articulate which company he’s thinking about, or which camp. The first one is taking care of employees. I look at companies like Target in the US and others who are asking more of frontline workers. So they are doing things like improving wages and bonuses for employees. The second category is being useful. There are a variety of ways in which companies are being useful. We see fashion and lifestyle brands like the Gap or Zara retooling their operations to create gowns for hospital workers. We see LVMH changing their fragrance plant to create sanitizer and make it available free to French hospitals. In the being useful camp, we also see large manufacturers like GM and Ford realigning their production capabilities to create ventilators. And if we look at service providers, who are not in the product business but in the service business, we see entities like Ireland’s postal service An Post, re-deploying postmen to check on the elderly in addition to delivering mail. Gorgeous activities around being useful. Another dimension is being inspiring. So Diageo for example, with their Guinness ad, re-visited that campaign entirely on March 17th, which for them is a huge day, it’s the day of the St. Patrick’s Day parades around the world. They came out with a wonderful ad that said ‘we will march again’, that’s inspiring. So, there’s being useful in a very functional way, there’s inspiring, there’s taking care of employees and also frankly, there’s donating. So, I’m very inspired by the companies who are contributing either financial resources or other resources. JetBlue, the US carrier, has made flights available free for frontline workers. Marriott Hotels, also similar programming. So when you’re doing well, is a good time to do good.

What about brands making missteps?

I am seeing missteps and they usually occur when brands are being too opportunistic or too centred around themselves. So, one large tech company launched a premium technology product during this era, at a time when it was surrounded by people who are struggling with their livelihoods. It felt very off in terms of tone and it lacked empathy. Other brands are doing things like shouting about themselves and it’s just so off. One brand in Singapore for example, took the sanitizer bottle and the brand name Dettol, a supplier of sanitizer, and switched out Dettol and put Data. It just seemed so opportunistic and so off in terms of where the climate is. So, there is no blueprint, it’s hard to get it right, but it does speak to the discussion we had earlier. If you know your purpose and if you articulate guiding principles, then those principles should serve as filters. So, in my situation, if I articulated a principle of ‘is it useful?’ arguably, those two behaviours wouldn’t have gotten through that filter.

Is there a place for humour in response to Covid-19?

Humour is always tricky, and I certainly don’t pride myself in my ability to be humorous. But I would say there’s an opportunity for fun, maybe fun versus humour. For example, West Elm, the furniture company, the team there experienced zoom conference calls much like we’re having. They decided to create fun backdrops that people could use to illuminate and essentially have fun with their zoom experience. So, that’s sort of fun versus humour. Because humour is difficult at the best of times. I saw some funny memes going around early in the process and at different stages. But if we come back to the four stage process, one needs to take the temperature of the market and see where there’s an opportunity for the different types of humour, perhaps anti-humour. I believe a rather smart campaign was run by T-Mobile. T-Mobile are famous for their April Fool’s Day pranks. So they decided this year to stop with pranks. Instead, they launched something along the lines of give thanks not pranks as a campaign, and they made a donation. They also donated quite a significant amount for each person who would retweet that campaign. So it’s about creating entertainment, without trying to be too humorous.

A lot of brands have changed their logos to promote social distancing, what are your thoughts on this?

So, that’s a category I call brands as disseminators of public service announcements. So, trying to perpetuate the desired behaviour of social distancing. I believe, for the most part, the brands who are doing this are well-intentioned and they’re trying to be creative. However, I think it’s flawed, I think it lacks a strategic underpinning. So for example, one brand purchased a billboard in Times Square, and they affected their logo in such a way that it demonstrated social distancing. For me, there was an awkward irony about that, you’re buying outdoor in an environment where we’re not supposed to go out. So that didn’t quite hang together for me. Another brand did a similar thing, a very well known brand, and I think what struck me about it wasn’t the poor execution, it was from a design standpoint executed well, it was the misallocation of resources. What is the opportunity cost? What could you be doing with the money you’re spending on that has more impact in the community? I’ll give you an example Joe, of an alternative. Nike decided, with the same intention, to spread the message that social distancing is desirable. They launched a social media campaign and essentially, they were encouraging people to stay inside or play inside. They launched their campaign on social media and they had some of their very influential followers and influencers re-tweet it. Much higher impact, much smarter in my view, all well-intentioned, but the execution was superior because it was useful.

There’s almost a feeling like brands feel they have to engage. Do brands have to say anything?

I think there’s wisdom to that, they certainly need to speak to their employees, that’s absolute. In terms of what you’re saying to the market, it’s a question of proportions. What is the proportion of communication versus action, and if those proportions get off, then maybe you want to revisit the strategy. Relevance too. Your brand may have the ability to retune to provide direct support to frontline workers. You may have the financial resources to be able to make donations, but also celebrating your employees. I submit to you Joe, in the not too distant future, our adoration of celebrities and so called influencers will shift and we will suddenly start really appreciating frontline workers, the truck drivers, the shop assistants, the wonderful people in our hospitals. Those are the heroes, our heroes are going to change. And companies and brands are full of heroes who are doing tremendous work on behalf of clients. Those are the people who should be speaking for the brands right now, not least in their actions.

How do you differentiate between your content and opinion, rather than just adding to the noise during this time? (asked by Jen Smith)

Obviously, it depends on your industry and your sector. I would offer some filters. Relevance. Is it relevant and to whom? Is your content useful? Is it actionable? Is it backed up by fact? Is it a new idea, or are you just contributing to the noise? Or are you framing an old issue in a new and fresh way? Perhaps this is a good point to remind ourselves of the framework from the beginning, the different stages in the COVID-19 crisis. Your content must map to the mindset of your audience at those stages. So if you have something incredibly useful, a ‘how to’ piece for example, but you can’t present that in an environment where people are in a shock stage, because they’re not in the mindset to receive it. However, when people perhaps are in the dislocation stage, they may be more open to that content. So being aware of context can be vitally important in forming the cadence of your content.

We are seeing brands engage in new partnerships in the face of Covid-19. What brands are getting it right?

