Can your marketing change the world?

By Alex Tait. Originally published in The Drum.

Unilever took part in The Drum’s inaugural Do It Day last year. It was a great success and, in my opinion, a bold event for The Drum to stage, bringing home their message that “We believe marketing can change the world, and we want you to join us on this journey”.

You’ll already have seen in The Drum that this year’s event is to be even bigger and bolder, and it is inspiring to see so many organisations involved. I’m excited, however, not only by the scale this year, what that indicates and what it will no doubt achieve, but also by how the event could really be the “change maker” it aspires to be.

It has never been more important for marketeers, for our industry as a whole and, indeed, for us personally to embrace and implement adaptation and change.

I wrote a column last year which spoke about Unilever’s purpose and the vision we’ve laid out in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan: Unilever’s commitment to growing our business, whilst decoupling our environmental footprint from our growth and increasing our positive social impact.

This pioneering approach is going well beyond mere adaptation to maintain competitiveness. The vision is to lead change by going far beyond the standard CSR obligations and to change our business model. The aim is to lead the way, encouraging other businesses to follow suit. As our CEO Paul Poleman has stated, “Business as usual is not an option,” at least, not if you are a global business on the scale of Unilever. We’d like as many other businesses as possible, for whom it makes sense, to follow us on this project.

Why should it not be possible to bring about positive changes through our marketing? While that is only one part of our business model, we at Unilever believe it is entirely possible. One example of many within Unilever is the campaign which Lynx ran with CALM last year, joining forces and combining the scale of Lynx and expertise of CALM to raise awareness of male suicide. However, rather than confine ourselves to Unilever examples and evidence of how this drives growth, let us get other perspectives on how it could look from the briefs already entered into Do It Day by several companies. I’m sure your creative imagination will bring them to life for you.

From an industry point of view, I believe this sort of forum is potentially powerful. To drive change forward and accelerate it, you often need examples to serve as a catalyst for embedding change more widely. Bringing a cross-functional group together from all over the industry to first plan and then do this (on Plan It Day and Do It Day respectively) seems to me exactly the right way to go about the matter.

I imagine that in fact, the experience will have the greatest value from a personal point of view. In terms of personal development we remember the old adage, “Tell me and I’ll forget; teach me and I’ll remember; involve me and I’ll learn.” In terms of the mindset required of the modern marketer, however, it is essential also to have an external orientation, to be exposed to different talents, skillsets, approaches to and perspectives on a particular problem from the advertising ecosystem.

Perhaps even more compelling is that there will not just be “strategising” but an opportunity to implement your own idea and make your own contribution towards a compelling vision of how action, including action in marketing, can really “change the world”.