Every modern business, regardless of industry, size, or mission, wrestles with the same looming question: how do we attract and retain talent?

One area that may go overlooked is a city’s desirability, both as a home and as a destination. Where better than Vancouver, nestled between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, to host a discussion on that very question? Last week, Weber Shandwick, in partnership with Tourism Vancouver and SAP Labs Canada, hosted a panel roundtable on how tourism can serve as an engine for growth in the city.

The panel – made up of Ty Speer, President and CEO of Tourism Vancouver, Kirsten Sutton, VP and Managing Director of SAP Labs Canada, and Zuleika Sgro, VP People at Saje Natural Wellness – held a candid exchange on the strengths and challenges that local businesses face when attracting and retaining talent in Vancouver. Sharing their own perspectives, the panel explored what makes Vancouver an attractive global destination and spoke to how this reputation helps generate global investment and attract new residents and talent.

Ty Speer described how Tourism Vancouver seeks to build those connections. “We want to find harmony between our residents and our visitors. We want to make this a better place to live and work and play.”

The huge influx of visitors the city receives every year has proven to be invaluable for organizations such as Saje Natural Wellness. Zuleika Sgro beams with pride when talking about Saje’s roots in Vancouver. “Being an international destination, our products are experienced by people from all over the world,” she said. “It’s critical to be known as a Vancouver business. It’s how we grow. It’s what we lead with when we talk about our business.”

Kirsten Sutton agrees when she noted that “people have incredible loyalty to the industry here. As long as people stay and don’t go looking for work elsewhere, it helps everyone.”

The city does, however, face a number of challenges in the years ahead. Speer notes that by next summer, Vancouver will have more visitors than hotel rooms to meet the demand. “Talk to any large business and they will say they don’t do meetings in Vancouver in the summer because it’s too expensive,” he said.

Speer admits that infrastructure is a challenge economically. But that didn’t stop Vancouver from attracting 33 citywide conventions, according to BC Investment — a record the city will easily surpass in 2019. Similarly, as cruise ship traffic increases, the Port Authority plans to overhaul the port at Canada Place in downtown Vancouver while scouting other options for a secondary port along the Fraser River.

While Vancouver continues to experience unprecedented visitor growth, many stories of our city and communities remain untold. “There’s an incredible amount of talent and entrepreneurs in this city, said Sgro. “People across the world should know about that.” Sutton agreed: “We don’t talk enough about how scrappy and resourceful people are. In British Columbia alone there are 200 First Nations. It’s so diverse and people have been so resourceful here for generations.” Speer recounted a story that summarizes this sentiment perfectly; at a function, the question was raised as to whether Vancouverites were tolerant, and to Speer’s surprise, someone said, “We don’t tolerate here — we include.”

That notion of inclusion will have to extend to all aspects of Vancouver’s future plans. It’s vital that tourism, industry, and infrastructure work in tandem to entice continued investment and visitor growth. These systems are interconnected and rely upon each other to ensure the sustained growth and innovation that the city has come to be known for. And if we continue to invest in Vancouver’s desirability as an international travel destination, it will be Vancouverites who reap the rewards of continued investment and growth.


Often the best ideas come when you listen to your team – and act on what they tell you.

Our employees in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto are brilliant, energetic, fun, and hard-working people. Like other agencies, our employees typically skew younger than on the corporate side. And their needs are different.

To attract and keep the best and brightest, we’ve cultivated an award-winning workplace and culture. We’ve invested in experience grants, themed weekly social events, flexible Weber Days, and brought in guest speakers to help employees grow.

So when our Gen Y and Z team members pointed out a gap in our RRSP matching program, we listened.

As it turns out, younger employees don’t contribute as much to their retirement because they still have to pay off their student debt. I was shocked to learn the average graduate today has more than $26,000 of student debt, much higher than it was even 10 years ago.

As we began to consider solves, two employees forwarded this article about a new pilot program that matches a portion of an employee’s student loan repayments with a payment to her retirement plan.

