MAY 18, 2023

Re:Connect Summit: The Next Marketing KPI is Return on Connection


Several elite marketers took the stage in Montreal to tell attendees at Re:Connect, the semi-annual global summit of independent agency network Worldwide Partners, that marketing needs to reconnect emotionally with people. And that will take significant shifts in how marketers think about, hire for, and evaluate advertising – including making return on connection a key performance indicator. 

Greg Hoffman, who led many groundbreaking campaigns as CMO of Nike, called on marketers to “transcend what they sell” and restore the balance between art and science – because the industry has moved too far into the science of predictability and programmatic. Instead of asking how people will feel about their brands, marketers need to “ask an additional question: how do we want people to feel about themselves, and their ability to achieve their aspirations and dreams when they engage with us?” 

Greg Hoffman at Re:Connect Global Summit

Nike’s Former CMO Greg Hoffman speaking at Worldwide Partners Re:Connect Global Summit in Montreal

Hoffman said marketers need to develop collective empathy, so their brands become accessible and aspirational again. That will require a new commitment to curiosity and diversity, and an approach to creativity as a team sport. The most powerful ideas often come from outside your category, he said, noting that the idea for NIKE Air came from a NASA scientist. And the greatest team innovations come from connecting people who lead very different lives, so collectively they see and feel what others can’t. Hoffman said this also promotes speed, just as the Brazilian national football team’s diverse players create spontaneous opportunities by reacting to each other’s eccentric moves. 

“Talent starts the game, but chemistry wins it,” said Hoffman. “Authenticity is your cultural currency. You can’t manufacture it.”

To truly reconnect with consumers, marketers need to reconnect with agencies. Hoffman and Pete Carter, longtime P&G marketing executive and founder of Creative Haystack, agreed that marketers need partnership they can only get by “treating agencies like family.” Carter led a redesign of P&G’s agency recruitment process – “ditch the pitch” – and now matches clients with agencies without the RFP processes. Instead, he leads marketers to research ideal partners, interview a select group of agencies, and concentrate on the chemistry and trust that develops naturally. 

Pete Carter at Re:Connect Global Summit

Creative Haystack’s Pete Carter sharing lessons learned from 40 years working at P&G  

“Clients need agency partners, not just suppliers, because partners can save your brand,” said Carter. “The current pitch process doesn’t put enough emphasis on trust. You need to see if these are the kinds of people who share your values and understand your consumer the way you do.” 

Trust forms the basis of the Worldwide Partners network, which has grown substantially since in recent years as both an agency community and a client resource. In 2017, Worldwide had 52 partners in 24 countries; today, it has 83 partners in 44 countries. All of the partners are carefully selected to present a portfolio of services and category expertise that clients can access effectively in a single market or on a multinational basis.

Thanks to collaboration among partner agencies, Worldwide Partners has doubled its new business and grown organic client business by 21% in the past year. 

John Harris at Re:Connect Global Summit

Worldwide Partners President and CEO John Harris speaking to Re:Connect Global Summit attendees 

“The collective creativity and energy marketers need to reconnect with consumers will come from a flexible talent pool, and that starts with independent agencies,” said John Harris, CEO of Worldwide Partners. “A unified team of elite specialists beats a uniform conglomerate in any discipline or market. A growing number of clients are realizing they can get a much higher return on connection from committed partners than they can from a holding company.”

Written By:
Angie Pascale