Cannes Lions: Susan Johnson, CMO of SunTrust Bank speaks on the power of confidence

A session at Cannes Lions highlighted the importance of confidence in helping people realise their true potential

On the final day of Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2018, three delegates sat down to explore the secrets of confidence that help ordinary people find direction, overcome obstacles, navigate uncertainty and create change.

The session titled ‘The Strange Power of Confidence’ started off with Susan Somersille Johnson, Chief Marketing Officer of SunTrust Bank sharing her personal and professional experiences which had produced more confidence in her. The Harvard and Wharton graduate began her career as an engineer before she became a marketer, “Doing math and science built confidence in me because they were based on facts, but marketing was different. I was going to be judged by everyone. Confidence just doesn’t grow at a steady rate, it fluctuates, it fails, and often your fear will overcome it. But there are key moments when you have to make a decision.”

Johnson is reinventing the marketing playbook for SunTrust—bridging technology, creativity and marketing to revitalise the 127-year-old financial services brand and propel it onto a larger stage. “In the US, 80% people are worried about their finances. The truth is everyone can achieve financial confidence which will give you greater life satisfaction and greater confidence. We found three principles that led to financial confidence, first is to know what matters most to you - when your priorities are clear, your confidence doesn’t waiver. Second, use the tools that available and learn from those who have experienced and conquered the same problem. And the third, forget shame and pride - lean on a friend, nobody likes to talk about money but with a friend you can.” SunTrust launched an initiative called the ‘onUp’ to inspire confidence through personal finances which was showcased during the Super Bowl. The program now has over 3.4 million participants.

The initiative was produced by Scott Goodson, founder and CEO of StrawberryFrog, “I believe advertising can do more than sell products, it can start a movement. A movement is about experience, about action, the courage to start something new. When you start something new you need a lot of confidence. Leaders learn a lot from societal movements, you can apply the principles of societal movements in order to globalise the masses and drive positive change.”

StrawberryFrog created movements for SunTrust, Emirates, Heineken, Mahindra, Jim Beam, and many more, “We worked with Jim Beam, a legacy spirits brand that was in need of a brand facelift. We wanted to change the way consumers looked at Jim Beam and bourbon in general, so we created a movement called ‘Make History’ with a young female spokesperson, actress Mila Kunis. And it worked. Movements motivate people to try new things, traditional marketing does not. We are private army of movement makers, not an ad agency.”

Goodson then introduced actor and producer, David Oyelow, who portrayed Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., which required a lot of confidence, to the session. Oyelowo shared how confidence plays a major part in any life pursuit, especially acting. He emphasised how confidence comes with learning, preparing and working with seasoned professionals such as actors Daniel Day-Lewis and Tom Cruise.

Oyelowo said that we are all on the journey of learning hence it is important to ask questions and learn continuously. “I don’t think confidence is something that is innate for us as human beings. It’s something that is learned. That, as far as I’m concerned, is to do with preparation. The level of preparation makes you confident, it’s the same for a man and a woman. Anything I have achieved is entirely linked to the amount of preparation I had done before the performance. Dr King was a prime example of someone who gained confidence in the face of adversity by drawing on what was important to him alongside intense preparation,” he concluded.

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