Could Weber Shandwick enter this program, they asked?

Fast forward to this month: our new Student Debt Savings Program is live. Now our employees don’t need to choose between planning for the future and paying off the education that got them here.

We made this a priority because we want to be the destination for the best people.

The best people do the best work. The best work attracts the best clients. The best work also gets better results, which keeps our clients with us. That leads to growth, and the need to bring on more great people, which helps all of us grow.

Best Buy Canada Names Weber Shandwick PR AOR

Best Buy Canada has selected Weber Shandwick Canada as its public relations agency of record (PR AOR) following a competitive review.

Best Buy, Canada’s largest consumer technology retailer with 175 stores and more than 12,000 employees nationwide, has engaged Weber Shandwick to help tell its story and connect with Canadian consumers. In its capacity as PR AOR, the firm will lead an earned and paid strategy to highlight Best Buy’s key competitive differentiators, including its evolved in-store experience and Blue Shirts and Geek Squad services.

“We chose Weber Shandwick because they understand the retail sector and have a passion for our business that is palpable,” said Polly Tracey, Vice President of Communications, Best Buy Canada. “The strategic thinking of their team and deep expertise will help us reach our ambitious goals.”

Weber Shandwick began its work with Best Buy Canada in March 2019.

“We are excited to move from being Best Buy fans and customers to real partners,” said Greg Power, President and CEO, Weber Shandwick Canada. “We are all-in as part of a great team using communications to help solve business challenges in the fast-moving retail sector.”


Over the last decade, we’ve been benchmarking the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity to decode the industry’s evolution and identify a guiding theme for each year.

We think it’s an important exercise, because taking time to analyze and think critically about the festival’s best work can help brands gain important insights as they head into 2020 planning.

Our theme for this year: defiance as a mindset.

What do we mean by this? Simply put, it’s about brands standing in proud opposition to authority.

When you think of defiance in this context, you might think of Nike’s ‘Dream Crazy’ campaign. And while you’d be right, there’s much more to unpack.

So what does it mean to be defiant today?

All brands are challenger brands

The challenger position has always been the sweet spot in marketing. But it isn’t about challenging the brands around you anymore. Today, countless higher issues demand attention. Being a challenger brand is about challenging something, not someone. We’re talking about a spirit that allows us to disrupt established narratives and upset power dynamics.

The best brands are asking how we can fix problems affecting society in a way that moves the needle meaningfully and authentically. In essence, the next generation of branding is local and genuine, rather than global and pushed down/out. It’s about living in the real world.

To adopt a challenger mindset, start with where your brand can add value

Everywhere we looked at awards shows this year, we saw brands pushing the boundaries of what’s realistically and commercially viable. Brands exhibited a deeper cultural understanding by determining how and where they can contribute value.

While not all pulled it off, many definitely did. IKEA Israel’s “ThisAbles” campaign and The Female Company’s The Tampon Book from Germany are examples of brands standing up for what’s right in a way you just can’t help but talk about. They added value to their audience and society.

Be a guardian of culture, not an opportunist 

According to The Economist’s The World In 2019 report, “Businesses will need to be increasingly alive to social trends and the politics around them.”

But beware. Brands aren’t automatically adding value by talking about a specific issue. Without true skin in the game or an understanding of the context and culture, the work can backfire and you can end up looking like an opportunist. We’ve all seen this countless times.

It’s funny to think that today, brands are the new revolutionaries adding value from the ground up. They are moving from behaving like “opportunists” to becoming “guardians of culture” (that is, investing in the community, joining that culture and helping build something the culture will love) and standing up for what’s right.

American Express’s NBA Jersey Assurance program is one piece of work that’s about standing up for a community, showing you understand the culture, and adding to it. While this might not seem like a serious issue, American Express found its problem to solve, and it had an impact. Other stand-out examples of defiance’s range in emotion and tone include Ancestry’s Railroad Ties (disclosure: our Weber Shandwick New York office worked on this), L’Oréal Paris’ The Non-Issue in Vogue and Kraft Heinz’s LegalAde.

