Cannes Lions: In Brand We Trust

Tim Ellis, CMO & VP, NFL
Bram Westenbrink, Global Head Heineken® Brand
Richard Edelman, CEO, Edelman 

Truth Bomb

On stage at the Palais at Cannes Lions Festival, Kimmi Chex, a skilled on-air NFL host, fielded a question (tweet) from the audience that I was dying to ask:

“How will the NFL ensure personal expression is handled properly in light of the Colin Kaepernick situation?”

Tim Ellis, Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President of the NFL, answered this question with the grace of a man who has seen and heard it all, to a mini-Coachella sized audience made up of agencies and brands who would most certainly hold the NFL accountable in the future. This signaled a refreshing renewal of the business covenant between brand, agency, employee, and customer: Tell me no lies.

Brands are not buildings or things. Brands are comprised of humans with hearts and minds that direct an orchestration of ideas, choices, and annoyances while striving to uphold an infallible commitment to their product/service, employees, and customers. Those companies whose behind-closed-doors values are lived externally, consistently, possess a high degree of trust–for better (Example: Patagonia) or worse (Tesla), depending on how you look at it.

There are three circles of trust: Absolute trust, situational trust, forced trust.

Let me explain. Absolute trust is given to select friends and family because they have stood by you, despite your flaws. They have stood by you because you live the values that connect you to them more than you don’t. Then, there are friends that you may not have much in common with, but they go dancing with you once in a while–that’s situational trust. And forced trust is what you have for your dentist when you have an abscess.

Brands who want to be at the center of culture–and all brands do–must have a relationship of absolute trust with their customer and employees. If they don't, prioritizing the reasons why not might be the best place to focus their marketing dollars. In the case of the NFL, their road to redemption began with focusing on player trust and letting the player be the center, allowing them space to grow and evolve with their own individual audiences, while employed by the NFL.

For Heineken, brand trust is about more than embodying the values of their brand in hyperbolic campaigns that align with their Green Triangle (category, generation, zeitgeist) like The Closer, they earn trust through tangible and accountable activations that improve the lives of the communities they serve. They live their Brew a Better World brand promise in places like Brazil where they make beer using a green thermal energy, and marketed this innovation by teasing a new ingredient to their beer: green energy.

Building brand trust is about connecting to the values of your customers and employees. People fall in love with brands that strive to connect to human values–not topics– like the environment, career, fun, romance, personal growth, money/price, health, friends and family–through action. Why can’t we just make a good product and deliver a great service, you ask? Why do we have to care about what our customers and employees care about, you wonder?  

  1. Because, according to Edelman’s brand trust barometer, business is more trusted than government in 18 of 27 countries.1 and 80 percent of the public want brands to not only ‘solve my problems’, but to ‘solve society’s problems’2.

  2. Social media has made it increasingly harder for brands to posture. For example, according to Popular Info– a news site for ‘people who give a damn’- until last month, Match Group, the company that owns Tinder, Match, Ok Cupid, and Hinge donated to RAGA (Republic Attorneys General Association) which supports politicians who are anti-abortion, while they were also marketing how their app is being used to fight for abortion rights.

Amidst incessant and uncontrollable external forces (pandemic, racial inequity, human rights), internal brand silos that cause inefficiency, and group think that can easily threaten synchronization and innovation every day, the daily challenge to build brand trust can feel daunting. But, like T. Powell says “Clear eyes, full heart, can't lose."

Next up: Retail Media featuring Beth Ann Kaminkow Travis Montaque Patrick Gales

Follow Far From Timid on LinkedIn to see all the Cannes Lions 2022 coverage and more legendary news and stories for brand, culture, and design addicts like you.

Far From Timid is helping their clients develop brand trust through Zero-Waste Marketing experiences and strategies. Book a 30-minute brand therapy session with us. 

Cannes Lions 2022 Award-Winning Brand Trust Work
Undercover Avatar by Havas Sports & Entertainment (France) for L’Enfant Bleu

Introducing Piñatex | Dole Sunshine Company + Ananas Anam Partnership by
L&C, New York

The Unwasted Beer by Publicis for Heineken

Panels sourced
Panel Title: Bold and Undeterred - The NFL is Transforming its Brand
Moderated by: Kimmi Chex On-air Host NFL Network and NFL Media
Panelists: Tim Ellis, CMO and EVP, National Football League; Kelvin Beachum NFL Athlete, Board Member, Advisor, Philanthropist, Arizona Cardinals - National Football League; Cam Jordan NFL Athlete New Orleans Saints - National Football League; Russell Wilson NFL Athlete Denver Broncos - National Football League

Panel Title: Brand Trust and Gen Z | Cannes Lions 2022– Quicktake: Now
Sponsored by: Bloomberg Media
Featuring: Richard Edelman, CEO, Edelman PR

Panel Title: Heineken® – 150 Years Young: a session worth grabbing a beer for!
Panelists: Bram Westenbrink, Global Head Heineken® Brand; Bruno Bertelli, Global CCO Publicis Worldwide. 

*Bram Westenbrink quote sourced from Euronews Next News