Flexibility and empathy: Two ingredients for business change

Brands with an appetite for risk, unconventional thinking and creative problem-solving are reinventing their business operations to drive transformative change. And this year’s winners have taken things a step further, with the most dynamic transformations using creative solutions to change the fundamentals of how businesses operate and inspire industry-wide, cultural change that will have a lasting impact.

So, how have they done this?

Movement not a moment

Lions-winning work and the content from major brands and agencies speaking on our stages this year showed us that a sustainable business transformation needs to be more than just a ‘good’ idea. It needs to have a strong social impact to deliver profitable growth and permanent change. It needs to be more than a one brief campaign. It needs to start a movement, not a moment.

Brands need to ask themselves: do I have permission to be in this space? Can we help solve other problems elsewhere? How can we use partnerships to fix the whole ecosystem? Does this idea have durability?

Alessandro Manfredi, Chief Marketing Officer, Dove talked of ‘purpose fatigue’ with businesses needing to deliver social impact authentically to drive this transformation.

Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer at Procter & Gamble, agreed. He said the challenge for brands is to be discerning. Choose where you can have the most impact, make a genuine difference but also keep economic growth front of mind, be a

‘force for growth, to be a force for good’.

Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer, Procter & Gamble discusses creativity as a business amplifier in his talk 'P&G: Creativity as a force for growth.'

“As we face disruption, it will be more important than ever to double down on our core job, our collective responsibility. We have a super-power that no other industry in the world has: creativity for growth.”

Marc Pritchard Chief Brand Officer | Procter & Gamble

The circular economy revolution has made its way into much of the winning work this year as brands find a purpose for what would usually be considered waste. The multi-award-winning Piñatex by L&C New York for Dole, scooped six Lions including the Grand Prix in Creative Business Transformation, for doing just that. It took three years to develop the idea and involved food giant Dole, one of the world’s largest producers of pineapples, partnering with Ananas Anam to produce Piñatex. This vegan, cruelty-free and sustainable leather alternative was made from the fibre of pineapple leaves that would otherwise have gone to waste.


L&C NEW YORK | 2022

  • 1000 brands globally are now using Piñatex (including Hugo Boss, H&M and Nike)
  • The programme generated more than $100m for Dole

To drive mass behavioural change and creative business transformation, brands are stepping outside of their categories [Dole is not just a food provider, it’s now a vegan leather manufacturer], combining creative ideas with authentic problem-solving to inspire cultural and social change.

‘Movement not a moment’ requires commitment to the cause. The work that stood out for the jury had purpose ingrained into the mission of the brand.

“The impact of Piñatex has transformed both a brand and an industry. What we saw was purposeful transformation, but also long-term impact.”

Damasia Merbilhàa Regional Vice President | Latin America | TBWA

Creative Business Transformation Lions Juror

Showing this thinking in action are the Industry Craft and Media Lions Grand Prix Winner Hope Reef, AMV BBDO London for Mars, and Print & Publishing Lions Grand Prix Winner The Elections Edition, by Impact BBDO Dubai for An-Nahar.





Radical collaboration

Rupen Desai, Global Chief Marketing Officer for Dole, said a transformation of this scale and complexity came about through collaboration between teams, from supply chain, procurement and finance through to innovation, product development, marketeers, and creatives.

Chrissie Hanson, Global Chief Strategy Officer, OMD and Creative Strategy Lions Jury President calls this approach "radical collaboration".

“There is unlimited potential to transform any business but we need to transform the way we approach creativity. Stop asking where an idea came from, it can come from anywhere. It’s about collaboration.”

Ronald Ng Global Chief Creative Officer | MRM

Creative Business Transformation Lions Jury President

And it involves creativity permeating across the business, said Kaleeta (Wright) McDade, Global Executive Creative Director Ogilvy and Creative Business Transformation Lions juror, but most importantly from the C Suite and CEO. A horizontal ideas funnel delivers transformation across the whole business.

Joan Colletta, Senior Director, Global Brand Marketing, McDonalds, offered some tips on effective collaboration. She recommended sharing briefs at early stages so all markets can learn and have access to each other’s work, and sharing ideas across markets and agencies.

Brands should be opening up to collaboration and partnerships. Confident brands have more flexibility. There is a tendency to protect brands and create rigidity, where no one else gets to interact. That stance lacks confidence. A brand co-owned and co-authored by lots of people, that’s cool.”

Neal Arthur Global CEO | Wieden+Kennedy New York

Speaking at McDonald's and Wieden+Kennedy's Cannes Lions 2022 talk 'Finding the Fan in Everyone'

Collaboration on the end-to-end process was a key driver of the success for Visit Sweden’s Discover The Originals campaign which scooped up Silver in the Creative Strategy Lions. The agency Forsman & Bodenfors Gothenburg said: 'the fact that our agency sees strategy and creative as one process, where planners and creatives work tightly together from day one, was definitely beneficial in the making of this campaign.’

More diverse skills and backgrounds on a team can bring a wider array of ideas to the table leading to creative transformation within all areas of the business, from supply chain through to customer demand and digital commerce.



Technology combined with EQ

Creative Strategy Lions Grand Prix winner 'The Breakaway: the first eCycling team for prisoners' by BBDO Belgium Molenbeek-Saint-Jean for Decathlon shows how technology combined with emotional intelligence and a human angle is helping to inspire transformative change.

Launching the first eCycling team for prisoners on Zwift, a virtual world where 3 million cyclists race and ride together, the campaign enabled inmates from a maximum-security prison in Oudenaarde, Belgium, to ride as anonymous athletes. Using the metaverse for inclusion has transformed ideas on prisoner rehabilitation and become a catalyst for change.



“The products we imagine, the stories we shine a light on, the characters we champion, they’re born from real challenges. Human stories of awareness.”

DJ Van Hameren Chief Marketing Officer | Nike

Speaking at Nike’s Cannes Lions 2022 talk 'There Is No Finish Line'

As part of the LIONS Marketers event at Cannes Lions, J Walker Smith, Chief Knowledge Officer, Kantar, explained that success requires a deeper understanding of the journey of people’s lives, not just more data about the shopper journey. He said leaders must build businesses on a foundation of empathy, which means putting the human experience at the centre of everything you do, not just the customer.

“Breakout ideas must be smarter than ever. Consumers expect this. They want us to be more human. Leading brands that are growing and pulling away from the rest of the marketplace are doing this. It requires new, imaginative ways of doing business”

J Walker Smith Chief Knowledge Officer | Kantar

Using tech to make us more human and deliver creative business transformation was also seen in Michelob Ultra’s adaptive AI piece by FCB New York ‘McEnroe vs McEnroe’, which won five Lions including a Gold in Digital Craft.

The brand gave John McEnroe the experience of playing real-life tennis against a virtual version of his younger self on the other side of the court. The physical-virtual portal used pioneering technology, such as Unreal MetaHuman tech, to create a first-of-its-kind portal which has the potential to reimagine the ways in which we play, learn and interact.



Creativity can be applied beyond brand communications to deliver transformational business change. Consider how you establish your business to encourage and inspire collaboration. Bring multi-disciplinary teams together to tackle business challenges using the key facets of creativity - lateral-thinking and human-centred design. Lead with purpose and focus on problem solving for people's day-to-day challenges or long-term goals, and not just their consumer journey to your product or service.