Lianne Braganza, Chief Marketing Officer, Middle East and Africa at Cigna, will be Chairing the 2022 WARC Awards for MENA Strategy Here she talks about how Cigna rapidly addressed consumers’ shifts in needs and behaviours, the need for brands to help manage always-on culture and what she’ll be looking for in this year’s entrants.
Describe your role.
As the Chief Marketing Officer for Cigna in the Middle East and Africa region, I primarily look after brand strategy, pipeline generation, direct digital acquisition, segmentation work, reputation management, and the customer experience programme within the region. I'm also very passionate about diversity and inclusion and lead the Middle East chapter of the Women in Networking group.
What challenges are you facing at the moment?
Broadly, the main challenge marketers are facing at the moment are:
- Trying to cope with the drastic change in consumer behaviour as a result of the pandemic. Digital penetration experienced ten years of growth in a matter of months and infrastructure and existing data models are struggling to keep up.
- Finding balance between driving brand purpose and the ESG agenda. There is intent to do good, however, how does that turn into action and delivery?
- Lastly, how to make better use of data to continue to personalise, whether it is care preferences, attitudes towards physical or mental health or even just managing your media spend.
How much of these shifts in consumer needs and attitudes would you say are a result of COVID?
I would say a big chunk of it is a result of COVID. One in five consumers switched brands and seven in ten tried new digital shopping channels. Individuals also reported high levels of stress and isolation.
We do a 360 Wellbeing Cigna survey annually to understand how our consumers are thinking and feeling about their health and wellbeing. During the pandemic in 2020 we launched and ran the COVID-19 impact study every two months. During the pandemic, 71% of respondents said they were working longer hours compared to the global average of 47%. Telehealth and virtual health usage increased with 77% people saying they would choose to speak to a medical professional virtually when previously the preference was face-to-face. It told us that people were feeling isolated, frustrated, were having mental health issues and were stressed – 95% of respondents felt that they worked in an always-on culture. As we spend a lot of time with HR managers, we started to ask ourselves not only about what we could do to support employers, but also how we could change our own care systems to be more inclusive, less fragmented and well-funded, to properly manage this behavioural crisis.
What were the steps that you adopted to evolve your strategy and better serve consumers at this time?
Our studies revealed that in the Middle East, and more specifically in the UAE, accessibility was an important driver for both our clients and our end users. So it was important to pivot very quickly to make our telehealth capabilities more visible and available as well as provide virtual access to doctors, and advise employers around the evolution of the pandemic and the impact it would have had on their employees. We had monthly catch-ups with our employers and their employees, ran a series we called Connect for Health, as well as regular mindfulness sessions. We also gave out health and wellbeing toolkits, both to employers and consumers, to help them manage the always-on culture and their work/life balance. And, importantly, our surveys and impact studies served to provide awareness and guidance for employers on where and how to improve.
What do you think should be a priority for businesses at this time?
Businesses need to proactively support their employees’ health and wellbeing and help them manage their work/life balance. The impact of COVID-19 on the workplace has placed new emphasis on mental health. Mental health is not a new issue, but COVID-19 has exacerbated existing sources of stress. Paradoxically, now that the stigma around treatment has somewhat decreased, there is a worsening condition around how to access care. Organisations need to tune into that a little bit more, create psychological safety for their employees to be able to talk about it, and provide access to care in a way that is tailored to individuals’ needs. This will hopefully reduce the pressure they face from the always-on culture. The challenge for many companies is knowing how to organise, develop and evaluate programmes that support their unique business needs. At Cigna, we supported our employers with tools and analytics on the ROI of wellness interventions.
Can you share an example of a recent campaign that impressed you for its strategic thinking?
The ad Netflix India did for International Women’s Day comes to mind as one that really resonated with me. The ad shows a series of female celebrities being asked about their favourite shows or movies, and the women then proceed to list out titles available on competitors’ platforms.
It was wonderful to see because on the one hand it was about learning from other women about what inspires them, but it also showed how Netflix is taking more of a stand and making an effort to proactively be part of the conversation around women and diversity.
What I found powerful about it was that it was all about the cause – the brand is secondary. Netflix showed how brands can put competitiveness aside to talk about causes that truly matter, using the power of the collective to drive the message rather than filtering it through one brand’s point of view.
What will you be looking for in this year’s entrants to the WARC Awards for MENA Strategy?
It would be nice to see more brands looking to take charge of all the new themes that have emerged over the last couple of years, and advising consumers on how to effect change, be that within society, or the environment. I’d like to see examples of brands being more mindful of the balance between their vision and values and what’s happening in our society, looking at how they can use their media dollars to connect purpose towards driving change.
What advice would you give to entrants in terms of how to write their case study?
It’s essential to be able to articulate the situation, the challenge, and your response to that. The answers to those three questions are going to be really important for judges to get a quick understanding of what it is you're trying to achieve.
Why do you think these Awards are important?
The WARC Awards for MENA Strategy give brands in the region the opportunity to air how they're making a difference and how their messages are a crucial in tapping into MENA’s consciousness and addressing its unique challenges. Equally, they also work as a benchmark: they are an opportunity for smaller companies and organisations, which are still nervous about media spend, to take inspiration from the winners and perhaps be braver and more courageous with putting themselves out there.