Defiance is most beautiful and impactful when done simply: just try and add value to the people who care about your brand.

To do this, we need to set ourselves a higher bar and lead our clients and peers by example. We need to get to a place where adding value is second nature.


Driving Forward On Diversity

Riding my road bike has been the source of many life lessons. For example, when my energy starts to fail climbing a steep hill, I know I won’t fail if I just keep my legs moving, consistently putting one leg in front of the other.

The same is true when making important cultural changes in a business. Pick your destination, then keep taking one step after another and keep moving forward. Stay focused and the drive from many consistent steps becomes irresistible.

I believe this is the right attitude to apply when building diverse talent and leadership in our agency.

A few weeks back I had the opportunity to meet with IPG CEO Michael Roth during his visit to our Detroit office. He was in an expansive mood having just returned from a triumphant week at the Cannes Festival of Creativity where IPG agencies outperformed the competition.

Roth spoke with pride about just hosting IPG’s ninth annual women’s breakfast at Cannes. In 2010, a couple dozen people attended the first breakfast. This year it was standing room only in a much larger room to hear from global brands like Adobe, Levi-Strauss, Microsoft, Mars and Unilever. The get together has become a global focal point for our industry to demonstrate the power it has to shine a spotlight on diversity as a creator of work that moves brands and changes our world.

Last year in Toronto, the Institute of Communications Agencies hosted the first ever I.D.E.A. Summit – three days talking about how inclusivity, diversity and equality in the advertising industry drives competitive advantage and better work for clients. Speakers included Cindy Gallop from IfWeRanTheWorld and Lisen Stromberg from The 3% Conference, plus a deep roster of Canadian leaders across the issues.

Like IPG’s first women’s breakfast, attendance by the industry should have been stronger. But the important outcome was a clear statement of intent and a commitment to lead change. I like to think of the I.D.E.A. Summit as the “Velvet Conference” in homage to the band that opened my mind to music. Music producer Brian Eno has the best quote about the power of innovative thinking once the idea has been hatched: “The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band.”

That’s how we make progress. Articulate a vision. Demonstrate commitment. Keep moving forward. And that is how we will continue to build a more diverse agency and industry. One where everyone feels comfortable to be their whole and authentic selves at work; where we are better together because we make the effort to understand each other, include each other, and treat each other fairly and with equity.

Natasha Bowman, author of the book You Can’t Do That At Work said it best at a recent industry conference, “If diversity is being asked to the dance, inclusion is being asked to dance, and belonging is being asked what song you’d like to dance to.”

Making progress on diversity matters to me. I work at IPG and Weber Shandwick because diversity matters to our global leadership. I am very proud to work with so many clients who are also committed to live progressive values and foster change.

We recently celebrated the corporate retirement of Richard Ellis, a great friend of Weber Shandwick in Canada. Richard built a stellar career at our agency rising to Canada CEO before departing for an impressive tenure at McDonald’s where he had Canadian, North American and global leadership roles in the Corporate Relations group.

Richard has been a role model for the kind of leadership that makes a difference for diversity. He championed diversity initiatives in his roles at McDonald’s, was recognized as a Canadian Diversity Champion by Women of Influence magazine, and has acted as a mentor on this issue to many leaders in our profession.

Out of respect to everything Richard has meant to Weber Shandwick as both a leader and a client, we are proud to take another step forward on diversity with the establishment of the Weber Shandwick Richard Ellis Scholarship. The scholarship will provide a $1,000 scholarship to a fourth-year student in the Humber College Bachelor of Public Relations program – a school that regularly attracts the best and brightest to our industry.

To get the scholarship, the student must demonstrate a passion and understanding of the role diversity and inclusion can play in improving our industry, along with some practical advice on steps we should take to achieve progress. We will award our first recipient in the Fall 2019 school year, and we look forward to the many recommendations on how we continue to drive forward with diversity.

