Why it's time to bring mindfulness into marketing leadership

Mindfulness as a concept is increasingly gaining ground as a way to bring us all back to level of sanity by being focused on the moment. We look at how mindfulness can be achieved

For Nirell, introducing mindfulness to clients begins with simple practices such as examining how meetings are conducted and how managers comport themselves.

“It can start with something as basic as creating breathing space between meetings, and taking time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t work, what we learned and how we improved, and then preparing the same way for the next meeting,” she says.

These concepts can quickly scale up through an organisation and its customer community. Nirell says one organisation to embrace mindfulness successfully at large scale is Proctor & Gamble, through the creation of vibrant parent communities that operate on mindful principles.

She also sites TripAdvisor’s CMO, Barbara Messing, as a senior marketer who has adopted mindfulness concepts, such as ensuring her teams turn off their devices in meetings and creating a fun working environment through events such as karaoke nights.

“She has her creative teams go to art museums to get stimulation and think completely differently about customers and campaigns,” Nirell says. “Barbara has seen employee satisfaction scores soar since she implemented these rituals, so she believes there is a strong correlation between the two.”

With another client, Nirell says mindfulness was used to evaluate the language used within the marketing department. Words such as ‘target’, ‘pitch’, ‘push’, penetrate’ and ‘pursue’ were eliminated in favour of ‘shepherding’, ‘nurturing’ and ‘partnering’.

“I have had clients eliminate words because of the constant focus on male sports metaphors and military metaphors,” she says.

Mindfulness in branding

The concept of mindfulness is also firmly embedded in the new brand initiative Thankful, created by Publicis Cubed managing director, Kim McDonnell.

“The philosophy that sits behind Thankful is that as individuals, never before have we led busier lives,” she says. “It’s not often enough we get an opportunity to take a big deep breath and think life is pretty good, and that we have plenty of things every single day to be thankful for.

“With Thankful, we are trying to create a global social movement to remind everybody that there is a lot in our lives to be thankful for.”

McDonnell has trademarked the word Thankful in a number of contexts, including in relation to fashion, jewellery, homewares and cosmetics, and has initiated discussions regarding licensing products to market under the Thankful brand. She has also been asked to develop the concept of Thankful festivals.

“We’re working and talking to many large brands here in Australia about being aligned with Thankful,” McDonnell says. “And we haven’t stood in front of one CMO who hasn’t said our timing was perfect.

“It’s no longer good enough to tell consumers what you represent. You need to demonstrate it. And it’s the brand that can demonstrate their value and demonstrate commitment to community through alignment and marketing that will be the successful brand for the future.”

McDonnell has also signed a book publishing deal with Penguin, and will speak at the United Nations in New York for International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which the Thankful movement supports, on 25 November.

While mindfulness is not the first spiritual belief to manifest itself in business, its prominence and longevity may be ensured by the equivalent rise of factors fuelling it. According to Barter, the popularity of mindfulness is representative of how older methods of coping no longer working for many people.

“People are getting overwhelmed,” Barter says. “They see they can’t turn their minds off. People see the need to manage their minds better, and so they are looking to things like meditation, but the increasing business and complexity of contemporary life is leading to confusion and distress.

“Therefore we need to define alternative ways of being and alternative ways to accommodate the increasing challenges that we are facing. We see the need to exercise the brain, because the brain is going into fatigue and overload and into stress responses.”

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