By Abhinav Kumar, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer − Global Markets, Tata Consultancy Services

At the start of every year, the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos helps define, shape and kickstart a global dialogue on the key opportunities and challenges ahead. 

Among the 3,000 delegates are world leaders, CEOs, leading academics, NGOs, journalists and media companies. It’s the only gathering of its scale and kind.

But, increasingly, another group are making the trek up the “Magic Mountain,” as nobel laureate Thomas Mann once dubbed the event. On its 50th anniversary, some 150 Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and Chief Communications Officers attended.

Here are my top five insights for CMOs from this year’s Davos:

1. Climate change is top of the agenda

The theme of the meeting this year was “Stakeholders for a cohesive and sustainable world”, with a focus on climate change. The Forum’s Global Risk Report said that, for the first time, the top five risks to our planet in the next decade involve climate change.

Companies are starting to do more on this front, whether voluntarily or under pressure – think Greta Thunberg and student strikes in 125 countries. For CMOs, defining purpose along these lines will be a major priority.

Microsoft made a historic declaration that it would become one of the first companies in the world to go carbon negative. At an event hosted by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Brand Finance, CEOs and CMOs agreed that climate was a key part of corporate purpose.

2. The rise of China

Unveiling its Global 500 report at Davos, Brand Finance CEO David Haigh shared the staggering statistic that brands from the US continue to dominate, accounting for 205 of the top 500 global brands with a combined brand value of $3.2 trillion.

David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance, on stage in Davos. Source: Tata Consultancy Services

Yet the story of the past decade has been the dramatic rise of China. In 2010 there were just 20 China-based companies in the top 500, with a combined brand value of $112 billion. Today there are 75 companies in the list, with brands worth $1.37 trillion.

This represents an exponential rise in the brand presence and brand value for a region traditionally not known to invest in building global brands. India, by contrast, had just 11 firms in the Global 500, led by our own parent – Tata Group.

CMOs who are yet to have a China brand strategy need to sit up and take notice of this trend.

3. Technology, technology, technology

In Davos, taking a stroll along the main street is a good way of assessing which companies have the greatest presence and are therefore part of rising sectors. In recent years the Promenade has come to be dominated by technology firms. Technology was the top sector in the Global 500 brand list, accounting for a growing 15% of global brand value.

The Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution focuses on six areas: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning; Blockchain; Internet of Things and Robotics; Data Policy; Urban Mobility; and Drones.

Today every company either is, or aspires to be, a digital company. CMOs therefore need to understand where technology is going − and its impact on their businesses and brands.

4. Inclusion is no longer progressive, it’s the standard

Davos has sometimes been criticized for the fact that only a fraction of its official delegates are women. Although much more needs to be done to attain gender parity, change is starting to happen. In 2020, 24% of delegates were female, up from just 15% in 2014.

Priyanka Chopra-Jonas, Actress, Producer and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and Moira Forbes, Executive Vice President of Forbes Media, in discussion at Davos. Source: Tata Consultancy Services

Organizations such as The Female Quotient, led by Shelley Zalis, and Women Political Leaders, founded by Silvana Koch-Mehrin, have increased their presence at Davos, campaigning for gender parity in boardrooms, parliaments, executive committees and in Davos itself.

We are proud that our own events at Davos this year had a wide range of women leaders who are smashing glass ceilings and blazing new trails in business, government, media and academia.

As CMOs design events, they need to ensure their events are inclusive and account for voices from all genders, ethnicities, walks of life and streams of thought. There is still work to be done here when you look at the prevailing homogeneity in many tradeshows and company events.

5. Memorable experiences

In today’s world, experiences trump traditional brand promotions. Any good CMO knows that nothing engages the emotions of their consumers more than live experiences.

An Event Track study found that 85% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a brand with which they have interacted during a live event. For TCS, the strategy behind our marathon sponsorships is to engage our clients and employees in an emotional and experiential journey towards fitness and a better life.

At Davos this year, our dome hosted a reception for more than 400 world leaders, with a “Digital Garden” as a backdrop. The theme reflects our support for global forest conservation and the Australian Koala Foundation, which will restore habitat destroyed by wildfires.

We are going to see an increasing number of brands engage in innovative Business to Human (B2H) experiential marketing, and the 2020s will see an ever-greater role for CMOs.