Top Marketers Discuss Leading Despite an Uncertain Future

Representatives from Walmart, Natura &Co and ONE Championship participated in a panel discussion hosted by consulting firm Spencer Stuart

Spencer Stuart's Richard Sanderson moderated the conversation. Spencer Stuart
Headshot of Paul Hiebert

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The pandemic, protests and economic upheaval have forced many marketers to turn seemingly endless pivots into pirouettes.

In a recent panel discussion hosted by leadership consulting firm Spencer Stuart, top marketers in the U.S., Brazil and Singapore came together to discuss remote leadership, devising the best strategies for navigating the current environment while maintaining a long-term perspective.

“The debate for marketing leaders feels more urgent than ever,” said host Richard Sanderson, a consultant at Spencer Stuart, who noted that the summit was initially intended to address the challenges of the coming decade. Now, however, “it feels hard to look even beyond this year, let alone five years out,” Sanderson said.

Panelists included Janey Whiteside, chief customer officer at Walmart; Erica Kerner, head of marketing strategies and partnerships for the Asia sports media platform ONE Championship; and Silvia Lagnado, sustainable growth officer at Natura &Co, which owns beauty brands Aesop, Avon and the Body Shop.

“For us, nothing has changed and everything has changed,” Whiteside said. That line will likely resonate with marketers who have seen shifts in consumer trends both amplify and accelerate during quarantine.

This is especially applicable for people’s willingness to buy goods online. Last month, for instance, Walmart reported that U.S. ecommerce sales nearly doubled during Q2 of 2020, jumping 97%. The retailer’s total revenue increased 5.6% to $137.7 billion.

Whiteside said that because customers over 50 are showing the highest rates of digital adoption, Walmart has begun producing how-to videos for ordering online and requesting grocery pickup. The clips have received millions of views, according to Whiteside.

Likewise, Natura &Co has also seen a swift migration to the web. “For us, ecommerce was tiny, and now it’s huge,” said Lagnado.

With about 6.5 million representatives around the world selling Avon products, Lagnado explained that the company has been trying to help them move online with social media training and other educational resources on digital tools. “We see direct selling moving to social selling very rapidly,” she said.

As for leading internally, Kerner said, working remotely means she’s had to be much more purposeful in reaching out to others. “I can’t just bump into someone on my team or a colleague in the hallway,” she said. “I can’t go out for lunch or a coffee with someone to make sure they’re doing OK.”

Now, she takes time out of her day to check in on members of her team since it’s not likely to occur naturally while working from home.

For more insights into the life of a marketer during this uncertain time, watch the entire conversation below:

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@hiebertpaul Paul Hiebert is a CPG reporter at Adweek, where he focuses on data-driven stories that help illustrate changes in consumer behavior and sentiment.