TRENDING: Marketing effectiveness equals empathy – Cannes consumer insights

By Louise Burgers, Retailing Africa Editor. Empathy is essential from brands for effective creativity in contextualising consumer expectations in this “Third Age of Effectiveness”.

By Louise Burgers, Retailing Africa Editor. Empathy is essential for effective creativity in contextualising consumer expectations in this brave new world where conscious consumers courageously hold brands to account. In fact, marketers are entering a “Third Age of Effectiveness”, reports Kantar from Cannes 2023, where digital advertising is helping build brands and connect with a conscientised consumer who expects brands to be inclusive, sustainable, on-demand – and at a price-point that fits leaner consumer budgets.

In a world dominated by one crisis after another, “polycrisis” as termed by Ispos, brands have to learn to adapt their strategy to one of empathy with the consumer to address shifting shopper needs. “Ipsos research evidenced that three key factors have become more important for brands to surf the polycrisis wave: starting with empathy, shaping expectations, taking the macro and micro contexts into account to drive creative, brand and global success.”

It’s a lot. But brands are rising to the challenge. Cannes Lions 2023 took marketers back to basics: creative effectiveness and the power of a practical pricing strategy that performs. Of course, brands still need to perform where the post-pandemic consumer, demands change. Consumers want to see action on key issues because brands help shape culture and can act as drivers for societal change.

Wunderman Thompson quoted actor, playwright and UN Women Ambassador, Danai Gurira, telling brands, “You are who creates culture, and you have the power to evolve it.” But with CMOs having to become ‘Chief Growth Officers’ as well, the balance between making sure each slice of marketing collateral is optimised, with a consumer which demands meaningful change, profit and purpose, must become one and the same. And creativity may be the answer.

Authenticity benchmark

Despite the woke-washing that brands have been accused of in the past, creativity can create campaigns that can help brands demonstrate inclusivity and a renewed purpose to show consumers the authenticity they now demand as a baseline benchmark. Marketers are coming to the table with nuanced creative campaigns that are winning over the hearts and minds of consumers – as well as share of wallet.

Credible Cannes campaigns that brought home the gold “incorporated authentic narratives” that integrated inclusion, adds Kantar, which highlighted work that resonated on a social and cultural level. While causes at Cannes found favour with judges, sustainable supply chains that demonstrated innovative products and processes managed to avoid greenwashing hazards.

Generative AI is the catch-phrase of the year, but marketers are holding the line, emphasising its use as a marketing tool with huge potential and commercial impact – which needs to be explored beyond the hype. Ispos asks the question: “Can AI understand what people feel, because ultimately, feeling what people feel, is so crucial to successful and effective creativity? Can a machine do that?” Empathy in action is what is key to brand success, was the clear takeout.

What is gratifying to note is that creative effectiveness extends to entertainment once more, with funny content re-entering marketing communications after the last few tumultuous years characterised by the cost-of-living crisis. ‘Make ‘em laugh again’ seems to be the marketing mantra of the moment to get consumers back to brands.

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This column was first published on the global Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council portal: To become a member, go to:


Louise Burgers is the Publisher, Editor and Co-Founder of She has spent over 20 years writing about the FMCG retailing, marketing, media and advertising industry in South Africa and on the African continent. She also lectures post-grad students in Marketing and Advertising Communications at the Red & Yellow Creative School of Business; and works with the global Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council in the Africa region on editorial strategy. Specialising in local and Africa consumer trends, Louise is a passionate Afro-optimist who believes it is Africa’s time to rise again and that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be a global gamechanger this decade.

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