I think that is one of the most exciting outcomes/unintended consequences of COVID-19, brands are looking outside their own four walls. I’m particularly intrigued by these public and private partnerships. One example jumped out yesterday, CVS health, a major healthcare company and drugstore here in the United States, announced a partnership whereby they would work with the new Abbott test to provide testing facilities for more than a thousand people a day in the states of Rhode Island and in Georgia. What a wonderful partnership, really supporting the government in new and creative ways. Another one that came out yesterday, American Express and Hilton Hotels are partnering with the owner communities of the many Hilton properties to create lodgings for first line workers. These are partnerships that may never have been conceived of previously. And it shows a perspective from when people open their minds to thinking differently, great outcomes can happen. Often when they lose the shackles of selfishness, when they really embrace constraints, lots of the principles we talked about at the outset, they try to simplify. They embrace constraints, they try to be useful. They look outside themselves, great things can happen. And my hope is that would be an enduring legacy of this all together rather negative experience.

We keep being told now is the time to divert from performance metrics to brand engagement, but what specifically does brand engagement mean? How do you measure the effectiveness of these brand metrics? (asked by Trisha)

So that’s a long question and I’m happy to have another conversation about it, but the premise to the question is sound, which is, we should measure. There are different ways to look at it. The obvious ones include social media engagement. The others include commercial metrics, like purchase of your product, referral of your product and reduced cost of sale. The third’s a core set of metrics, our business outcomes. So its sales, its stock market performance improvement. But it’s also important to recognise we’re in a strange time right now, so the data may be very skewed. So first look and see what’s your baseline. Companies need to have a baseline brand metrics, and then look at the outcome of changing any of their behaviours. So certainly, social media is powerful for engagement, sentiment, the traditional brand tracker metrics. Or perhaps it might behove a company to think about the questions they’re asking. So are you aware of my brand, there might be an opportunity to do new studies to see how they’re perceived in terms of their actions in a COVID-19 context.

How can companies best enable their staff to live their purpose? (asked by Phil)

First things first, have a clear purpose. Make sure people understand it. We have worked with so many companies and done research where there is a purpose, but people don’t know it. So is it a good purpose? Is it a purpose people can buy into? Is it well understood across the company? Then, are their values articulated that exhibit how that purpose comes to life? So one of the best ways is to show role models. Highlight people who are living the purpose. We’re in an era now where we will remember the stories, it’s a storytelling era, it’s a people era. So telling stories, highlighting purpose in action, makes it very tangible for people. And I would offer that as a quick suggestion.

Many ‘thought-leaders’ are giving advice right now that it is very much the time to double down on branding for when the new normal begins, as customers will remember the brands that stood up and were counted. Do you agree with this advice, and if so, do you have any ideas for those looking to invest the time in their branding?

I believe you’re right and I think it comes back to, maybe that’s how it should always be. So, if we define brand, as experiences, brand is the set summation of all the experiences your company delivers to customers, then these are sets of experiences. I think one of the challenges when people talk about doubling down on brand is they define brand way too narrowly, they define brand as words and pictures, as broadcasting messages. Instead, I would offer you that today, brand is no longer static, brand is not merely words and pictures. Those are important elements of brands, what brand is about experience. If that’s how you’re defining doubling down on brand, then absolutely, I agree with the thought leaders. But if it’s about pontificating about yourself, then it’s flawed. I will say though, it’s challenging for marketing leaders right now to prioritise and there is a temptation to spend all your budget on performance marketing, demand generation etc. and that’s flawed also because you miss the opportunity to essentially build your brand. So, it’s vitally important for brand leaders not to swing the pendulum too far and be so focused on lead generation, at the expense of having a great brand and having a tremendous brand experience.

What do you think is top of mind for CMO’s right now?

I’ll attempt to simplify a caveat and say it depends on the category. Obviously in a growth category versus an industry that’s struggling, it will vary. I hope top of mind, is supporting leadership, in looking after employees. Another one is business continuity. Many CMO’s have had significant growth targets and they have to revisit those targets. They may be up, they may be down. Third is brand, how will we be remembered after the crisis, what’s the reputation, what do we want to be known for? The fourth is how to go from this dislocation phase, to the recovery phase. Sometimes that involves changing the creatives on ad campaigns. Sometimes that involves visiting with a merger or acquisition that may or may not have been sensible at the beginning of the conversation. And finally, thinking about, what is the new normal, what are the new behaviours we’re learning now, that will not go away? Those of us who were in professional context, around 9/11 will remember, it was a different world. Security checks were different at the airport, security checks going into offices were different. So there is a new normal. We will never go back to 2019 and CMO’s are thinking about what is the new normal, but that’s phase four, they’re not there yet.

Does applying simplicity apply to both B2B and B2C brands? And what are the important differences? (asked by Claire)

So I would refer you to some studies at siegelgale.com. Absolutely, your premise Claire is spot on. In fact, B2B brands are among our top clients when it comes to simplicity, because they recognise they’re often complex. Here’s what I would say to you, people buy from people. The buyers at B2B companies are humans too, there’s an insight for you. They too want to reduce the cognitive effort in purchasing from your company. They too want to navigate a product architecture that’s easy. They too need clarity. They too need a little bit of freshness and surprise I talked about. How you go about it will vary, but those principles and dimensions of simplicity absolutely apply to B2B, and they are some of my favourite opportunities to simplify.

Finally, we’d like to ask about your personal passions and projects like #WearingIrish. Briefly tell us about that and why you started a side hustle. 

I’ll go back to storytelling. About four years ago, I discovered an untold story, brands across Ireland are producing world class fashion and accessories, yet few people outside Ireland could name an Irish fashion brand. So I created the hashtag #WearingIrish to change that. Fast forward to today and it’s something of a movement. We’ve hosted a variety of events in New York, with the collaboration of some wonderful partners. There’s a website, I would love it if your followers and the community would follow Wearing Irish on Instagram and Twitter. And frankly, it’s a passion project for me because it lets me use the gifts I have, the gift of access, the gift of the ability to give exposure to these brands. And in a funny way, it seems very timely right now. Supporting small brands, supporting small business, is something we should all be considering. And my lessons from wearing Irish, I think will parlay well into that.

A little something for you, our positively lovely reader, to think about during these hard times.

During this talk, Margaret made so many incredibly insightful points, but if there’s one takeaway we believe you should walk away with, it’s to be empathetic. Whether you’re working on a piece of marketing collateral or going about your daily life, realise it’s not about you, me or I, it’s about us. We’re all in this situation together, so a little support shown from time-to-time can and will go a long way. As master Cox said, “we will be remembered for the deeds we do”.