There is much to do as we continue on this journey. But, like that hill on the bike, we will continue to keep moving forward until we get there.



We are delighted to welcome four new hires to the Weber Shandwick Canada team.

Their arrival fuels our continued evolution from a conventional PR services model to a client solutions mindset. They are also further confirmation that the culture of creative excellence that’s seen us become the most-awarded PR agency in Canada continues to make us a destination of choice for this country’s top talent.

Jamie Hong arrives as new Director of Data & Analytics. Jamie brings extensive experience in analytics and data-backed insights to build brands, drive growth, and measure impact. Drawing on his successes with data projects and technology automation Jamie will help drive the agency’s strategic planning based on deeper insights that guide clients in making data-driven decisions.

Sara Cook joins as our first-ever Vice President of Integrated Project Management. Sara’s experience of process enhancement at leading communications and marketing firms will help her drive efficiency and operationalize new models for our larger integrated clients. She will also lead operational efficiencies across the agency and the creation of new financials, resourcing and communications management processes.

Deane Code joins as Director of Integrated Media. Deane has led communications campaigns for some of the world’s top brands in food, health and wellness, consumer finance, home entertainment and beauty. She will help lead and expand the agency’s media and influencer programs. Erik dela Cruz joins as Associate Creative Director, with a focus on expanding on the Creative team’s award-winning copywriting and art direction capabilities. Erik’s work for General Motors, MasterCard and Molson Coors has been recognized in Canada and around the world.

Based in our Toronto office, and supporting all three Weber Shandwick Canada locations, these new team members will help the agency solve the unprecedented business challenges born of digital disruption currently faced by our clients.


Of all the gifts I’ve received, there’s one that stands out. It was a little, royal blue cartridge containing an entire world and 151 monsters to catch. It was Pokémon Blue.

This game established my identity as a gamer. Before I started gaming, my 10-year-old self had interests, but not passions. Gaming calibrated my compass and taught me what it meant to be truly invested in something; an invaluable life lesson. Games present seemingly infinite possibilities. It’s exciting to have a role in the fate of a character. I enjoy an on-the-rail experience that guides a player through a meticulously-crafted story. But I gravitate towards open-world games; the feeling of immersion that comes from diving in and impacting a digital world is unparalleled in conventional forms of entertainment.

While my passions have grown since I was 10, I still try to play some kind of game once every day. I see passion as a muscle. It needs to be fueled and used to stay strong.

In 2018, I was lucky enough to be the recipient of Weber Shandwick Canada’s Nicola Moore Courageous Creativity Prize. The Nicola Moore award is a $2,500 investment in a career-changing experience for a junior staffer. The award was named after a talented employee who started her career with us and went on to become an industry leader with IPG sister agency Golin, but then left all us too soon in life. The award honours Nicola’s spirit, granting the winner the opportunity to go on an adventure and pursue their passions at a formative time in their career path.

I never had the opportunity to meet Nicola, but I’ve learned from those who knew her that she was the definition of a role model: a person who embodied passion and perseverance. After much reflection, I decided to follow my passion and attend E3, the world’s biggest gaming conference in Los Angeles. This trip gave me the chance to see what was at the leading edge of the industry and hear from the experts where they see things are going next.

The World’s Biggest Gaming Conference

The first thing I learned at E3 was just how big this community is. Games have been big business for years, but the extent to which games are impacting pop culture is reaching an unprecedented level. Since its release in 2017, Fortnite has reshaped the industry with massive player populations and subverted its digital world on a scale we’ve never seen.

Case in point, you can’t walk more than a few blocks without at least one person doing the floss dance.

Successful in-game locations like Weezer World and concerts hosted by popular DJs like Marshmello have proven that brand integrations aren’t just possible, they are thriving. With the model more than proven, we can expect to continue seeing Epic Games, the studio responsible for Fortnite, and its competitors continue to focus on building their online communities.

