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Why policy professionals need to get excited about marketing

Marketers and policy professionals must bridge the gap that divides them. Rebecka Allén explains why that is critical for the business.

/ Introduction

“Compliance officers”, “regulatory firefighters”, “internal police force” – there are many ways for marketers to describe their policy colleagues, but they all seem to imply a necessary evil.

Someone you understand is important, but you hope you’ll never need.

At WFA we believe that policy people play a vital role in bringing “the outside in” – a sentiment that was shared by speakers at the Policy Forum in Lisbon the other week.

With some of the most challenged sectors present in the room – alcohol, food and beverage – both marketing and policy people made the case for greater alignment. Sharing best practice, Nestlé, Mondelez and Pernod Ricard insisted on the importance of shared goals and the fact that these need to be set at the very highest level.

Francesco Tramontin, Mondelēz, Henri-Pierre Lenoble, Nestlé, and Marie Beneh, Pernod Ricard, shared views on working with marketing in their organisations

With Ireland adopting cancer warnings on alcohol labels and ads, Slovakia requiring supermarkets to have local products make up at least 50% of promotion materials, Chile banning Tony the Tiger and Singapore considering a complete ban on the marketing of soft drinks, the importance of staying ahead of the curve has never been higher. Brands need to proactively engage with essential stakeholders and collaborate as advertisers to agree on responsible and sustainable business practices, missions that cross the boundaries between policy and marketing.

Policy people are in a unique position to pick up vital signals that need to be translated into the strategic thinking of the company. These vital signals have led advertisers in the food and beverage space to proactively refrain from placing ads for so called ‘HFSS’ (high in fat, sugar and salt) products in child-targeted media. The objective is safeguarding their longer-term ability to reach consumers at large scale.

This is also why so many companies in our membership are setting ambitious responsible marketing policies in respect of children’s rights, and are keen to learn from their peers and work closely with UNICEF in doing so (see our Responsible Advertising and Children programme).

Our recent report Bridging the gap between marketing and policy suggests that eighty-nine percent of marketers agree it will be increasingly important to take input from policy teams.

So if we all agree, what’s the problem?

There’s a Finnish saying: “It’s too late to wake up early”. Policy people are tired of being called on when it’s too late or at a point in the process when saying “no” means causing not only disappointment but also wasted time and resources.

They want to be involved from the outset and part of informing brand purpose and marketing strategy. They want to be seen as strategic advisors not regulatory firefighters.

But it goes both ways. Just as marketing teams need to align with policy, policy people need to get excited about marketing. After all, both functions are pursuing and communicating the same brand purpose.

Geoff Seeley, Global Marketing Director at Airbnb, put it very plainly: “Use your products to do good. Use your marketing to share that”.

Watch this for highlights from our Bridging the gap between marketing and policy report:

Contact us

For more information or questions, please contact Rebecka Allén
at r.allen@wfanet.org.