Transcript

Joe Glover 0:05
So, welcome everyone to the second ever, live marketing metre webinars slash q&a slash whatever this new world is. These are times they’re very weird times to be alive, but the sun is shining outside. So I hope it shining for you too. I hope that this session will provide something which is close to a semblance of positivity for you. And I’m absolutely thrilled today to be joined by Margaret Malloy. She is the global CMO of seagull and Gale. She’s the founder of wearing Irish complete movement for just people everywhere. Margaret has a list of accolades longer than my arm. But one of the most the ones that really resonated with me was the drum marks the In 2017, but more than that, and the reason why I’m so happy to be speaking with her today is that she just seems to be a person who really cares about giving to the community. And that’s something that obviously, the marketing meetup has been about all this time. And she’s a living, breathing embodiment of the type of person that we just love to engage with. So we’re really, really grateful for seeing you today. To speak very briefly about seagull and gal. They’re a brand that can be summed up in one word, and that word is simple. They’re advocates that absolute powerhouse behind the word simple. And I think that message in a world today, which is more confusing, more uncertain, than possibly ever before, is more and more relevant. And, you know, I think that’s just wicked. So we’re going to hear a little bit more about that in the q&a. This is a q&a. So Rand session last week is going to be a pure question and answer section. I’ve got loads of questions to get through. But if you’ve got questions too, there’s a little q&a feature down below here, which you’re able to click into ASCII questions focused on branding or management during times of crisis. And we’ll try and get through them as we go through.

Before we get going, I just want to say thanks to the sponsors.

That’s how the marketing method exists. That’s how I’m able to put baked beans on the table occasionally from me and my wife. And these folks are just incredible. In this time of uncertainty, they’ve stood by us and said that we’re going to support you. So I just want to say thank you to Fiverr third lightly do band recruitment came with marks conch, further rec eight, bravo and human. And I’m not going to speak about them all individually at length here because there’s a link in the email which will go afterwards which will We’ll say all about them. If there’s one ask that I can ask you to do right there is just drop the folks who I’ve linked that and say thank you to them, because they’ve really made a real big difference this community. So, with all that said, that preamble, welcome, Margaret.

Margaret Molloy 3:16
Hello, Joe, delighted, delighted to be with you. And thanks also to your wonderful sponsors. It’s really a joy to see people sticking with the community in these challenging times. Sure.

Joe Glover 3:30
That’s actually a sentiment that ran with it. We had a webinar last week with van Fishkin, and he definitely sort of said a very similar thing. So I know that Marketing Leaders all over the over the world are really appreciative of that. And that Irish accent might have been a surprise to a few folks here. Margaret is based in New York, but she is Irish and and very proud of it from everything I’ve read at least. So that’s wicked. So to kick off with the first question, and I can see that there’s already A couple coming in, which is awesome. But we’ll start off with a few from yourself, and then we’ll go from there. So you’ve been working from home for a few weeks now. Just how’s it been? How’s how’s the experience been?

Margaret Molloy 4:13
So on a personal level, it’s quite a change. Like in London. Today is a glorious day in New York, but we are homebound. I live in Manhattan, middle of the city, I have two teenage boys who are homeschooling, and my husband is working from home. So it’s a fascinating time, it’s getting us all to develop new muscles and new tolerances. But all in all, we’re just fine. on a professional level, I’ve observed that ceiling Gale is doing very well in this transition. And when I reflect on that, I believe there are a number of reasons one, we have a very clear purpose. We’re in the business of making it easy for our clients and colleagues to be successful. So that clarity of Purpose has helped us. We also have very clear values that we recruit for and live by. And those values are smart, nice and unstoppable. So when you have a care purpose when you have values, it really helps inform your behaviours. Now stepping back from our own experience in terms of working at home to more generalised comments around working in a distributed environment, I’ve been thinking of framework because for me, we need frameworks to provide a scaffolding for our thinking. And I think of this idea of an ace in flux, action, communication and empathy. So beginning with empathy, really important in this environment, to recognise that people are different, and to challenge the assumptions around how people work. For example, not everyone is comfortable with a video conference in their living room. They have boundaries between work and home that are being challenged. So employees important communications vitally important in a distributed workforce. And it might surprise you for me to say that I’m putting a premium today on written communications, because good writing is Good thinking. So everything we’re doing, we have in a very clear codified brief. Other communication artefacts that I found intriguing as we work in a distributed way, include emojis, so emojis let you express tone, and tone is really difficult when you’re remote. And the third thing I would say in terms of my Ace framework is action, how we bring ourselves to that place of balancing empathy, and action. One insight is the tools work really well. The video conferencing tools, the slack tools are really quite powerful. Another time mentioned is I have a number of colleagues working in different time zones. So the ability to do asymmetric work It’s quite powerful, the follow the sun. So I would suggest that our productivity is quite strong at this time.

Joe Glover 7:07
That’s fabulous. That’s wonderful. And is that been something that you’ve sort of acknowledged and created over the course of time? Or is that something that’s been developed by seagull and Gale as, as a way to operate as a company?

Margaret Molloy 7:25
I think culture, it’s so much of this as culture, our culture around our time centricity. And our quest for simplicity, which we’ll touch on, I imagine later, really helps inform our behaviours. And then in the context of my team in general, I lead our business development and marketing team. We sat back when this called when this COVID came upon us and said, Let’s articulate a series of guiding principles that will inform our decisions and serve as a filter for us. So perhaps I would highlight a few. One guiding principle is Internally first, or as one of my colleagues expressed it, put on your own oxygen mask before you have the person beside you. And that’s about making sure we’re really taking care of our colleagues that we have processes procedures, daily stand ups that really deal with the internal component. Another guiding principle is embrace constraints. So we’re in a constrained environment like you, we are identifying areas where we can be creative and build new muscle. So using video conferencing, experiencing asymmetric work, for example, another guiding principle is simplifying, priorities change, so making sure that we simplify our work and our communications with each other. A fourth one is listen really hard. Listen to our clients to find out what they need. Listen to do better in new business opportunities as well. And perhaps another and perhaps Indeed, the most important guiding prints But we’ve articulated is how to be useful. This guiding principle informs our communications with each other with our clients and with the community at large. And when we take these guiding principles, they help us decide how to communicate, what to communicate, when to communicate, and what to prioritise.