Going Beyond the Console

The second major takeaway was the push to expand in global markets. Many major studios, including Microsoft and Take Two, have noted their ambitions to improve their footprints around the world. While Stadia, a cloud game platform from Google, wasn’t present at E3, it was talked about or mentioned in almost every panel I attended. Unlike the traditional console model that would require the purchase of hardware, Stadia will only require a streaming stick, controller and internet connection. This would be a game changer, particularly in areas where consoles are prohibitively expensive.

The technology is great in theory, but the talk among industry experts is somewhat skeptical. The crux of Stadia will be a stable and high-speed internet connection which isn’t accessible to everyone, especially in developing regions. The main source of optimism is that making gaming more accessible through technologies like Stadia improves the capacity to tell more diverse and inclusive stories for a global audience.

The Art of Game Development

Finally, E3 showed me that the people who make games are filled with an overwhelming passion for their craft. While watching a number of panels over my three days at E3 it felt like development teams needed to defend their art to people outside of their core audience. One of the most highly anticipated games of 2020 is Cyberpunk 2077 from CD PROJECKT RED. During a panel with the company’s co-founder and joint CEO Marcin Iwiński, he made it clear that the company was about more than profit or turning out games on tight timelines: “We are not a games factory. We treat games as an art and we want to push the bar higher with every single game we make.”

Like any work of art, creating a game involves countless hours of dedication before the final product is delivered. One of the top-selling games of 2018, Red Dead Redemption 2, took nearly eight years (!) to develop with a team of nearly 1,000 people. Their process for delivering an impactful experience to the audience deserves as much praise as the latest Oscar winner or masterpiece in the MET.

I could go on about all the incredible things I saw, experiences had, and insightful panels attended. But reflecting back on my experience at E3, I’m nostalgic for all the traits I’ve picked up while gaming. I believe that searching along every hidden path and in every corner of the map helped me become a more dedicated person, ensuring every task is completed. Raising my Pokémon to be as strong as possible helped me learn patience and kindness. Replaying a challenging boss multiple times instilled a sense of perseverance. And taking on challenges with friends made me a team player before I played sports.

Too often in my life, I’ve heard people say gaming is a waste of time. I’ve made a point of choosing not to listen. As gaming continues to become the most popular form of entertainment, and opening new opportunities, I can’t help but look back.

I know I made the right decision to power up that little blue cartridge.


Weber Shandwick’s recent Civility in America study with Powell Tate and KRC Research found 93 per cent of Americans think there is a ‘major’ problem with civility in their country. And the future looks bleak to them, too: More than half of those questioned expect social norms in America to deteriorate even further in coming years.

We Canadians can think ourselves insulated from the worst elements of incivility experienced by our neighbours. But we may not be so different. There are signs uncivil behaviour is on the rise in Canada—in social life and at work—and we can no longer be complacent. Business leaders can help stem this tide by making workplaces a beacon of the values Canadians hold dear. Stepping up for civility in the office is not only the right thing to do, it makes business sense, too. Here’s what you can do about it.

Is Incivility on the Rise in Canada too?

Whether it’s the sneers of MPs, the voices on social media seeking to exploit our anxieties about the future, the ‘fake news’ targeting us online, or a distressing rise in cyberbullying among youth, we continue to see a wearing down of social discourse at home.

Speaking earlier this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought to reaffirm our status as a country “…that understands respecting someone else’s fundamental rights in no way takes away from your own…”, encouraging Canadians to come together and “have real conversations…in a respectful way that doesn’t shut down or shut off people.”

Many Canadians identify civility as an important national value, alongside multiculturalism, openness, compassion and equality. So how do we, as Canadian marketers and business operators help combat its breakdown?

The Workplace: Beacon of Civility

One bright spot for civility is the workplace. Despite having a not-so-rosy outlook on social discourse across the country, nine in 10 Americans polled in the Civility in America survey nevertheless described their office as ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ civil.

