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Pernod Ricard CMO: Every brand could have their ‘Wikileaks moment’

Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 10.35.19 AMMartin Riley global CMO of Pernod Ricard has spoken openly about the challenges facing marketers around the globe as the Global Marketers Conference in Sydney this morning.

Riley, who is  president of the World Federation of Marketers, told the audience consisting of the chief marketers of some of the world’s biggest brands the digital revolution had redefined accountability and firmly put power into the hands of consumers.

“The truth is in an age where everything is on show, every brand can have its own Tahir Square or Wikileaks moment,” Riley warned the room.

“In today’s world the concept of local doesn’t really exist anymore. Rather a brand operating across the globe has to be seen to be playing by the same rules and the same standards everywhere.”

Riley quoted the CEO of Unilever Paul Polman who recently noted how if consumers don’t like what they see they are able to express it through social media platform such as Twitter and Facebook.

He added: “The youth in emerging markets are more than happy to do so,” said Riley. “Any poorly thought out advert or promotion launched in one market suddenly is accessible to the whole world. Today’s brands are only as strong as their weakest link.

“Just as platforms such as Twitter and Facebook helped topple governments as part of the Arab Spring, Wikileaks and Edward Snowdon have thrown an uncomfortable light on practices of governments. Brands are also at their mercy.”

Riley said the digital revolution meant brands had to rethink what they should for and how that would be interpreted.

He continued: “The real challenge of digital is even more fundamental (than regulation). It is challenging what is our notion of a brand and what does it mean to consumers?

“The original function part of a brand, that once defined them, is now just a small part of the equation. In the digital age information is accessible to citizens who want to discover more about the brands they follow, not just in their own countries but everywhere.”

The President of the World Federation of Marketers said he believed different brands would meet this challenge in different ways.

“Different companies will have different purposes critically though companies and brands are able to make genuine efforts to bring something to society,” he said.

“These efforts must be sincere and seen to be sincere. For in this age of transparency words must be matched by action. So many technologies have created two way communication and marketing is now the eyes and ears of the business.”

Nic Christensen 

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