Joe Glover 9:26
That’s incredible. I feel like within three minutes, you’ve already articulated some absolute gold there. And I you know, to go back to your point about empathy, I think that’s one of the real buzzwords of the day, but very appropriately so. But to have these this framework to operate in is quite a wonderful thing.

Margaret Molloy 9:47
Joe, Joe. I’d also say though, that I think it’s worthwhile, in addition to the guiding principles, to think about COVID not as one thing, but rather as a series of waves. So with this notion of a framework we’ve articulated and it’s a work in progress, four waves, the first wave, I would label as the shock wave. second wave is dislocation. Third is recovery and the fourth is the new normal. And I believe there’s a tendency in the market now to rush to characterising our current environment as the new normal. I would submit to you that’s not the case. And the framework of looking at these four stages helps again, inform your behaviour. So for example, in the shock phase, there’s a lot more emphasis you’re dialling up the empathy, dialling back, the action, dialling up the communications, in the and indeed the communications, the emphasis the tone, the content of the communication has a heavy emphasis on empathy. Then as we move into the current phase, which I would submit we’re in probably in Europe and in Ireland, the decision Location phase. in that phase leaders, our clients, members of the marketing meetup community are looking for solutions. So therefore, if someone is in that mindset, your communications to them and your content is a more solutions oriented. And that whole approach trickles down, right through all the phases from shark to relocation to recovery, and indeed to new normal.

Joe Glover 11:30
That’s really smart thinking. I think a lot of people have sort of identified that these waves but not necessarily articulated how these principles can then flex over the course of time and be prioritised one after the other or you know, sort of dial up or dial down. So that’s, that’s really useful. So thank you for that. I want to take a little step back because there’ll be some folks who aren’t necessarily familiar with your role. necessarily. So obviously cmo roles vary a lot. I mean, is there specific aspects of yours which is unique or different? Or you know, could you just explain what you actually get up to on a day to day basis?

Margaret Molloy 12:14
So let me elaborate on sealing gala as a backdrop. So as you mentioned at the outset, Seguin Gale is one of the world’s pre eminent brand strategy, design and experience consultancies. We work with clients to help build brands, we’re part of the Omnicom group. And our work spans the entire brand process, from designing the NBA logo to standing up Hewlett Packard enterprises when that entity split from HP to myriad other wonderful brands around the world. And in our experience, clients come to us at inflection points. So emerge your acquisition or split the need to stand up a new company, give it a new identity in your presence. They also come to us upon the arrival of a new cmo or CEO. And that executives ambition for the brand is greater than its current state. And a third scenario quite common is when a client wants to improve their customer brand experience. So given that context, those are the scenarios in which clients call on seedling Gale. My role as our chief marketing officer and that of my team, is to make sure seedling Gale is discovered at those points. So often that means creating content, that’s thought leadership and orientation, hosting a lot of events around the world, and indeed responding to client inquiries. So that’s the heart of the job. It’s putting the seagull and Gail brand in market in a way that’s relevant to our client population. And to our colleagues. Of course,

Joe Glover 13:55
that’s fascinating. And it strikes me that all these points of inflection So a point of inflection could be defined as a merger or acquisition, but then an arrival of a new CEO cmo. These are points which are periods of great disruption for companies in general. So while we’re seeing an example of a global pandemic being an impetus for disruption, it also strikes me that you probably speak with a lot of people in a lot of uncertain times, day to day as well. So do you recognise any kind of, obviously, there’s going to be some quite huge differences. But do you find any similarities in these inflection points where people are looking to change how they’re perceived or see how their brain is going to be looked at differently in today’s scenario, versus a more day to day scenario that that you may usually handle?

Margaret Molloy 14:54
That’s a very interesting inference, Joe, I haven’t thought about it like that before. But I think what important is that we anchor the discussion in what is brand. Because very, very often, that term can be misunderstood. So for me, I’m a simplifier. And I believe in the old fashioned definition, that brand is a promise kept. And maybe I’ll tell you a story you mentioned at the outset that I’m Irish. Well, I grew up very modestly in Ireland. And my father was a gentleman who cared a lot about reputation. In sixth grade education was a man of great integrity. And I remember as a child growing up, he would repeatedly tell the story of his schooling Master Master clocks. And master clocks, he said, Would admonish the children for writing their names on the desks. Instead, he would say, you will be remembered by the deeds you do. And to me that’s really interesting. story because in my father’s context it was about, he would never use this term, building your personal brand. But it’s also true of brands today. And always, today, even more so to your question, brands will be remembered by their behaviours, how they behaved, will inform their reputation and how they behaved in this environment is going to be crucially important. So in an interesting way, it’s giving brands a context to show their purpose. So we work we work with many clients. And often the beginning of the engagement is helping to articulate a compelling purpose. But in this context, it’s putting purpose to the test. It’s forcing brand leaders to live that purpose and make the necessary sacrifices that sometimes are inherent in living purpose. Fabulous and

Joe Glover 16:57
that that’s wonderful. So thank you. So you speak regularly about the importance of simplicity in branding and purpose is an example of finding simple element to hook everything else. But why do you think simple is better?

Margaret Molloy 17:15
So it’s signalling gear for the past 50 years. We believe simple is smart. It’s the ethos upon which our firm was founded. And it is perhaps that Northstar that informs all of us when we choose to work with the firm. And indeed, our clients quest for simplicity is often the reason they choose to engage their branding partner. But in all of these situations, I think it’s helpful to step back. Because simplicity is often misunderstood. Some people believe it to be a very reductive concept. Others yet think it’s about clarity, and see them Gail, we see many dimensions to simplicity, clarity, of course, ease of understanding freshness in creating a customer experience that’s fresh up transparency and utility being useful. So those are the dimensions of simplicity. So, for example, people talk to me about simplicity is just clarity. Or frankly, if simplicity is just clarity, it runs the risk of being dull and boring. So you need you need that freshness to create a remarkably clear and fresh customer experience. So that’s a little bit of background, your question is more pointed towards why we’re also a very fact based organisation. So we have over the years done extensive research around simplicity, very specifically around simple customer experiences. And at a high level, what we have learned is the customers reward brands that deliver simple experiences They reward them with their loyalty, they’re more likely to recommend a brand that provides simpler experiences. They’re also more willing to pay a price premium for brands that afford simple experiences. And finally, we have over the past decade embraced an interesting exercise of ranking the world’s top fitness brands. We call it our world’s simplest brand study. And we look at the top performers in that index and compare their stock market performance to their ranking in the index. And interestingly enough, the top 10 brands in the simplicity index consistently outperform the stock markets, which is an indication that perhaps Wall Street rewards simplicity to for sure, absolutely.

