Eight key trends from Rise: “We all rise together”

An uplifting, hopeful and practical Rise conference reminded marketing leaders that Return on Inclusion can only be achieved by bringing everyone in

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director Creativebrief


An uplifting, hopeful and practical Rise conference reminded marketing leaders that Return on Inclusion can only be achieved by bringing everyone in.

1. Collaboration is essential to progress

In her rousing opening keynote Ali Hanan, CEO of Creative Equals, reminded the audience that a rising tide lifts all boats. While marketing is a highly competitive industry, when it comes to making progress on diversity, equity and inclusion, working together is key to progress. This theme was evident throughout the day.

Notably at Rise, the organisations facilitating this change took centre stage. The UN Unstereotype Alliance is a transformative organisation for brands to break stereotypes collectively. ISBA is bringing the industry together to usher in a new era of accessible advertising. Meanwhile, The Marketing Society continues to forge ahead by bringing together marketers to share their learnings and challenges openly and honestly.

2. Inclusive leadership isn’t easy

Hosting a moving and mind-opening fishbowl, with grit and grace Gemma Greaves, Founder of Nurture and Cabal, made space for the untold stories behind the stories which are at the heart of achieving progress in diversity and equity. The unspoken challenges that still contribute to an environment in which individuals cannot achieve their full potential. Or worse, still have to mask in their workplaces for fear of the bias and judgement of others. ‘I don’t know’ remain the three most under-utilised words in leadership. According to research from the CMI and YouGov 82% of leaders are accidental managers who haven’t had any training. As Greaves explains: “Inclusive leadership is about creating the space to celebrate the individual and their differences.”

3. Moving beyond the fear of backlash

Is fear of backlash holding brands back creatively? In an environment where a ‘go woke and go broke’ media narrative is gaining traction marketing leaders spoke honestly and openly about the challenge of backlash. Sharing insights on how both organisations and individuals can better navigate a polarising media ecosystem.

As Jasmine Dawson, Senior Vice President, Digital at BBC Studios explains: “Turning down the noisy voices all around us is never easy. But I believe that trusting your gut instinct is one of the most important and underutilised tools in creative leadership.” 

While Ije Nwokorie, Chief Brand Officer at Dr Martens urged leaders to look beyond the binary question of is backlash holding back creativity. He explained: “Ultimately, integrity is a brand’s greatest asset. To navigate today’s volatile media landscape, creativity can be used as a tool to combat backlash and ensure our integrity is uncompromised. Creativity is not the victim, it's the solution.”

4. If you don’t invite everybody in you’re self-harming

Steven Bartlett, Founder, Investor, Best-Selling Author and Podcast Host of 'The Diary of A CEO spoke candidly with Sophie Neary, Managing Director, Retail and Consumer Goods at Google, about the journey he has been on. Demonstrating that honesty and vulnerability are key to inclusive leadership.

He explained: “If you don’t invite everybody in you’re self-harming. If you’re trying to capture the world you have to represent the world,” he adds.

5. Accessibility is a business advantage

Taide Guajardo, Chief Brand Officer at P&G Europe, urged the industry to collaborate to accelerate the mainstream adoption of accessible advertising, sharing that P&G has ambitions to ensure 100% accessible advertising across Europe.

Currently, 15% of the EU population has a visual or auditory impairment. Yet, less than 10% of ads are accessible. “Accessibility is an opportunity as a force for growth but also to make people feel included,” she says. ISBA has created resources for brands keen to embark on their own accessibility journey, highlighting the role of audio descriptions and subtitling in creating a more accessible media ecosystem.

6. Brands have a role in breaking toxic stereotypes

Stereotypes stop people from achieving their full potential. The Unstereotype Alliance is an engine of change for progressive brands and at Rise, UN Women brought together a panel of experts to discuss the toxic stereotypes surrounding masculinity.

Fernando Desouches, Managing Director at New Macho, BBD Perfect Storm, shared that a study of 3500 men in 10 countries found that men have been raised to perform their masculinity instead of live it.

“Success is to men what beauty was to women. It objectifies them,” he explained. A point of view that underlines why stereotype smashing remains at the top of the marketing agenda.

7. Create products for consumers, don’t market to them

In a wide-ranging and thought-provoking discussion Ije Nwokorie, Chief Brand Officer at Dr Martens, urged the industry to take a more inclusive approach to marketing. Nwokorie explained the principles of marketing to be largely military, “You pick an audience, you adopt a strategy and you run a campaign”. But creating a product is completely different. It starts with ‘making something that will delight you’, contrasting the ‘us vs. them’ attack strategy of traditional marketing.

“When you are creating a product, you are creating for people and it’s a different approach to marketing,” says Nwokorie.

8. Embrace progress over perfection

In a challenging marketing ecosystem, it is all too easy to place pause on the important in pursuit of the always urgent. Yet speakers at Rise underlined that making progress begins with action. This action was front and centre in a powerful talk from Cristina Diezhandino,  Chief Marketing Officer at Diageo, who shared how the brand was broadening the aperture of its marketing through a more inclusive approach. This included Guinness and ITV making sporting history by trialling live descriptive audio commentary for the Guinness Six Nations. The move was part of a drive to make the Guinness Six Nations 2024 Championship the most inclusive yet, supported by Creative Equals. A partnership which underlines that ‘we all rise together’ is more than a headline. Collaboration is the engine of change in the marketing industry.

Photo credit: (C) BronacMcNeill

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