CFOs are the Financial Conscience of the Brand, Requiring Engagement in B2B Marketing and Workforce Diversity

By Audacy InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: CFOs are the Financial Conscience of the Brand, Requiring Engagement in B2B Marketing and Workforce Diversity

MediaVillage chief Jack Myers joined Audacy's Chief Marketing Officer Paul Suchman (pictured above at bottom) and Vice President Social Impact Sarah Harris (above, top right) for an insightful Media Finance Focus presentation on June 22 about investing in diversity and education as a corporate growth imperative for B2B companies. He shared some new research on the declining value of media brand equity, and how investments in a diverse workforce and redirecting B2B budgets can drive revenue growth.

Myers kicked off the presentation by quoting Larry Light, the CEO of Arcature Brand Consultancy, who recently wrote, "The CFO is the financial conscience of the brand." Myers sees this comment as a vitally important opportunity for financial officers to become more involved in workforce development.

In live audience polling among the financial professionals who were present, he asked them to respond to these questions: "As a financial officer, how engaged are you in reviewing your company's B2B marketing and your trade advertising decisions? How involved are you in not just budgeting for them but actually reviewing them and understanding them?" Seven percent said they were "very involved,"12% said "somewhat involved,"56% "minimally involved," and 26% answered "not at all involved" in workforce development. Myers told the audience that his goal during the session was "to change those statistics."

To demonstrate his point, he examined the word "brand" and its direct connection to business growth. "There's extensive research from both McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group that says companies that outperform, both in EBITDA and long-term value, are far more likely to have a gender-diverse workforce and management team and a racially diverse workforce and management team," he said.

A Rethinking and Reimagining of B2B Marketing

Myers offered three points, and a solution for growth. "There is a case, and it's clearly been proven, not just by large companies like P&G and Unilever, but by many companies like Audacy," he said. "The facts are that 75% of talent development budgets are invested in training and compliance but deliver only a 5% measurable improvement in diversity advances, not just for individual companies, but for the industry as a whole. Twenty-five percent of funding underwrites one-on-one mentoring, internships, fellowships, talent sponsorships and presence marketing at conferences and events, including diversity events, and that delivers a 40% measurable improvement in diversity recruitment and retention, especially when it's directed toward recruitment and retention programs.

"The solution I believe, comes back to being the financial conscience of your company," he continued. "To reallocating budgets to online, on demand, short-form self-learning tools and virtual mentoring as an educational solution vs. a promotional/advertising solution. This requires rethinking and reimagining of what B2B marketing is, and that requires a financially-supported social conscience to integrated into the budgeting process."

A Clearly Defined Value Proposition

Myers pointed out how brand equity, i.e., having a clearly defined value proposition, "is declining across the board in most industries. Effectively communicating your differentiation, cultural relevance and value offering, and then consistently maintaining those qualities, is what gives your brand its equity," he said.

Only three media brands out of 150 that were recently evaluated by media planners and buyers in a study by The Myers Report for MediaVillage were perceived as being meaningfully committed to social responsibility. Myers put this is human terms. "Everyone likes a winner, and media planning and buying professionals are no different," he explained. "They are loyal to brands that they feel confident their clients are going to find relevant to their needs."

Looking at the media and advertising business Myers said, "It's not surprising that brand equity is being increasingly recognized as a critical component across all industries for business growth, but as the advertising business has moved more toward data and more toward commoditized transactions and programmatic buying, and as procurement officers on the advertiser and agency side have become more involved, brand equity has been diminishing."

Audacy's "Virtuous" Cycle

"When we at Audacy say 'social impact,' that is simply a philosophy; a way of operating your business that is good for business and good for people and the world around you and recognizing those are not mutually exclusive decisions, but mutually reinforcing decisions," Harris said, explaining how diversity and education led to corporate growth at Audacy.

Suchman spoke about how this approach literally helped them realign their company. "We went from this idea of a house of brands to a fully branded house," he said.

"Audacy's brand purpose is about building, belonging and bringing people together around content that moves them, and that translates perfectly into our culture and how we build a community of inclusivity," Harris said. "Having that environment within our team at Audacy obviously helps build the content that drives community and so becomes a virtuous cycle.

"The right environment helps unify our team around our common purpose," she later added. "We're building inclusivity within our team to help drive the innovation that Paul is describing ... so it's doing those two things concurrently that allows a media company like Audacy or others to really reap the benefit of building social impact into the essence of what you do, and making your financial decisions really matter and really pay off."

The Future of Growth

Focusing on growth, Suchman added, "Millennials and Gen Z audiences are where all of the future growth is going to come from. They want to be part of companies, and align with companies, and consume content from companies who align with their missions, their values and their social purpose."

Suchman spoke about the underinvestment in B2B marketing by many companies in the media industry compared to almost all other industries in B2B marketing by "more than 50%."

Harris summed the future up this way: "Within all the change that's happening in the world around us, the reminder to our financial community and to all of us as leaders is that people are the core of our business, and human beings are the consumers of our products. "Consumers are our clients and partners," she continued. "If we can remember what matters to humans, that might be the one thing that doesn't change. Human beings want to feel a sense of belonging. They want to have a voice at the table, and they want to be heard."

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