Joe Glover 19:46
And so as a concept himself, but where can people look to simplify their branding? You know, it’s like a checklist of items or is there a process people can go through, you know, there’s a whole bunch of people listening right now. You know, where should they start looking at themselves in their own brands.

Margaret Molloy 20:07
I’ll offer a number of ideas and I’ll refer people to Siegel and Gail calm for more depth. The first idea I think begins with a mindset. It has to be intentional, you have to want to simplify. Second point, it has to come from the top down. leaders have to embrace simplicity, as part of their value system, reward behaviours that exhibit simplicity and embedded into everything they do. Very tactically claim language is a great place to start. So often we have a tendency to be excessively verbose. There was a time and era when using jargon. projected knowledge with this is the opposite. It’s around using simple language. Another opportunity is presented by design. How can we use iconography How can we use this visuals to simplify. And of course, intro to all of this is understanding your customers journey and identifying the points on that journey where you can remove friction. E, for me, a lot of these conversations come down to mindset. And if I look at the brands who are doing well on simplicity, firstly, they’re very intentional about it. But secondly, they’re positioning their companies, not just in the thinking of consumers, but in the doing. They’re focused not merely on the buying experience, what how the customer experiences the product when they use it. So that’s a meaningful distinction. They spend less time thinking about, you know, winning an award in the award shows, and more time getting a referral in applications like Yelp. So it’s really about thinking in a truly customer centric way and you Simplicity is every point where you can simplify the customer’s interaction leave you with a final thought. For me, as I reflect on simplicity and customer experience, it’s about reducing the cognitive load on your user, your reader, anyone in your constituency to interact with your brand.

Joe Glover 22:24
That’s fabulous. I think that goes back to that. The point you make about empathy that, as marketers, you know, we saw from want to place ourselves into the equation a little bit more than we required, you know, we want to have the award winning campaign or whatever it may be, but a very simple, concise, clear message is going to do the best job possible. You don’t need to, you know, have all the frills and whatever it may be, you know, it’s the job and it’s not necessarily about being utilitarian is just about being effective and the

Margaret Molloy 22:58
right people I think the genius of the simplifier are the ones who know what to cut, and what to retain. That’s the genius. It’s not easy. But when it’s done well, it brings productivity instead of paralysis. It brings action, it brings joy instead of axed the genius, the one who can really discern what matters to a customer. And that’s why having a fact base is really important in discerning which language to use, which design treatments will have the most impact on which stage on the customer journey to effect.

Joe Glover 23:39
Absolutely. Fabulous. Okay, we’ve got a lot of questions. We’ve got a lot of questions coming in as well. So I’m going to march through the list and, and keep going. So how, and is it even possible for an agency to prepare for a situation like what we find ourselves in today With the COVID virus going around as it is in the world, is it even possible to possibly plan for such a scenario?

Margaret Molloy 24:10
There is certainly no blueprint for a pandemic like the one we’re experiencing. But I believe some of the points I touched on earlier, having a clear purpose, having clarity around your values, having a culture where people feel they’re about something that’s greater than just their individual performance. those qualities will work for any company in terms of standing, any shock, that it will experience and leadership, having leaders who really empathise with their colleagues, having communication systems that work are really profoundly useful. And when I say leadership, of course, there’s the CEOs and the C suite, but also everyone When can be a leader? what’s fascinating about this experience I’m observing at our own company. And in the clients I speak with is the emergence of leaders, people stepping up, and being what we would call it seedling gay culture carriers. They’re exhibiting the culture, and they’re serving as role models for others. Another aspect that’s important is for CEOs and others in leadership position to have access to clients be of direct access, of course, but also through platforms like LinkedIn. Using these platforms to communicate their message directly is vitally important with the market. And the messaging has to essentially balance showing the gratitude to the employees showing business continuity. And thirdly, articulating what that company is doing being an agency or brand for the community and we’re seeing sea level metres across the board used tend to exhibit those qualities.

Joe Glover 26:03
And just to pick up on something you just said at the end there, which was to say what they’re going to be doing to help the community is particularly important. So, right now that feels like a very dislocation sort of stage where it’s saying, you know, people are looking for solutions. But will that also be equally important in the relocation and new normal phases?

Margaret Molloy 26:28
Absolutely. The actions may vary, but the sentiment is the same.

Joe Glover 26:33
Okay, brilliant. Fabulous.

So we’ve touched upon it briefly there, but I do want to explicitly ask them in your, in your opinion, what is the role of a leader and leadership and communication in times such as this?

Margaret Molloy 26:50
I think in times such as this, we all look to leaders for guidance, we look to leaders for empathy. What Wouldn’t be interesting after this crisis settles, and we look back, I think would be an exploration of leadership styles. So in recent years, laissez faire leadership has been very much in vogue. And the traditional command and control approach hasn’t been as popular, at least in the literature and popular culture. I suspect there’ll be something of an upheaval in that going forward. There’s a demand for leaders who will be decisive, will make decisions because speed, speed is of essence. I think also brands can be leaders and we may get to that in a moment with leaders who have the courage of their convictions, are able to empathise with their colleagues, their employees, and also the larger ecosystem to create partnerships that may not previously existed. It’s also interesting when we reflect on our own lives, brands and for that matter, corporations are More important, arguably and have more muscle, and then sometimes government. So there is in this era, tremendous obligation and responsibility on brands and companies to show leadership. It’s an opportunity, but it’s also a responsibility, I believe.

Joe Glover 28:18
And actually, that’s that’s one of the top questions here from James Sandberg, which says, should brands who are short in their positioning and tone of voice who are still doing well, in this time, use this as an opportunity to try new things? Or should they be potentially just if it’s working, should they just be carrying on?

