Snow boots, BREXIT and one night stands: Highlights from #WEF16

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos – you know, hanging on the slopes with world leaders. 

To ensure I could keep up with WEF chat, I had to swat up over the past few weeks – I have since integrated the word disintermediation into conversation on a daily basis and have learned that BREXIT is not a new expression for when you need to leave brunch suddenly. If I was going to talk the talk then I also needed to walk the walk, and in this case that meant investing in a pair of snow boots.  WEF is the only place I have ever been where the women wear more practical footwear than men – women walk around in fur lined, thick soled snow boots while men slip around the ice in work shoes.

Before you get too impressed, I only had access to fringe events – activities that are organized around the main WEF program, often by businesses or brands that are seeking an excuse to engage with the high calibre of attendees who have gathered in the tiny town of Davos.  I attended as many events as I could – listening to panels and debates on the US election (agreement from both parties that a Trump presidency would be disastrous), cyber security and on the importance of enabling digital literacy on a global scale.  In between events I had a chance to spot bold face names from politics (David Cameron), business (a very blond Richard Branson) and Hollywood (Kevin Spacey).

While I enjoy celeb spotting as much as the next person, the official reason I descended upon Davos was to host a panel discussion for our client Pampers – to celebrate a successful 10 year partnership with UNICEF that has resulted in eliminating maternal and new born tetanus (MNT) in 17 countries and in protecting hundreds of thousands of women and babies.  The panel explored how the partnership had achieved such longevity and impact, and how it had succeeded in engaging a new generation of millennial parents.  Following are what emerged as the key factors that enabled the partnership’s lasting success:

  • It’s All About Rigibility: this is a new word that I am trying to make happen – it means the perfect mix between rigidity and flexibility.  It is this approach that has enabled Pamper-UNICEF to stay rigidly and single-mindedly committed to a goal – eliminating MNT – while having the flexibility to adapt communications to meet the changing expectations of parents.  The campaign has never veered from its purpose, but it has shifted from TV-led to digital communications and has had the sense to increasingly engage dads (in addition to moms) reflecting parenting today.
  • Keep It Simple: the beauty of the Pampers-UNICEF partnership is how easy it is to understand – One pack = One vaccine.  There is no explanation, message hierarchy or Q&A required – it just makes sense.  Panellist David Sable, who happens to be the global CEO of Young & Rubicam, compared it to the Tom’s Shoes much celebrated ‘one for one’ model.  This is high praise, but a fair and accurate comparison – both brands offer an understandable mechanism that allows the consumer to buy goods and do good simultaneously.
  • Offer Proof, Not Promises – I say this frequently, and yet again, it holds true.  Pampers-UNICEF has earned the license to operate by communicating about the growing impact of the partnership: with each year, more mothers and their babies are saved and MNT has been eliminated in more and more countries.  Understanding what the initiative has achieved to date helps to build consumer confidence, and I would suggest increase sales and engagement.
  • Make a Long-term Commitment: we know that consumers expect brands and businesses to make a positive contribution to society, and for this reason many brands are on the hunt for a cause.  However, in their eagerness to pair off, many brands find themselves flirting with causes or having flings – quickly disregarding the partnership when they don’t see an immediate business impact.  Part of the success of the Pampers-UNICEF partnership has always been the willingness to commit for the long-term, seeking a meaningful partnership instead of engaging a tawdry one-night stand.

It was an amazing opportunity to be in such close proximity to world leaders and to share the Pampers-UNICEF partnership’s success on a global stage.  And you know, if you want to discuss the implications of the upcoming European referendum, the contribution that emerging markets are expected to make to the global economy or how various US presidential candidates will likely influence trade policy – just let me know, after all, I’m part of the WEF set now.

Avra Lorrimer

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search