Tuesday, 26 November 2019

A growing number of brands have shifted from simply communicating product benefits to running purpose-led brand marketing campaigns. Initiatives that would’ve once sat with PR or corporate social responsibility teams are now part of mainstream marketing.

As marketers, we recognise the importance of this trend, so we’re on a mission to educate other marketers on how to embrace it through our annual Marketing for Good event. The theme of this year’s client event was the important role brand purpose plays in modern advertising.
We were joined by guest speakers from The Drum, Microsoft, Boots, Extinction Rebellion, Women’s Health and LADbible to talk about what these brands are doing to address the topic. Following some champagne, canapés and conversation, here’s what we learnt…
  1. Consumers are beginning to expect more from brands

Two-thirds of consumers think it’s important for brands to have a point of view on issues in society, while 54% believe brands have a responsibility. Brands and products have always had a purpose, but now they’re talked about more, consumers are buying into brands that share their values.
Tim Lawrence, our new head of strategy at iCrossing, reminded us of Iceland’s inspiring Christmas ad last year. Who’d ever thought of Iceland as a brand that stood for environmental activism? It moved from advertising affordable frozen foods to highlighting the environmental impact of palm oil use. A worthy cause and a meaningful subject for the masses.
  1. …But consumers are also cynical

The reaction to the Iceland ad wasn’t all positive. The question is, can marketing actually be ‘for good’, when most goals are set on commercial targets? 47% of consumers think brands that express views on political and social issues are just trying to exploit them, so considering the high demand for brand purpose, it can seem hard to win.
Tim explained how Burger King and Gillette gave marketing for good a go through recent ad campaigns, and M&S introduced their Pride sandwich that divided opinion. It needs to be day in, day out passion that shines through, not just marketing expertise.
  1. Honesty and authenticity are key

Consumers are increasingly losing trust in brands. The UK is at its lowest ever point of trust in the government, with trust in media and organisations also plummeting. So how can brands gain audience assurance? Consumers are looking for brands to be responsible and authentic, whatever their purpose. Your brand can be ethical without a purpose, but it must be true to its values.
Grace Vernon, global trends lead at Boots told us it’s essential to only make claims that can be backed up.

“At the end of the day, your brand needs to be authentic. When you establish a brand point of view, you need to walk the walk and talk the talk, otherwise consumers will see right through it. The key word is ‘trust’.”
  1. Know the trends… but don’t always jump on them

If there’s anyone who knows about trends in health and beauty, it’s Grace Vernon. She talked to us about how different the consumers’ idea of health is today – there’s a huge shift from focusing on the physical, and more towards mental and sexual wellbeing. That’s why Boots launched products like adult toys and CBD-infused skin care.

But that’s just one trend. Boots identifies around 50 trends a year and only acts on the ones their audience are looking for. Grace discouraged us from following the crowd,

“When you follow trends to tick boxes, it’s not a true brand purpose. Lead by understanding what you stand for and why your business was founded.”
  1. Be inclusive

“As a brand publication, we can talk about mental health in a way no one else can,” Nick Hodgkins, head of brand at LADBible told us during the panel chat. When the news and entertainment giant started in 2016, content was male-focused. But LADBible’s audience quickly became a 50/50 gender split as it started to raise awareness of mental health issues.
And Nick reminded us that laughter is the best medicine. The people behind LADBible see high engagement from non-English-speaking countries. “Something our audience loves universally is the fact we make them laugh. As long as we create content with humour, it resonates with anyone.”
  1. Inspire positivity

Claire Sanderson, editor-in-chief at Women’s Health, headed up a campaign for body confidence. In a large-scale research project powered by Hearst, 37% of women said they hated their bodies, choosing to opt out of social situations due to anxiety. So Hearst launched Project Body Love across six leading female publisher brands.
The result? People shared and celebrated plus size women on social media, surveyed women said body confidence improved, and Hearst has completely changed the way it runs campaigns by being more body positive.
  1. Do it together

A shared brand purpose will have an even bigger impact, so get everybody involved. Will Skeaping, passionate Extension Rebellion activist, explained how small changes (like one person using paper straws over plastic) won’t combat climate change.
Brands should think about the tangible difference they can make when establishing a shared motivation. If it’s small, get together for a big conversation.
The emergence of purpose makes it even more important for brands to listen to and understand consumer values. Reflecting these in an authentic way creates a brand purpose and helps differentiate from competition.
A clear theme is that brands doing this have an ethical and environmental responsibility, and while this doesn’t have to be a brand’s purpose, it’s important to consider the world as part of a brand image.