Margaret Molloy 28:39
I think it’s always important to take the temperature of your environment. So I’m looking now at many brands, and I’m very impressed by the number of brands who are acting very appropriately in this environment. I put them into a number of camps, which may have James sort of articulate which company he’s thinking about or which camp First one is taking care of employees. So I look at companies like Target in the US and other and others who are asking more frontline workers. So they are doing things like improving wages and bonuses for employees. second category is being useful. So there are a variety of ways in which companies are being useful. We see fashion and lifestyle brands like the gap or Zahra retooling their operations to create gowns for hospital workers, or we see LVMH changing their fragrance plant to create sanitizer and make it available free to French hospitals. In the being useful camp. We also see large manufacturers like GM and Ford realigning their production capabilities to create ventilators. And if we if we look at service providers, we’re not in the product business. We’re in the service business entities like Ireland’s postal service on past, we deploying postman to check on the elderly in addition to delivering mail, or gorgeous activities around being useful. Another dimension is being inspiring. So Diaz Yo, for example, with their Guinness ad, we visited that campaign entirely on March 17, which for them is a huge day. It’s the day of the St. Patrick’s Day parades around the world. They came out with a wonderful ad. That said, we will march again, so that’s inspiring. So there’s being useful in a very functional way. There’s inspiring there’s taking care of employees, and also frankly, there’s donating so I’m very inspired by the companies who are contributing either financial resources or other revolt resources JetBlue for example, the US carrier has made flights available free for frontline workers. Marriott Hotels also similar programming. So when you’re doing well is a good time to do good.

Joe Glover 31:10
Absolutely. That’s fabulous. And just the point of logistics here, there are a number of questions coming through. And there is a thumbs up feature in the q&a section. So if you could help us by surfacing the questions that you really, really want answering, by using the thumbs up in the q&a section, that would be great, because we’ll do our best to get through them all. We do have a number of questions to get through. So please use that feature. So we’ve spoken about the brands that are doing potentially really well and putting those into categories. Are you seeing any particular missteps at the moment with any brands and not just pick on any one particular brand, but, you know, just in in very general terms, what are the things that potentially are going wrong?

Margaret Molloy 32:00
I am seeing missteps and they usually occur when brands are being too opportunistic or too centred around themselves. So one large tech company launched a premium technology product during this era, at a time when it was surrounded by people who are struggling with their livelihoods. So that felt very off in terms of tone, and it lacked empathy. Other brands are doing things like shouting about themselves. And that is just so off. One brand in Singapore, for example, took the sanitizer bottle and the brand name det all a supplier of sanitizer, and switched out debt all and put data. And it seems just so opportunistic, and so off in terms of where the climate is. So the reasonable blueprint, it’s hard to get it Right. But it does speak to the discussion earlier of, if you know your purpose. And if you articulate guiding principles, then those principles should serve as filters. So in my situation, if I articulated a principle of is it useful? arguably, those two behaviours wouldn’t have gone through that filter.

Joe Glover 33:23
Yeah, I think more than arguably, potentially.

Sure. And on that theme, is there a place for humour right now? And that’s a really difficult one, because there isn’t a blueprint. And that potentially, you could, you know, the world does need some positivity as well right now. So, where do you think we stand on that?

Margaret Molloy 33:46
Yes, humour is always tricky, and I certainly don’t pride myself in my ability to be humorous. But I would say there’s an opportunity for fun, maybe fun versus humour. So For example, West Elam, the furniture company, the team there experienced zoom conference calls much like we’re having. And they decided to create fun backdrops that people could use to illuminate and essentially have fun with their zoom experience. So that’s sort of fun versus humour. Because humour is difficult. at the best of times, I saw some funny memes going around early in the process. And at different stages. If we come back to the four stage process, one needs to take the temperature of the market and see where there’s an opportunity for the different types of humour, perhaps an anti humour, but I believe a rather smart campaign was T Mobile. So T Mobile are famous for their April Fool’s Day pranks. So they decided this year to Stop with pranks. And instead they launched something along the lines of give thanks not pranks as a campaign, and they made a donation. They also donated for anyone quite a significant amount who would retweet that campaign. So it’s about creating entertainment without trying to be too humorous. Yeah,

Joe Glover 35:23
yeah. That’s wonderful.

Yeah, I think we can all sort of empathise with that feeling of an all moment, you know, you know, it feels like it’s missed the mark. And, granted, I think we’ve all got an appreciation that more or less everyone will be trying their best right now to make the best situation but certainly, it feels like in this situation, that that that would be a difficult balance to strike. So I love that there’s things in between thumb and humour. So there’s one question which has really risen to the top here. And it may fall a little bit out of your area of personal expertise. So feel free to say differ on if need be. But it comes from a moment Wilcox, it says How could an individual look to strengthen their personal brand, their personal brand at this time? And indeed, I probably add whether it’s right to look to strengthen your personal brand right now or how you go about approaching that kind of scenario.

Margaret Molloy 36:29
Yes, it’s a topic I talk about a lot personal branding. I would submit some of the very same principles that I outlined in the beginning apply here. It’s not I’m going to assume the intention isn’t to be opportunistic. It’s to be yourself. So how do you show your best self in this environment is probably the question for us to think about. Come back to those principles of what do you want to be remembered for? It will depend on your content. Next, do you work in a company? Do you step up to address challenges in that company? Do you have an audience as you have Joe, and using your platform to share good information? Are you a member of the community? How can you behave in a way that’s building your neighbourhood and supporting those in needs, it comes back to the deeds You do remember master Cox from the beginning, and then you can always codify those in reflections afterwards, you can write a wonderful LinkedIn post about your reflections. But don’t confuse putting messages in market with behaviours, lead with the behaviours, and then the messages will have much more resonance,

Joe Glover 37:43
for sure. That’s brilliant, thank you. And then on the topic of actions and a lot of brands right now. doing stuff like changing their logos, you know, to promote social distancing and all the things that we should be doing right now. Do you have any thoughts on this kind of behaviour, and whether it’s meaningful and will make a difference.

Margaret Molloy 38:08
So that’s a category that I call brands as disseminators of public service announcements. So trying to perpetuate the desired behaviour of social distancing, I believe, for the most part, the brands who are doing this are well intentioned, and they’re trying to be creative. However, I think it’s flawed. I think it lacks a strategic underpinning. So for example, one brand purchased a billboard in Times Square, and they affected their logo in such a ways that demonstrated social distancing. For me, there was an awkward irony around fat, you’re buying outdoor in an environment where we’re not supposed to go out. So that didn’t quite hang together for me. Another brand did a similar thing. Very well. No brand. And I think what struck me about it wasn’t the poor execution it was from a design standpoint executed well. It was the misallocation of resources. What is the opportunity cost? What could you be doing with the money that you’re spending on that has more impact in the community? I’ll give you an example. Joe have an alternative. So Nike, Nike decided with the same intention to spread the message that social distinct distancing is desirable. They launched a social media campaign, your meetup, you may be familiar with this. And essentially, they’re encouraging people to stay inside or play inside. So they launched that campaign on social media, and they had some other very influential followers and influencers, retweet that campaign, much higher impact, much smarter in my view, all well intentioned, but that execution was superior because you was useful.

