Interviews

“We need to stop pretending everything is okay”

Laura Mignott, CEO of DFlash and host of the Reset Podcast on marketing’s reckoning and why leaders must take action to be on the right side of history.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director

Share


“2020 was a year of shifts. It forced us all to slow down and find our focus and be at home for a year.” Laura Mignott is telling the story of the Coronavirus crisis; a natural, articulate and engaging storyteller, she infuses the collapse and subsequent rebuild of her industry with both empathy and insight.

“It was so dramatic to have our industry collapse around us,” she declares. Yet she did not go under; economically or emotionally. It is a testament to her character that she took the time for meaningful and impactful work; namely getting PPE to communities of colour.

Mignott is lifting the lid on her experience of the pandemic as part of Creativebrief’s Women in Marketing interview series. She was the standout winner in The Storyteller Category at the Women in Marketing Awards 2020. A multifaceted communicator, she was one of the core forces behind the pioneering Inkwell Beach area at Cannes Lions. 

Laura is the CEO of DFlash, a New York-based cultural communications agency, as well as the creator and host of the Reset Podcast. In addition she is a guest lecturer at institutions including NYU and Baruch College. She tells her stories across different platforms and within her own business; a reflection of a new breed of creators that are setting the tone and telling the stories that matter outside the confines of a traditional magazine masthead.

“I’ve been telling stories for as long as I could talk,” she explains, pointing to her natural curiosity as the key driver of the podcast. Her guests open up to her, partly because of her own vulnerability and ability to open up and hold new spaces for others. 

The long term impact of Black Lives Matter

For Mignott, the conversation about racism is both long overdue and necessary and while she notes “we have all been through something” when it comes to the universal loss of the pandemic, the reset moment businesses and society now face must prioritise and address racism. 

She shares that she has had a lot of phone calls from people wanting guidance. “If you don’t help, you can’t expect people to change. Yes, there are times to send people to Google, but also there is a time to deliver some truth.” 

This can be a truth delivered in a personal story - she recounts the fact she gets followed by security in stores; an everyday microaggression.

“When you tell your story, it doesn’t automatically mean that everyone will get your story. But the message of 2020 was clear; when you share your story, that can have such an impact.”

The most effective companies will meet their employees where they are.

Laura Mignott, CEO of DFlash and host of the Reset Podcast

Raising the bar with inclusive marketing

Just as employers need to recognise the working landscape has irrevocably changed, marketers need to accept that many of their consumers are fundamentally different too.

“Smart marketers understand that if you are more inclusive that will generate more dollars,” explains Mignott. She believes now is an inflection point for brand leaders, saying: “You have a choice: you can hide or embrace the inclusivity of this moment. Yes there is an economic argument, but you can choose to be on the right side of history.”

She explains that the question for brands is a simple, yet often under-utilised one: “Do you know your consumer or do you sell at them? Your consumer is size inclusive and they want  fitness clothes that fit a normal human being. Their definition of fitness isn't a size 2 white woman.”

She points to the fact that it has taken the industry a long time to recognise that women who aren’t a size 2 will buy $90 leggings. 

“I choose to spend my dollars with people who speak to me. But we need to stop pretending everything is okay,” she notes. Pointing to the thousands of people who died alone in the US, she believes now is the time to reassess and recognise the shifts in families and to recognise their grief with empathy.

You have a choice: you can hide or embrace the inclusivity of this moment. Yes there is an economic argument, but you can choose to be on the right side of history.

Laura Mignott, CEO of DFlash and host of the Reset Podcast

Reimaging storytelling

If marketing’s legacy was perhaps based around telling consumers stories about who they want to be, its future could instead lie in the authenticity implicit in both telling the truth and representing people as they are.

For Mignott, the question for brands and business leaders alike is a simple one: what stories are you telling? She notes that marketers who are not approaching their brands through the four pillars of humanity, authenticity, inclusivity and respect will fail. 

Describing the murder of George Floyd as a ‘global reckoning moment’ with everyone at home scrolling on their phones “they could not turn away.” She explains: “It was a perfect story which allowed people to really understand and question where is your humanity when you have your knee on a neck and your hands in your pocket?”

She urges leaders to challenge themselves as to how they are expressing their own humanity, explaining: “We can see your org charts and we can see your campaigns. But are you being inclusive in age, race, accessibility and location?”

The age of honesty

As we meet each other at the other side of this crisis; or the other side of the next phase of a global pandemic that is equal parts unprecedented and relentless in the loss and grief it has inflicted across the globe, there is no doubt that change is coming. A change Mignott believes is rooted in respect.

“I respect brands making a real difference,” she explains, adding: “not empty platitudes but making a real difference in the communities they serve.” She notes: “When you align purpose and passion you can have far more success.” An ethos that is wholeheartedly embodied by her own career trajectory. 

The first question in The Reset podcast asks what the guest’s first job was. “Everyone starts somewhere and there is grace in that,” explains Mignott. The guests are then asked to share what they would tell their 25-year-old self. It's a question that tends to set off a ‘lightbulb moment’. As she explains: “To remark on how far you have come helps you see how far you have to go.” 

There are no platitudes worthy of the pain and loss of the journey of 2020 for so many across the globe. The path set by a global pandemic that no one would choose to embark upon. Yet, as Mignott’s empathy and commitment alike underline; the stories we tell ourselves and each other of the things we have learned on the way are key to finding the courage to keep going, to keep trying and to keep listening.