As GM of Weber Shandwick’s Vancouver office, I’m responsible for growing and maintaining our culture and reputation. I firmly believe when our values are under attack, the work spaces we share become an important place to champion civil behaviour (we spend a third of our lives there, after all). Faced with declining social norms, Canadian leaders have a unique opportunity to help build and preserve a culture of civility in the office.

Here are four ways business and HR leaders can make that happen:

  1. Organizational Values

Making civility the foundation of a culture that prioritizes respectful collaboration with peers and clients will help people understand what’s expected of them. It will also encourage employees to take responsibility for the co-creation of an organizational culture that values and promotes civil discourse.

  1. Employee Code of Conduct

Almost all organizations communicate to their employees the type of positive workplace culture they want to create. To go one step further, onboarding sessions and materials can include clear and unequivocal guidance as to the level of civility expected at work. Consider including a measurable and time-sensitive contribution towards creating that culture in employee assessment goals. 

  1. Forums for Debate & Discussion

It’s crucial to create a positive and inclusive space for discussion of civility and workplace norms, and to make time for those discussions to happen. Set the meetings, invite experts and speakers from outside the organization if possible, and make this compulsory time to reflect on and discuss the importance of a civil workplace culture for all employees. 

  1. DEI Committee

Establishing a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) committee is another indispensable part of creating a positive and inclusive space and wider culture of civility. Doing so holds the organization accountable to its goals and engages the broader workplace community to participate in the key parts of DEI strategy that reflect their needs and expectations.

Civility and Reputation

Why make civility a priority? Here’s another important reason: Disregard for social norms in workplace culture can profoundly affect reputation. Simply put, your brand as an employer is your public brand. And research tells us that corporate reputation still drives market value by up to 60 per cent.

An organization can work for years to create its story, only to lose control of its narrative when bad behaviour tests a culture of professionalism. Heightened sensitivity to sliding social norms in the workplace has prompted organizations—and entire industries—to overhaul their cultures to ensure survival. And while metrics are set, and met, we would do well to remember that protection and maintenance of reputation is a long-term, and an ongoing, project. There’s no magic pill, no silver bullet. The most effective strategy remains proactive management of risk as a best practice, within a culture of civility and preparedness designed to anticipate, prevent and diffuse negative issues.

“Civility costs nothing, and buys us everything.” The poet Mary Wortley Montagu’s words, written more than 250 years ago, still ring true. Worsening incivility on either side of the border creates considerable challenges for our business and that of our clients. Let’s strive to make our workplaces better prepared to weather the storm, by building and growing cultures that cause our shared values and respect for each other to resonate throughout our workplaces and shine in our work.


Our industry has a love-hate relationship with awards. It feels great to celebrate our hard work. But it also takes so much effort to submit. On top of that, each year it seems there’s another new award show to enter and follow.

It all makes you wonder sometimes if awards really matter.

My answer: Absolutely yes. And here’s why.

Awards hold us all to higher standards and better work. Most people don’t wake up in the morning and say ‘hey, I want to engage with a brand today.’

It pays to pay attention to the winning work. With our industry constantly evolving, award-winning work serves as a snapshot of where we are today. And a catalyst to where we might be going. The stakes are higher for marketing these days because people don’t see marketing as simply marketing anymore. It’s treated like any other piece of content in the public domain. With no clear borders between culture, business, technology, marketing and politics, what brands say matters more than ever before. Seeing world-class work challenges us to level up the work we do for clients.

Creating value wins awards. And hearts, minds and wallets.

With everything demanding our attention, building awareness is not enough. Campaigns must create value in order to have impact. They need to be designed to have a value beyond the product, service or message we are promoting – be it problem solving, social good, driving change, empowerment, access, entertainment or utility. In other words, it needs to be something people seek out to benefit themselves or society.

Take for example, our #BuickStyle: The Ultimate Driving Shoe campaign, which captured CPRS 2019 Ace Creative PR Campaign Of The Year and a 2019 SABRE Diamond award. Our approach was to engage a younger demographic by partnering with a fashion brand to produce a new product – and tell a design and craftmanship story in the process. Our other award-winning campaigns like the Big Mac Coin and The Woods Parka Lodge also tapped into something real to create genuine value; both have been celebrated at many awards shows so far.

