Mastering These 2 Challenges Is Imperative for Brands, Say Execs From BET and Spotify

Execs discuss factors shaping their work in brand marketing today

Babs Rangaiah explained some of the different uses of blockchain at Brandweek. Sean T. Smith for Adweek
Headshot of Ann-Marie Alcántara

Marketers face a myriad of challenges in today’s media landscape from navigating emerging technologies like blockchain to making their companies more diverse.

Executives from Spotify, BET, IBM iX and Farmers Group explored these types of issues during a series of talks at Brandweek, where each presented on a different topic and asked the marketers in attendance to figure out solutions to some of the major problems facing brands and companies today.

Here are two of the major themes that came out of the event:

Embrace technology

Blockchain sounds complicated, but to Babs Rangaiah, executive partner, global marketing at IBM iX, it’s imperative that anyone in the industry start to parse through it. He explained that while most people associate blockchain with bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, it has a number of other uses.

For marketers, Rangaiah said, tracking media buys and “discrepancies” could be solved using blockchain.

“Very few companies have full transparency of the supply chain,” Rangaiah said.

To start picking through the mess of ad tech, Rangaiah said, IBM iX has started a consortium with brands like Unilever, to track media buying using blockchain in 2019. According to Rangaiah, it’s the right time to start testing these emerging technologies and shaping the industry.

“That’s one of the cool things about being in the business [in] this time because you can rewrite the rules,” Rangaiah said. “You can set the tone for some of the newest and most important technologies in our time.”

However, other technology and data are just as important to deliver great results, said Leesa Eichberger, head of brand marketing at Farmers Group. Gathering data and finding out how customers like to be reached or what they’re interested in is key to “commit to a customer centered cross channel media strategy,” Eichberger said.

“We don’t think about customers; we think about our department and what we need to accomplish and the goals we set, the ads we gotta get out, or the digital thing we gotta do, data we gotta gather instead of looking at what the customer experience is,” Eichberger said. “Using that customer-centered media strategy to talk to customers is another way to break through in this really changing media environment.”

At Spotify, using data has led to a program called “Fans First.” By using “streaming intelligence,” Spotify can identify the top 1 percent of listeners in a specific area for a single artist and then invite them to specially curated events, said Danielle Lee, global vp, partner solutions at Spotify. Brands can then partake in these experiences, Lee said, as when BMW, for example, sponsored an event with the artist Matoma.

“Helping brands become part of good citizens to the creative ecosystem and industry—we found that to be a great value,” Lee said.

Consider the human factor

For Jeanine D. Liburd, chief marketing and communications officer at BET Networks, taking a deeper look into the “human factor” is one challenge companies need to asses more often. The question brands should consider is this: What’s driving a consumer’s or employee’s passion for a product or a company?
In her role at BET Networks, Liburd said, she tries to understand what values the audience follows and how to reach them on their level.

“The real understanding of the African-American human factor is it’s about giving your brand permission to really understand our hopes and our dream and our desires and our power,” Liburd said.

At BET, unraveling this human factor means looking at who’s on the team leading creative or marketing, determining whether it’s aligned with the audience and making sure every product or strategy resonates with the changing, diverse landscape.

“We know we have a responsibility to give new voices and opportunities to create engaging, proactive, and authentic stories,” Liburd said. “Inclusion always has a seat at our table—behind the camera, in front of the camera, in the editing bays, rising rooms, you get it—pretty much everywhere.”

So, to get in touch with the “human factor,” Liburd recommends brands become transparent, share more details about what’s being promoted, ask for feedback, take risks and become part of shaping culture, not just talking about it on the sidelines.

“Be first and if you can’t, build on what’s best,” Liburd said.

For Spotify, the human factor has allowed the company to undertake a series of initiatives that “challenge the status quo,” Lee said, including a project called “Black History Is Happening Now.”

“We wanted to challenge the construct of Black History Month,” Lee said. “We wanted to celebrate black history and culture because we know it doesn’t end in February. Truth be told, we celebrate all year long.”

In addition, Spotify started a boot-camp program for female podcasters of color to join them in New York for a week and learn how to create a great podcast. Spotify received more than 18,000 applications for just 10 spots and are taking the program to the U.K. next.

“We’re using data and technology to create these new experiences and challenge us to write new rules,” Lee said.

@itstheannmarie Ann-Marie Alcántara is a tech reporter for Adweek, focusing on direct-to-consumer brands and ecommerce.