As part of our ongoing Peer Network series, we hosted a briefing featuring Sarika Sangwan, Global Head of Financial Services Strategy & Marketing at Pinterest — who emphasized that the role of brand trust and brand safety is elevated, and even more valuable to consumers, since the onset of COVID-19.
Before joining Pinterest, Sangwan spent a decade at American Express on the Global Advertising and Brand Management teams. She also worked at charity: water as the Director of Marketing where she helped launch their first marketing department as well as a variety of other organizations dedicated to making business a force for good.
In her Peer Network briefing, Sangwan discusses the role of brands post-COVID-19, addressing their power to inspire consumers and marketers through great communication, while staying authentic and trustworthy in a tense environment.
Sangwan worked with Pinterest while at Amex, and it was there that she became intrigued with the platform as a full-funnel opportunity for marketers.
“Consumers come to Pinterest with the intent to buy, which seemed different from other social platforms. I liked the fact branded pins are considered content, as opposed to ads, on the platform. That combination of intent to buy and ads being content is a great opportunity for marketers.”
In addition to admiring Pinterest from a professional standpoint, Sangwan is a long-time user (called “pinners” by Pinterest staff). She’s used Pinterest as a source of inspiration to fuel important moments in her life such as her wedding, how to choose her family’s Halloween costumes and to decorate her house.
“It’s a delight to work for a platform that I believe in so much from a personal and professional standpoint. It provides a lot of positivity and inspiration.”
“Pinterest’s mission is to bring everyone the inspiration to create a life they love,” says Sangwan. “Their goal is to become the world’s inspiration company.”
From a marketing perspective, Pinterest enables users to search for inspiration in a visual way, offering brands a chance to connect with consumers as they’re searching for inspiration.
Post COVID-19, Pinterest has been seeing a record level of engagement on the platform, with global monthly active users growing by 25% in Q1 and searches up over 60%.
“This showed us that, despite the fact that people are going through a really difficult time, they are still looking for positivity and inspiration,” says Sangwan.
Over 90% of Pinterest users view the platform as a positive place, with 80% of users coming to Pinterest to feel good. Pinterest maintains this positivity in a few different ways.
First, they don’t allow political ads. They also filter out what they consider to be negative content and actively monitor controversial content from misleading sources. Sangwan uses the example of vaccine-related posts.
“Last February we started filtering what results came up when people searched for vaccines. We decided that any vaccine-related content should be sourced from the World Health Organization or from the Centers for Disease Control — very credible organizations that people can trust. Pinterest did something similar to searches related to COVID-19, making sure results came from trustworthy organizations like the WHO.
Pinterest is a place where people come to plan life’s small and large moments, from getting ideas for dinner to planning the purchase of a new home. As a result, they have information about what people are planning to do in the future.
“These insights are priceless,” explains Sangwan. “It’s like having a crystal ball around what consumers are going to do in the future — where they plan to travel, the food they’re going to eat, what type of car they’re going to buy, and more. It’s a predictive tool that spans multiple verticals and industries.”
In response to the uncertainty around COVID-19, Pinterest formulated an internal taskforce to mine the insights they were seeing on the platform, then packaged those insights in a weekly email for their advertisers. Sangwan cites an example of how spice manufacturer, McCormick, leveraged this information in their marketing campaigns.
“Early into the COVID-19 crisis, we noticed that searches for how to make bread had increased by twelve times. People were stuck at home and some groceries were no longer available. People were inspired to make those goods themselves. We brought this statistic to the attention of McCormick who developed a pin that featured homemade bread recipes.”
McCormick’s campaign hit record levels of engagement on Pinterest because it was closely related to what people were searching for in that moment.
Another example is related to travel searches. Sangwan focuses on the financial services vertical and works with advertisers like Amex and Chase who have many travel-related credit card products.
At the beginning of COVID-19, travel searches dropped significantly, but starting in April, Pinterest began to see travel-related searches come back. “That helped advertisers understand that their travel products had started to become relevant again,” says Sangwan.
Sangwan emphasized that the role of brand trust and brand safety is elevated, and even more valuable to consumers, since the onset of COVID-19.
The Edelman Trust Barometer, which measures the distrust of media as fueled by social media, found that half of people believe that businesses are doing poorly, or mediocre at putting businesses and people before profits.
“Only 43% of people believe that companies are actually protecting their employees sufficiently from COVID-19,” says Sangwan, “But what’s interesting is that 62% of consumers didn’t think that their country would make it through the crisis without brands playing a critical role in the fight against coronavirus.”
Sangwan has four key takeaways for brands who want to elevate trust during this time:
Says, Sangwan, “I think it’s vital for a brand to align with the core principles of empathy, authenticity, and transparency in order to build trust.”