Joe Glover 40:01
Yeah. Okay. And I guess do may play into and this is more of an observation than the question but, you know, there’s almost a feeling that brands feel like they have to engage and have to sort of say something. But I think in a lot of cases, if, you know, if they’re not falling into the camps of no taking care of their employees, because they’re absolutely fine or being useful, or, you know, being inspiring, it’s also fine to probably say nothing. I mean, I don’t know whether that’s the shared opinion, you know, do brands have to say anything, you know, or can we just be in a period right now, which is, it’s okay, you know, to kind of just be people and sort of step back and help people on a very personal basis.

Margaret Molloy 40:48
I think there’s wisdom to that they certainly need to speak to their employees. Yeah, boy, that that that’s an absolute in terms of what you’re saying to the market. It’s a question of proportions. What is the proportion of communication versus action, and if those proportions get off, then maybe you want to revisit the strategy. relevance to your brand may have the ability to retune to provide direct support to frontline workers. You may have the financial resources to be able to make donations, but also celebrating your employees. I submit to you, Joe, that in the not too distant future, our adoration of celebrities and so called influencers will shift and we will suddenly start really appreciating frontline workers, the truck drivers, the shop assistants, the wonderful people in our hospitals. Those are the heroes, our heroes are going to change. And employers and companies and brands are full of heroes who are doing tremendous work on behalf of clients. Those are the people who should be speaking for the brands right now. Not least in there. Actions

Joe Glover 42:01
100%. And

I don’t know whether you’ve got the phrase key workers over there, but certainly over here, so my wife’s a biomedical scientists example. You know, she works for the National Health Service and she’s being showered with gifts and praise right now from all directions. You know, because she feels like she’s contributing to the effort, you know, to getting somewhere with it. So, you know, I think they are truly becoming heroes, many ways, and not that they weren’t before, but at least they’re now being acknowledged. There’s also a question here from Jen Smith, which says, How do you differentiate your content and opinion? So how do you differentiate between your content and opinion rather than just adding to the noise during this time?

Margaret Molloy 42:49
Obviously, it depends on your industry and your sector. I would offer some filters relevance is it relevant to And to whom? Is your content useful? Is it actionable? Is it backed up? By fact? Is it a new idea? Or are you just contributing to the noise? Or are you framing an old issue in a new and fresh way? Perhaps this is a good point to remind ourselves of the framework from the beginning, the different stages in the COVID-19 crisis. And your content must map to the mindset of your audience at those stages. So if you have something incredibly useful, how to piece but you can’t present that in environments where people are in a shock stage, because they’re not at the mindset to receive it. However, when people perhaps are in the dislocation stage, they may be more open to that content. So being aware of context can be vitally important in forming the cadence of your content. That’s wonderful.

Joe Glover 44:00
Such a great way to think about it feels like you’ve figured this out. And so we’re seeing a lot of brands engage in new partnerships in the face of everything that’s going on. Does anything in particular stand out in these partnerships that you see?

Margaret Molloy 44:19
I think that is one of the most exciting outcomes, unintended consequences of COVID-19 that brands are looking outside their own for wars. I’m particularly intrigued by these public private partnerships. One example jumps out yesterday, CVS health, major healthcare company, and drugstore here in the United States, announced a partnership whereby they would work with the new Abbott test to provide testing facilities for more than 1000 people a day in the states of Rhode Island and in Georgia. Wonderful, wonderful part. partnerships, really supporting government in new and creative ways. Another one that came out yesterday, American Express and Hilton Hotels are partnering with the owner communities of the many of the Hilton properties to create lodgings for first line workers. So these are partnerships that may never have been conceived of previously. And it’s an perspective from when people open their minds to thinking differently, great outcomes can happen. And often when they use the shackles of selfishness, and when they really embrace constraints, lots of the principles we talked at the outset, they try to simplify. They embrace constraints, they try to be useful. They look outside themselves, great things can happen. And my hope is that that would be an enduring legacy of this all together rather negative experience.

Joe Glover 45:58
Absolutely. It is. Really interesting. So a lot of the articles and advice that I’m reading right now is from thought thought leaders, you know, thought leaders as they’re known is to double down on brand right now and spend the time investing in your own brain because people aren’t buying and stuff like that. But as this conversation has progressed and the more

this advice seems a little bit odd, it looks it feels a little bit inward facing and I guess

there’s an odd balance here to be had which is between people just doing genuine good, and looking to get through a situation right now. Where we can all get to get get together and help the world be a better place. But then we’re going to get these secondary brand benefits, which is, you know, people are gonna think better of us. I don’t want to ask you that maybe you’re comfortable answering that question, but feel free to get away from it. If not,

Margaret Molloy 47:09
yes.

Joe Glover 47:10
How do you sort of balance those things in your mind? You know, because I think people are acting pure with pure intentions for the most part.

Margaret Molloy 47:18
I believe you’re right. And I think it comes back to maybe that’s how it should always be. So, if we define brand, as experiences brand is the sash summation of all the experiences your company delivers to customers, then these are sets of experiences. I think one of the challenges when people talk about doubling down on brand, they define brand way too narrowly defined brand as words and pictures. They defined it as broadcasting messages. Instead, I would offer you that today. friend is known Longer static brand is not merely words and pictures. Those are important elements of brands, what brand is about experience? If that’s how you’re defining doubling down on brand, then absolutely. I agree with the thought leaders, but if it’s about pontificating about your says, then it’s flawed. I will say, though, that it’s challenging for Marketing Leaders right now to prioritise and there is a temptation to spend all your budget on performance, marketing, demand generation, etc. That’s flawed also. Because with that, you miss the opportunity to essentially build your brand, so vitally important for brand leaders not to swing the pendulum too too far, and be so focused on lead generation at the expense of having a great brand and having a Tremendous brand experience.

