The benefits of mindfulness in marketing

DPR&Co's Digital Manager, Madeleine Kemp, says being present in the moment and mindful in your actions can do wonders for your wellbeing both in and out of the office. CMO Magazine recently covered the topic of mindfulness in marketing and asked Madeleine for her insight. Read on to hear what she had to say.

Mindfulness. Say the word and you tend to get one of two reactions: People love it, or they roll their eyes. The latter is usually caused by the misconception mindfulness involves yoga pants and sitting for eight hours in an ashram in India. It also might possibly involve shaving heads and giving away all your worldly possessions – OK, we’re not exactly sure on that, but there are definitely some chicken sacrifices and a guru involved. In fact, mindfulness is actually a state of active, open attention on the present, and the ability to notice thoughts without considering them either good or bad. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines it as ‘a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment’. It’s a simple fact most of us spend our time in the past or in the future, and very little of our time is actually focused on being in the present moment. And with multiple devices, screens, marketing and advertising screaming for what little attention remains, the majority of us spend our lives in a haze of to-do lists and random thoughts, without ever actually Iiving.

Why it works

Converts to mindfulness cannot espouse its benefits enough. Hundreds of empirical studies have shown the efficacy of mindfulness, with wins including lower stress levels, reducing harmful ruminating, improving overall health, and protecting against depression and anxiety. The APA says it also improves working memory, focus and promotes cognitive flexibility and problem solving. But what does that actually means to and for marketers in a world of deadlines and diminishing consumer attention? As DPR&CO’s digital manager, Madeleine Kemp, puts it, mindfulness is a practice of being present in the current moment, free of bias, judgment and distracting self-narratives. “Marketers who practice mindfulness experience the ability to be more objective, detached from stresses and thoughts, therefore becoming more creative problem solvers, and have increased clarity and efficiency in their work,” she says. “Research by the Institute of Mindful Leadership found that for 93 per cent of leaders surveyed, mindfulness training helped them create space for innovation. Eighty-nine per cent said it enhanced their ability to listen to themselves and others, and nearly 70 per cent said it helped them think strategically.” Sendle co-founder and mindfulness devotee, Craig Davis, points out most of us are wildly distracted, and it’s part of the human condition to exist in the future or in the past. “We are fuelling that by distracting ourselves with technology and devices, and as a consequence not really paying attention to much going on around us,” he says. “The quality of your contribution and decision making is going to suffer.

“This ends up with everyone multitasking and not doing anything particularly well. It has been shown multitasking immediately drops your IQ by 12 points, which is the same as losing an entire night’s sleep. We are just dumbing ourselves down.” WPP AUNZ’s Fleur Marks is a wellbeing and talent development director and implemented a wellbeing program including mindfulness three years ago. The aim is to embed the behaviours every day. “The biggest thing I notice is getting people to be present, in a moment or a meeting, even if it’s a tough one. This involves active listening and not just focusing on outcomes,” he says. “It’s OK to take a break. We are not human doings, and going eight hours straight is not actually effective. As a result, we have happy employees, who are more engaged and able to be a whole person at work.” Country director at The Potential Project Australia, Gillian Coutts, has authored several books on the topic and describes mindfulness as simply training the brain. “Our mind wanders about 47 per cent of the time. The obvious implication is half the time people aren’t focused on what they are doing,” she says. “We can have the capability to stabilise focus and awareness. “People don’t even know they have a choice about their thoughts and what they choose to focus on. We have 70,000 thoughts a day. It’s not about stopping them, but you can choose what you pay attention to.”

How to achieve it

Getting there doesn’t mean shaving your head or living in a cave, Davis says. “It’s a simple matter of putting devices away and off your desk,” he says. “Get rid of distractions, then check in with your breath because your breath is current. With your first deep breath, notice your breath. With the second breath, relax your body. And during the third breath, ask yourself: What’s important right now?”

Mindfulness can take on many forms, Rackspace marketing director A/NZ, Joanne Schofield, continues. “We look at the current state of play [the facts about what we know], we then move to future state ideation where we play with grand ideas and thoughts. This is followed by the impact of these ideas, and finally an action plan around how we get there,” she says. “Real mindfulness comes from our ability to let the future ideation flow without acting on the impulse to solve everything in the moment. This is not a natural state for many. But when it’s successful, amazing things happen you don’t expect.” Managing director and founder of Suits&Sneakers, Anne Miles, sees mindfulness for creatives as the ability to push out all the noise and be connected to the source of creativity. “Usually, creatives have to get into this zone while sitting at their desk in a busy room of people on their back waiting for the work to meet a deadline, which is a challenge,” she says. “The most effective way is to stare at a small dot on the wall positioned to the top right of their visual eyeline, the visual quarter of their brain, on the other side of the room. Staring at this dot continuously for two minutes is enough to crack into the creativity zone. That’s fast-tracking mindfulness.”

Since incorporating mindfulness into the workplace, Sumo Salad chief customer officer, Lawrence Mitchell, says productivity has gone up and people are working together in new ways. “Managing our minds is important, because we put a lot on demands on people. While we can’t stop the demand, we can provide a toolkit to manage wellbeing,” he says. “But it needs to become habitual.” To do this, Sumo Salad has weekly meditation sessions, and every Monday is Wellness Monday, where teams spend 30 minutes on related education topics. “This shows employees we care, aids business performance, supports retention and productivity, and attracts the best employees,” Mitchell says. “Key is to allow people to move at their own pace. Don’t force things or make it mandatory, it must come from an authentic place.” Marks finds taking 30 minutes for a guided meditation resets people so they are more productive and can ‘react’ rather than ‘respond’. She also uses ‘Be here now boxes’, which people drop their phones into before going into a meeting. “Now, people have more awareness around what is happening. They ground themselves when they come into a room by touching a chair and focusing on breath. They check in with themselves. And this is all free.”

