The View from the Festival of Marketing 2019 – part 2

The View from the Festival of Marketing 2019 – Part 2

In the second of the series, Fuse brings you the biggest talking points from the Festival of Marketing that have inspired us to think differently.


Many brands fall into the routine of wanting to associate themselves with audiences that are young, on-trend and wealthy, but as editor of Impact Magazine, Katie McQuater pointed out, “audiences who are more marginalised in society, whether that’s because they’re disabled or financially excluded or because they live in emerging countries, also have a lot to offer brands despite being frequently overlooked.”

Understanding marginalised audiences

As with any marketing campaign, understanding your audience is key, you can’t assume what any audience might need. With marginalised communities, marketers must not only understand that particular community’s lived experience, but also how the wider world sees them, whether that’s the public or policy makers’ perception of them.

The shift to more personalised marketing has resulted in more brands and businesses looking to speak to marginalised communities. When Faisel Rahman, CEO of Fair Finance, was setting up the company, he was looking to reach the 8-10 million people across the UK who struggle to access finance from a bank and instead turn to high-cost, sub-prime lenders. Amongst the general public, this audience is characterised as making bad decisions and public policy focuses on encouraging these people to make better choices. However, the truth is that they are making the best choices that they can in their circumstances. Educating them further on how expensive the finance they’re borrowing is doesn’t really change anything. Rahman needed to go beyond initial assumptions and develop his business’ understanding of not only the immediate problem of accessing finance, but creating a business that addresses the issues that underpin this.

It’s also important to consider how you gather insights on marginalised audiences. Firstly, think about how you are physically gathering the data. For example, with some disabled or older people, you can’t rely solely on collecting data online and should instead look at collating research through other means such as face-to-face or over the phone. If you don’t have the resources to conduct research in this way, you can work with intermediaries that do understand those consumers and how to communicate with them, opening you up to millions of people that you’re not already engaging with.

Another powerful way of gaining insights is by using people within the communities themselves to gather data. Clare Webb, Director of Relationships for TEGA (Technology Enabled Girl Ambassadors) at Girl Effect, described how they work with girls actually living in the communities they want to understand. These girls collect data in the form of video, audio and photos through a really simple mobile app that speaks to a centralised data hub at TEGA. This enables these girls’ faces and voices to be seen and heard by decision makers in boardrooms across the world.

Not just communicating a problem, but building the solution

Sophie Castell, Relationships Manager at the Royal National Institute of Blind People, discussed how, once you’ve gathered insights on a marginalised audience, you can end up with a laundry list of ways in which you can help. You have to force choices and prioritise what you should be doing as a brand. For Rahman, “that isn’t about simply telling other people how complicated the problem is, but building a solution that helps make changes.”

Visa has recently taken big steps to raise the profile of a marginalised group: female football players. When UEFA made the decision to split the rights to men’s and women’s football instead of bundling them together, Visa became the first main sponsor of women’s football across Europe.

Part of Visa’s mission is to “enable individuals, businesses and communities to thrive.” It recognised that while men’s football was thriving, women’s football was not. Visa discovered that the belief that that the game wasn’t that competitive meant matches weren’t broadcast on television so had smaller audiences, which lead to sponsors being reticent to put their money into the game. A lack of investment meant no money for smaller clubs and a lack visible female role models in the sport which resulted in no pipeline of young talent.

Visa decided that it’s role in the recent Women’s World Cup was to elevate the stories of female football players to help create role models in the sport. Visa partnered with Copa 90 to create content around inspiring female football players and amplified this content so more people could discover them. It also invested in social media and other forms of training to help these players attract more sponsors and elevate themselves further, as well as generating revenue for themselves and their teams.

To break the cycle above, Visa recognised that it has to have a commitment for years to come, not just for the duration of the Women’s World Cup. It therefore signed a seven-year deal with UEFA and has become the largest sponsor of women’s football in the world.

Fuse View

When designing campaigns for marginalised audiences, we must first recognise that in most cases, we aren’t creating communications for ourselves. While that may seem like an obvious starting point, it can often be overlooked by marketeers who jump immediately to insights and ideas that simply aren’t grounded in truth. To resonate with marginalised audiences, knowing what matters most to them is more important than ever, but tricky to get right.

This is due, in part, to the fact that sub-cultures across society, and the audiences within them, are constantly changing and hard to reach. What we think we know about marginalised audiences can often become outdated within months of discovery; from the issues they care about, to the way they communicate with each other and the wider world.

Marketers must interrogate the insight gathering process if they really want to understand marginalised audiences, looking beyond traditional means of acquiring data. Girl Effect’s TEGA programme is a great example of this, proving that ‘old school’ qualitative methods of research can be brilliantly innovated to create smarter ways for us to reach the heart of the communities we are hoping to engage.

If guided by genuine insight and a passion to understand our subjects, the likelihood of creating effective campaigns for them will be greatly increased. Marketers should follow the example of Faisel Rahman, CEO of Fair Finance, and go beyond initial assumptions to understand the issues that underpin the problem they’re hoping to solve.

To read our full report on the Festival of Marketing 2019 click here.