“Brands can no longer market to consumers but instead have to market with them. In order for a brand to do that, it must be conscious of the world in which we all live together."
Jim Joseph knew he wanted to go into marketing at an early age, from reading cereal boxes to scouring print ads, so it is no surprise that he has gone on to excel in the field. Joseph is currently the global president of the communications firm BCW, and an adjunct instructor in the Integrated Marketing and Communications Department at NYU SPS. Joseph is well-known as an innovative industry leader who has worked extensively with brands such as Johnson & Johnson, Walmart, and McDonald’s; and while his work and contributions have received many prestigious honors and awards, as he has written elsewhere, to him the most important honor is being called a dad.
In an online conversation with Academic Director Michael Diamond, Joseph spoke about the themes in his latest book “The Conscious Marketer.” Joined by many of his students, fellow faculty members, industry friends and affiliates, the webinar explored the role of ‘stakeholder capitalism,’ the distinction between “small-p purpose” and big-P Purpose,” and the relationship between the “conscious” and the “conscientious” approach to marketing. As Joseph outlined, these concerns are key drivers in a new shift, a new emphasis, for marketers building brands and driving profitable growth.
“The very essence of being a conscious marketer is having a firm and deep understanding of what’s going on in the world around you and what’s going on in the lives of the people you are trying to target...and marketing accordingly,” Joseph said. His observations emphasized how brands that add value to their consumers' lives are the brands that win. Joseph’s argument is that the only way marketers can deliver this value, is if they are conscious about what’s important to their consumers.
Joseph charted for us the course that brands have taken in their relationship to issues of social justice, climate change, and the environment—even party politics. Brands are beginning to take stands on issues that they would never have touched before. It used to be the case that some topics were considered “dangerous territory,” where a company could not venture; but on many issues, it has now become more dangerous for a brand to stay silent. CEOs themselves are increasingly becoming the voice of the brand, representing their employees and consumers directly, which is a dramatic shift in how senior executives relate to their publics. While it’s important to make a statement, it’s as important that a company take measurable actions that match the statements they are making.
Further, there has been a dramatic increase in consumer and employee activism—driving choices about where people want to work and what products and services they want to buy. Consumers and employees expect a brand to take a position on issues from race relations to marriage equality. Joseph cautions that while brands can’t take a stand on every issue, they should focus on the ones where they can have an impact, and where their position is authentically aligned with the values of the brand and company more broadly.
“Take a hard look at what you can do as an organization,” advised Joseph. “What are your skill sets? And then pick the things that leverage your skill sets, that can be implemented with success, and that have impact.” Brands don’t have to solve the problem, but they can contribute to the solution.
Joseph closed the conversation with some recommendations for emerging professionals who want to develop as conscious marketers, highlighting not only the ongoing importance of creative thinking but also sharing with the audience his recent realization that empathy is emerging as the foundational human skill that can help them stand out as marketing professionals.
“You have to be able to put yourself in other people’s shoes if you’re going to be successful in a career in marketing or communications,” recommended Joseph. “You have to understand your consumers and what they’re going through. Not what you are going through but what they are going through. Not your belief on a certain issue, but their belief on a certain issue. Empathy is the most important differentiator to determine your success.”
View the full presentation to the Integrated Marketing and Communications community on June 24, 2020 at https://bit.ly/JJNYURecording