‘Change Can Be For Good’


Facebook organised a closed-door marketing summit that focussed on the EMEA region to help marketers with ideas and solutions to grow their business. The summit, titled “Beyond The Now”, saw marketers, content creators, and the top Facebook leadership discuss the future of marketing amid the changing data privacy and policy landscape. 

The keynote address was delivered by Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer, Facebook. As businesses recover from the losses caused by the Covid19 pandemic, marketers have to focus on digital advertising and personalisation to grow their businesses and reach customers, emphasised Sandberg. 

Facebook introduced the ‘Shop’ feature to help businesses target new customers, and today over 250 million people use the feature to grow their business. Even as Facebook continues to innovate and create tools for business owners, marketers have to focus on online commerce and personalised advertising to survive. 

“I want to reassure business owners and tell them that they can use our tools to grow. Apple’s iOS 14.5 has compelled changes in the digital advertising landscape, and we at Facebook are collaborating with customers to implement APIs. Creating and, in some cases rebuilding meaningful elements of our ad tech. We are also working towards long-term industry collaborations on initiatives like privacy and personalisation. We are working to create privacy solutions that can provide personalisation without access to personal information,” said Sandberg.

Kai Herzberger, who heads the Commerce, Marketplaces, Disruptors & VCs team of Facebook for the EMEA and DACH region, also spoke about changes in the way consumers discover products and shop

Speaking about the challenges and opportunities that these changing behaviours present to marketers, Herzberger said that digital commerce is here to stay, and marketers have to challenge existing buying conventions to stay relevant to consumers. 

To achieve that marketers have to look at Discovery Commerce. Explaining further Herzberger said, “Commerce today has become democratised due to democratisation of platforms. Globally, mobility has been cut down by almost 96 per cent forcing brands to go digital and direct. This is where Discovery Commerce comes in. This is an evolution of eCommerce where people used to find products on the internet. Today, social media today is the number one discovery platform where people discover their interests and engage with brands and like-minded people. Marketers can use identifiers and curate products and target relevant advertisements to people who show an interest in them. Through platforms like Facebook, marketers can target relevant ads to people across geographical boundaries.” 

Nicola Mendelsohn, VP, Facebook EMEA in a chat with Dr Florian Heinemann Founding Partner, Project A Ventures and Joe Dix, Global Head of Digital, WWF International spoke about the importance of personalisation of advertisements and the benefit it has on businesses. 

Dix said that marketers have to personalise advertisements and that’s the only way business can get better ROI. But personalised advertising alone doesn’t work. “Organisations that are predominantly consumer-facing can use a technique like personalised messaging to customers that greet them on special occasions and life celebrations,” Dix added.

 Mendelsohn concurred with Dr Heinemann when he said that personalisation, when done right can help strengthen brand-consumer relationships. “Often, consumers are not sure of what they want. Personalised advertising or direct messaging helps the brand create a space for itself in the customer’s mind.” Dr Heinemann added.

With the recent changes in data protection and privacy laws, there is a lot of ambiguity regarding information sharing and where to draw the line. Dix added that personalisation involves marketers educating consumers about the data protection laws and how they comply. “Additionally, marketers must be transparent about the type of information collected from consumers and the purpose for the same. Transparency when dealing with data, and collecting just enough data to personalise will help marketers in the long run.”

Also Read: Privacy and Personalisation Can Coexist, says Facebook 

Brands today are inherently more careful and sensitive to subjects like diversity, equity and inclusion. Carrie Timms – Director Global Customer Marketing, EMEA, Facebook and Aline Santos – Chief Brand Officer And Chief Equity And Diversity Officer, Unilever discussed why it made commercial sense for brands to consider DEI in their marketing strategies. “Diverse and representative advertising helps brands to perform better and reach more people. Facebook has committed itself to ensure that by 2024, 50 per cent of Facebook’s workforce will be made up of under-represented people,” said Timms.

In the backdrop of several movements like #BLM, “Stop Asian hate, #MeToo how are brands addressing these issues and moving forward? “The expectation of people has increased a lot from brands. People expect brands to have a voice and speak up for injustices. When brands shy away from doing that, they are losing consumers. Brands have to speak up for what is right and marketers don’t have a choice to say no,” said Santos.

“The future of marketing and brands is not above the line or below the line. Instead, it is on the frontline of issues and pain points society faces. Credible action alone can earn marketers’ trust and bring in a positive change in society,” added Santos.

Citing an example of popular beauty brand Dove, Santos said discrimination on the basis of natural Afro hair was a real problem that needed change at various levels from the society to the government. “Dove educated society through various ad campaigns that normalised and naturalised Afro hair. Today anti-discriminatory laws have been passed in seven US states.” 

To another question on how brands can be the changemakers, Santos said that marketers are in a sweet spot where they are in constant touch with the consumer and are continuously receiving feedback. “Marketers can drive change by communicating with business leaders about the change and what society expects of the brand and doing it right. The future of marketing is inclusive and that’s the only way marketers have to keep brands relevant to people.” 

Also Read: Apple Vs Facebook – The Big Fight Over Privacy 

Role of AR/VR in business transformation

Digitisation has irreversibly changed how people discover and shop. As brick-and-mortar stores lose their relevance, businesses are forced to take their business to people. 

Katie Duffy, Director of Facebook IQ spoke about what role AR and VR has in the transformation of businesses.

“Technology should not come in the middle of our lives. It has to exist, yet remain unseen. Globally over 3.3 billion users use smartphones and have used AR in some form or the other. The VR market is not very large, but it is growing. At least one in every five internet users use VR in one way or the other. That has been made possible through increasingly affordable price points of headsets and the popularity of wireless devices. 5G rollout will further push the adoption of AR and VR,” said Duffy 

“Globally, the demand for AR and VR  professionals has gone up to a whopping 1400 per cent. This absorption of talent is a signal for the times to come.” 

Duffy further explained the growing interest in AR/VR  through Facebook statistics. “The number of people searching for AR/VR content grew by almost 44 per cent every year. There has been a 74 per cent rise in the number of Facebook users who became part of various AR/VR groups on Facebook.”

The use of AR and VR is increasing in gaming, digital art, education, health and fitness and sports. A Facebook survey found that almost 75 per cent of business leaders see themselves using AR and VR in the near future. “AR/VR is redefining what is possible. Brands like Hyundai, Balenciaga, and even Facebook recruitment teams have used AR/VR to spark new conversations and look beyond the normal. When brands use VR they not only give consumers a wide range of options to try from and pick the perfect fit. It also gives them exposure to experiential commerce that takes brand engagement and customer discovery to the next level,” Duffy added.

Elaborating further, Duffy said AR/VR technologies can help marketers achieve the six Ps — Product, Price, Promotion, Place, People, Presence. 

The following checklist can help marketers get started on their AR/VR journey. 

  • Explore how other businesses use AR/VR strategies successfully. 
  • Pick objectively and decide whether AR or VR represents the brand and shows the best path forward.
  • Learn about responsible innovation principles and build around them from the start.     
  • Start small and give yourself time to experiment.
  • Find a good partner or developer to unlock the AR/VR ecosystem.
  • Set an objective for using AR or VR to connect with customers and define desired outcomes with KPIs. 
  • Empower business teams and define the role of AR/VR in your business’ KPIs. 
  • Educate your business to understand how technology will impact your industry.       

Mendelsohn ended the summit on a very optimistic note. “People today are doing things that they previously thought were impossible. The options are limitless and repose faith in the saying that ‘Change can be for good’. Facebook will continue to work to bring marketers and consumers together.”