Marketers should turn their investment decisions towards the present moment and respond to major concerns around racial injustice and COVID-19, according to Bozoma Saint John, the new CMO of streaming giant Netflix.

Speaking during a session held by Lions Live, a digital-content platform run by Cannes Lions (a sister company of WARC), Saint John – who until this week was CMO of Endeavor, a holding group for events, talent and media companies – suggested the current wave of protests against racial injustice, as well as the coronavirus, demand an immediate response.

“Our investment needs to be turned more [to the] present. Reacting to what is happening right now is the best strategy. I don’t think that we’ve ever had strategies like that before,” she said. (A full video of her session is available to view here. WARC subscribers can access a summary here.)

And that instant responsiveness poses a critical challenge to the way brand stewards and their agencies have traditionally operated

“We’ve always forecasted where we want to be. But we haven’t really paid attention to the present moment in its fullness,” said Saint John.

The time has come, she argued, to move beyond long-term planning and embrace rapid action: “At this moment, our entire strategy has to be in reacting to what is happening right now.

“With COVID-19, and the concerns that people have around that – their comfort, their safety, their anxiety – we need to speak to those messages and find solutions for those issues within our businesses.”

Alongside the pandemic, “We now have racial and social unrest. So, how does that impact our businesses? To me, the strategies are more present than ever. This is not about forecasting into the future,” she said.

“It's about what is happening right now: How can my business intersect with the concerns of the community and the consumer right now?”

As an example of immediate responsiveness, Saint John helped lead a recent initiative called #ShareTheMicNow, which aimed to ensure Black female voices were heard in new spaces.

More specifically, this program saw numerous well-known white women – like actors Hillary Swank and Julia Roberts, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and soccer star Alex Morgan – surrender control of their Instagram accounts for a day.

Taking over these social feeds were well-known Black women like Tarana Burke, the acclaimed activist, Julee Wilson, beauty director of Cosmopolitan magazine, Luvvie Ajayi Jones, the bestselling author, and Saint John herself.

“We decided to change the way that our voices are being heard,” said Saint John. “It allowed Black women to get onto the platforms of whiteness. Black women on social media were able to land their messages in audiences they probably have not been able to disrupt before.”

Sourced from WARC