Joe Glover 49:02
Sure. And there’s a question here from Trisha that actually sort of really ties into this, which is the full question is I keep hearing that now is the time to divert from performance metrics to brand engagement. But what specifically, does branding get engagement mean? And I guess I would take that one further and not ask you to go into the nuts and bolts, but certainly look at how you’d go to measure the effectiveness of these these brand metrics.

Margaret Molloy 49:32
So that’s a long question and happy

to have another conversation about that. But the premise of the question is sound, which is that we should measure? And there are ways to look at it. The obvious ones include social media engagement. The others include commercial metrics, like purchase of your product, referral of your product, reduce cost of sale, and the thirds of core set of metrics are business outcomes. So its sales, its stock market performance improvements. But it’s also important to recognise that we’re in a strange time right now. So the data may be very skewed. So first look and see what’s your baseline. So companies need to have a baseline brand metrics, and then look at the outcome of changing any of their behaviours. So certainly, social media is powerful for engagement, sentiment brands and the traditional brand tracker metrics. Or perhaps it might behove a company to think about the questions they’re asking. So are you aware of my brand, there might be an opportunity to do new studies to see how they’re perceived in terms of their actions in a COVID-19 context.

Joe Glover 50:53
Fabulous. Thank you. So we’re coming up. I’m very conscious of time right now. So we’re going to finish with some Very quick last questions, and we’ll try to get through a few, few more questions from the community as well. But very short and sweet. So, we’ll start with Phil, if that’s okay. And he says, How can companies best enable their staff to live their purpose?

Margaret Molloy 51:20
First things first have a clear purpose, and make sure people understand it. We have worked with so many companies, and done research where there is a purpose, but people don’t know it. So is it a good purpose? Is it a purpose people can buy into it well understood across the company, then are their values articulated that exhibit how that purpose comes to life? So one of the best ways in the brevity of our time here is to show role models, highlight people who are living the purpose. We’re in an era now where we will remember the stories. It’s a storytelling era. It’s a people So telling stories, highlighting purpose in action makes it very tangible for people. And I would offer that as a quick suggestion.

Joe Glover 52:09
That’s wonderful. Really, really smart.

What do you think is top of mind for CMOS? Right now? That may not be a short question, but

Margaret Molloy 52:20
I attempt to simplify a caveat and say it depends on category. Yes. So obviously in a growth category versus an industry that’s struggling, it was very, I hope, I hope Top of Mind is supporting leadership in looking after employees. Another one is business continuity, many CMOS have had significant growth targets and they have to revisit those targets. They may be off they may be down. Third is brand, how will we be remembered after the crisis, what’s the reputation what we want to be known for? And then the fourth is how to go from this day. Location phase two, the recovery phase. Sometimes that involves changing the creatives on ad campaigns. Sometimes that involves visiting with a merger or acquisition that may or may not have been sensible at the beginning of the conversation. And finally, thinking about what is the new normal? What are the new behaviours we’re learning now, that will not go away. Those of us who were in professional context, around 911 would remember, it was a different world. Security checks were different at the airport, security checks going into offices were different. So there is a new normal, we will never go back to 2019 and CMOS are thinking about what is the new normal, but that’s phase four. They’re not there yet.

Joe Glover 53:51
We’ll take two we’ll do two more questions. If Okay, so the first one is from Claire, which says does Applying simplicity applies to both b2b and b2c brands, which presumably it does, and what are the important differences when you’re looking to simplify for the different categories?

Margaret Molloy 54:13
So I would refer you to some studies at seagull engage calm. Absolutely. Your premise Claire is spot on. In fact, b2b brands are among our top clients when it comes to simplicity, because they recognise that they’re often complex. Here’s what I would say to you. People buy from people. So the buyers and b2b companies are humans too. There’s an insight. So they too want to reduce the cognitive effort in purchasing from your company. They too want to navigate a product architecture. That’s easy. They too need clarity. They too need a little bit of that freshness and surprise I talked about how you go about it will vary But those principles and dimensions of simplicity absolutely apply to be to be, and they are. So my favourite opportunities to simplify

Joe Glover 55:09
this. Lovely. So Margaret, you’ve given so much to us and I just want to bring it all the way back to the beginning where we were introducing you and I want to ask you about your personal passion project, which is where an Irish and I want to know what it is and why you started it. And you know, this word side hustle is so relevant these days, so I’m really interested.

Margaret Molloy 55:36
So very briefly,

I go back to storytelling actually, about four years ago, I discovered an untold story. Brands across Ireland are producing world class fashion and accessories. Yet few people outside Ireland could name an Irish fashion brand. So I created It’s hashtag wearing Irish to change that. Fast forward to today. And it’s something of a movement, we posted a variety of events in New York with the collaboration of some wonderful partners. There’s a website, I would love if your followers and the community would follow wearing Irish on Instagram and Twitter. And frankly, it’s a passion project for me because it lets me use the gifts that I have the gift of access, the gift of the ability to give exposure to these brands. And in a funny way, it seems very timely right now, supporting small brands supporting small business is something we should all be considering. And my lessons from wearing Irish. I think we’ve parlay well into that. That’s what

Joe Glover 56:51
I would absolutely encourage everyone to check it out. We’ll link it in the email afterwards as well. So please do take the time. I just want To say, thank you so much for taking the time. I think this has been absolutely illuminating in so many different ways. Throughout the course of the conversation, I realised how you embody simplicity, in a sense because of the clarity of your communication. But clarity without being boring, and very important. So, just thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate it. And thank you to everyone for their questions, too. We didn’t get through them all. But you know, there were some great questions there. And hopefully, we’ll have the opportunity one day to kind of revisit and if this conversation would like to continue, you can head to the Facebook group, where there’s over 1000 marketers to discuss everything that’s going on in in in these webinars, too. So thank you so much, Margaret. Really appreciate your time. All I can say is, I wish you a wonderful rest of the day and just to stay safe and look after yourself.

Margaret Molloy 58:00
Thank you, Joe, and thank you to the community and congratulations on everything you’ve done in building a community. It’s something we all need at these times. And thanks again to your sponsors. And a big thanks to my team at seedling Gale who supported me and our clients in these challenging times.

Joe Glover 58:16
Absolutely. They’ve all been unreal. So thank you. Take care of stay safe.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

                  
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