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In the latest installment of the Shiny New Object Podcast, Shawn Roy, global lead for consumer insights at GSK, is interviewed by Automated Creative’s Tom Ollerton. Here are five things Ollerton found out as a result of the conversation.

Marketers have to empathise to succeed

Roy started out as a quantitative researcher, later moving into qualitative work. It was the latter role where he realised the importance of becoming more empathetic with consumers. His biggest turning point was spending time in the heartlands of India for a client project, with communities that he’d never experienced in any way before. He says this taught him the value of understanding the people who you expect to use your products - companies can make things, but to succeed, they need to appreciate the motivations and desires of the people who are buying them. They may be very different to those of the people running marketing campaigns. 

Brands need to move beyond mindless capitalism 

Roy’s Shiny New Object is ‘sustainability and social responsibility in brand building strategies’. Put simply - brands need to have a purpose beyond mindless sales. Roy talks about research that shows young people want the brands they endorse to have a meaningful place in their lives - the endorsement of the consumer means the brand becomes an extension of their self image. What we’ve done in the name of capitalism might have been mindless and insensitive so far - now’s the time to change this. He talks about brands like Patagonia and Toms who’ve really nailed how to do purpose well, by making it part of their business, not just an add on via a separate CSR team.

Purpose can be the start of a journey 

Roy and I got into a debate around the subject of purpose. I asked him to talk about a business that may not have been started with purpose in mind, but developed one later on. The example he gave was Alipay’s Ant Forest, where consumers who use the digital payment service generate points that lead to trees being planted. The cynic in me wasn’t impressed by this - if Alipay wanted to plant trees, why not just fund it themselves rather than use this ‘clicktivism’-style approach? Roy’s comeback was that it may get consumers more involved and invested in the project, and raise awareness on the subject of sustainability more broadly. It’s clearly not a bad thing to keep front of mind and hopefully it’s also the start of a journey for Alipay; if they stay true to their new purpose, there should be more to come.

Leave your ego at the door 

Roy says that over the years he’s learned that humility is an important trait in the workplace. It’s about getting things done as a team, not about how you can feed your own ego. To do this, he says he focuses on simplicity and authenticity - uncomplicating things and being real. He finds it important to keep communication channels open and honest, whether you’re dealing with colleagues or third parties like agencies. Avoid jargon and nonsense and tell it like it is.

Prioritise the personal 

Roy talks about the importance of personal relationships, both in and out of work. He tries to speak to people and avoid mass emails where possible, builds on personal relationships so that with time it becomes easier to approach people and express feelings about work issues. He says he’s learned from looking back and seeing where he’s gone wrong in the past - reflection is a key part of growing. Out of work, he tries to keep his personal space calm - he reads good books and surrounds himself with positivity.

 
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