In a marketing context, mindfulness is increasingly perceived as a way to cope with the rapidly evolving landscape. New technology and data-driven approaches have created not only a significant skills gap, but left marketers struggling to achieve their new remit. In a mindful state, Kemp says you’re not clouded by past experiences or future anxieties. You release subjective opinions and view the world with objectivity, which is crucial to delivering out-of-the-box creative ideas. “Secondly, you become more empathetic when practicing mindfulness. You can understand other perspectives and more easily relate to others’ needs – this is a big help when trying to influence behaviour,” she claims. “Finally, by practicing mindfulness, you learn coping mechanisms for dealing with stress.

“As a leader, encouraging mindfulness can have significant impact on your workplace culture, employee satisfaction and productivity. Plus, promoting your business as one that reduces the stress of the marketing process will differentiate your company and likely attract staff and clients.”

3 facts about mindfulness

Finding results

Sizmek global chief people officer, Lisa Craven, is a qualified yoga instructor and meditation teacher, and has implemented mindfulness and meditation at the adtech vendor, as well as in her previous role at WPP. “I’ve just signed up via our US benefits provider to include wellness in the workplace at Sizmek, including offering a meditation program in person and via Zoom. We will also teach people how to meditate in a threeday workshop, so people can do it at home and via groups without external facilitation. We use Slack to update employees on this,” she explains. “Sizmek recently rolled out flexible work arrangements, so we need to be able to support staff no matter where they sit. My goal is it becomes contagious, not just within our business but for our agencies and brands as well. Communication, effective listening, pausing and reflecting before reacting help provide a greater sense of happiness.”

Ultimately, the only way marketers can truly achieve success is to develop the strategies and skills to stay as present as possible, and focus on complex deliverables in front of them, says ZenLeader founder, Dr Jodi Ashbrook. “Part of every marketer’s development should include thought and energy management training,” she says. “One complaint executives often bring to the table is the lofty expectation to deliver large, intensive programs with limited resources. This often results in reactive leadership, where marketers are caught in a web of responding to fires and past problems, versus proactively leading the charge to capitalise on new opportunities for growth. “Thus, marketers can implement mindfulness strategies and tools to control how they respond to each situation, and prioritise their deliverables accordingly. “While data analytics and marketing automation are of course very powerful tools, I’m confident mindfulness techniques will prove to be just as effective, as marketers must be extremely cognisant of where they dedicate their time and energy in order to attain their goals.” And speaking of data, managing partner of The Leading Edge, Lee Naylor, notes we’re all becoming overwhelmed with the array of data at our disposal. “Mindfulness is another way of saying ‘let’s pause for a second and look at things with a fresh or different perspective’,” he says.

“For me, mindfulness means taking a step back and putting yourself in a space where you can view things more objectively.” The Leading Edge as an agency has been working on brand ‘greatness’ and what that means with clients. “The brands that do well are those mindful of who they are,” Naylor says. “Brands like Nike are considered great because they remain authentic and true to their roots. Everything they do and every decision made is with that purpose in mind.” With marketing a constantly moving feast, discipline, planning, continual optimisation and analysis are vital. But at the heart of it lies creativity. This is where mindfulness comes into its own. “Psychometric assessments can showcase an individual under normal pressure and one under constant stress,” Schofield says. “Marketing professionals often find themselves skirting these boundaries on a daily basis, which compromises creativity. Marketing is not a discipline that rewards this approach. “This is where we must create space for creativity to thrive, to pay attention to what is happening in the present, without judgment, and to avoid auto-pilot.” For Davis, mindfulness is particularly powerful in driving customer understanding, focus and obsession. “The better able you are to pay attention to customers, the deeper your understanding of their likes and dislikes will be. You are simply more able to solve problems if you are present,” he says. As Coutts stresses, multiple devices, apps and ads are all now competing for our attention. “Every human creates their own reality by what they pay attention to. Brands have to compete for that attention, and when they do it well, they are a part of creating that reality for that person,” she says.

Proof of impact

The proof is in the research. Global lead of content creation and activation at Kantar, Amy ‘Fritz’ Fridlund, says brands that know what they stand for are valued greater than brands that don’t. She sees mindfulness as essential to that brand trust. Kantar’s 2018 Blurring Boundaries report found successful communications relies on self-regulation, including choosing the right moment, and framing the message so it’s pertinent to the listener. “Brand-to-human communications are no different. Yet all too often brands choose an inappropriate moment or communicate irrelevantly,” Fridlund says.

Additionally, the Kantar Media 2018 TGI Europa study confirms 40 per cent of people find advertising on social media intrusive. “Consumers engage with brands that are considerate of their needs and social norms. Therefore, mindfulness is essential to brand authenticity,” Fridlund says. “Brands must understand not only who they are, but also how they are viewed. It is important a brand is aware of consumer brand attitudes, perceptions and thoughts. “When brands mis-estimate where they stand on issues with consumers, such as gender, they can undermine the intended message and create PR problems and rejection.” Davis sees this extending to customer-led insight and adds marketing fails for the same reason businesses fail: A combination of unexamined assumptions and unconscious biases. “Mindfulness is a way to be present, to pay attention to things that are important and to listen to your customers,” he says.

Source: CMO Magazine

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