And with the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Championships for the first time, I’m reminded of our Bud Light’s Victory Fridge program in Cleveland that allowed the brand to become deeply involved in celebrating and rallying a community.

Based on our benchmarking of the recent award show circuit, the most impactful campaigns address three critical questions:

  1. How do we make the idea stick? This ensures the message and activation build a bridge between the brand world and the real world. It’s about the context, and how to insert the brand’s point of view – and opportunity – within it.
  2. How do we make the idea real? This is about going beyond channels and starting with audiences to ensure news value, accuracy, repetition, trust and advocacy. Positioning used to describe how your brand related to competitors in your category; now, it’s about describing how your brand relates to society at large.
  3. How do we make the idea count? Ultimately, any campaign must ladder back to a business objective. Ask yourself: what are you putting out into the real world that is tangible and demonstrable? Use data validation, audience journey mapping and asset/tool production to create that real impact.

Are you ready to push your work into award-winning territory?

If you’d like to hear more about this year’s awards show learnings, get in touch. We’d love to share Weber Shandwick’s ‘Cannes-piration’ – a look at the trends, benchmarks and insights after the festival wraps later this month. We’ll walk you through our POV on the best work from the world’s biggest creative festival and talk about the insights and innovation that earned the awards.

We may have a love-hate relationship with awards, but we love sharing great work.

C2 Takeaways: Act More Human

It is estimated that by 2030 Artificial Intelligence (AI) will contribute $15.7 trillion (USD) to the global economy. Machine learning is poised to impact everything from manufacturing to medicine and from agriculture to financial systems. Meanwhile, consumers interact with AI on a regular basis, whether it’s Amazon’s recommendations or Gmail’s auto-complete feature.

It’s no surprise that talk of AI was inescapable at C2, especially considering the theme for 2019 was ‘Tomorrow’. Keynote speaker WILL.I.AM made headlines when he announced a partnership with Stradigi AI during the conference. The musician-turned-tech entrepreneur will take on an advisory role with the Montreal-based AI company.

So, at a time when organizations are becoming increasingly intertwined and dependent on AI, what’s a brand to do to ensure a healthy bond with consumers? Act more human. Throughout C2, discussions repeatedly circled back to the idea that to succeed in the future companies must be more authentic, trustworthy and values-driven.

According to Hollywood, self-aware machines aren’t to be trusted. And while we’ve yet to witness a robot uprising, consumers are wary of the technology that we use daily, especially when it comes to data and privacy. It’s no wonder that companies have an incentive to act more human, now more than ever.

Acting human isn’t just reserved for those employing AI – it’s a sound strategy for any company at a time consumer trust is at dangerously low levels. So how does a company act more human?

  1. By caring about the world and its inhabitants. IKEA’s Dominique Fularski presented a plan from the Swedish retail giant to become completely circular by 2030. In the not-too-distant future, IKEA will be exclusively using existing materials to build new products while helping customers extend the life of or reuse IKEA products they already own.
  2. By treating people like people, with real emotions. Alicia Tillmam is CMO at SAP, the world’s largest provider of enterprise application software. One might expect a presentation from a tech giant to focus on speeds and feeds. Instead, she did a deep dive into research about the 27 distinct feels humans have and the importance of appealing to one another on an emotional basis.
  3. By having values, and actually living them. Refinery 29 co-founder Piera Gelardi talked about how Gen-Z is a values-driven generation: a group who will decide to patronize companies based on its values. Be warned though: ‘having values’ and living them are two different things, and Gen Z will be more discerning than previous generations. Piera talked about the evolution of its 29Rooms event, which evolved from an Instagramable pop-up event to a series of experiences informed by the values important to attendees: social justice, gender equality and disconnecting from technology to reconnect with each other.

Acting human requires trust and care. Is your company one that people can trust? And a company that genuinely cares for the world?

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