Five commandments for brands considering marketing with purpose

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Five commandments for brands considering marketing with purpose

Good afternoon everybody. Today, I’m going to share with you five commandments for brands that are considering venturing on the brave path of marketing with purpose.

Now, some of you will have seen various creative entering the market recently, where the brand has elected to pursue a message that has purpose at its very core. Most noteworthy for me was the Heineken advert, which is titled ‘Worlds Apart’.

What this has done, this batch of creatives that’s entered the market, is it stimulated a debate within our industry about, what is the function of marketing? Is it what it’s always been about? Is it about creating more awareness and then changing peoples’ preference so that we contribute to the bottom line through incremental sales. Or, can we make it about something bigger, something loftier, something that changes the planet, something about purpose, beliefs and missions? And it’s this debate that stimulated me to give you this talk today.

And I thought I would try and add something helpful to the community of marketers out there by creating five commandments that act as qualifying criteria for marketers that are about to embark upon a creative campaign, which has purpose at its very core. So, here goes.

Commandment number one: does thou’s audience give a monkey’s? I don’t think it’s any surprise that you’re seeing a batch of this creative in the market right now. It’s kind of like when all the good movies come out as we enter Oscar fever. What’s happened? These creatives have launched their campaigns, in recent months, right on the cusp of the Cannes Lions Awards. And I think what that tells you, is that some of the marketers out there are governed more by their egos and by winning awards than they are about contributing to the bottom line of the brands that employ them.

I’m not debating for a moment that there is an ever-growing audience of consumers out there that wish to reflect their value set in their consumer behaviour. But, I would challenge marketers to prove with robust data that vast sways of the audiences that they wish to target will engage heavily in the purpose that they wish to propagate.

And if you look at Heineken, they covered a range of topics. And I’m probably within their target audience; I’m a semi-loyal Heineken drinker. And I loved their ad. I absolutely loved the ad. But do I care? Do I really care that Heineken sponsored that creative and has it made any impact on my preference? And I’m a straw poll of one, but the answer is categorically ‘no’.

Commandment number two: can thou commit? When a marketer embarks upon a campaign that has purpose within it, you are touching on a subject matter where passions run so, so high. You might be in an area where people are dedicating their lives to it. So, you cannot afford to simply see it as an opportunity. It’s not a tactical move. You must commit. You can’t enter the fray and open that door and say: “hey guys! I’m with you on this, we’ve got your back”, and then never be seen again. That would damage your brand. You’ll be seen as not authentic. And for that reason, you need to be absolutely sure that you have a long-term roadmap and you have the conviction and resource to see that through and commit to that purpose and align with the audience with whom it will resonate most.

And a great example of a brand who’s done that over the years is Dove, which all of you will have seen. They are for all women. I know some people think they’ve gone too far recently with their curvy shaped bottles, but I think that is a brand that should be admired and Unilever for their long-term planning deserve a pat on the back. They have earned their position and their right to commentate in that area.

Heineken, on the other hand – and again, I love the creative, don’t get me wrong – but they have covered a gamut of topical subjects within that four minute window. And I, for one, find it very hard to second guess how they’re going to now follow through, with conviction and resource, a really solid plan that then backs up that initial commentary.

Commandment number three: can thou build a moat? I think marketers, when we talk about brand building, fundamentally how I distil this down is you’re trying to own an emotional position within the minds of the audiences with which you target. An obvious example, which everybody recites is, if you think Volvo, you think safety. And if you extend that and we bring in Warren Buffett’s investment philosophy, I think building brands is about building a massive, great big castle on high and safe ground and building a massive moat around it and owning that position.

And again, with Heineken, I’m not entirely sure I can distil from their creative, what position are they building? What philosophy can they take forward? What part of my mind are they going to own with that creative? How are they building their brand? Sometimes governing a brand, it’s about not rocking the boat too much. They’re not a plaything.

Commandment number four: can though make more cash? Call me stupid, but surely it’s an absolute law that if businesses don’t make money, they go bust. And one of the core functions of marketing, that has been forever, is to make a business more money. Some brands out there, that have been in existence for 2,000 years, that are built upon beliefs, such as the Catholic church, even they get this, that’s why there’s an offertory at the end of mass.

And, if I look at Heineken and if I look at some of the data that’s coming out at the moment – there was a commentary and campaign recently that illustrated this – a lot of the creatives that are winning awards are not producing campaigns that grow market share for their brands. And I, personally, would wager that the Heineken ad will not produce a positive return on its investment.

And my final commandment: can thou maintain context? I’ve gone a bit leftfield here, but stick with me, okay? Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant, if you order the sashimi, it arrives surrounded by Venezuelan white sand. Apparently, because Heston Blumenthal was told by one of his staff who’s from Venezuela, that’s where you get the whitest sand. So, he imported it. After each serving, they then wash that white sand, it’s an incredible detail they go to. Next to the sashimi, is this shell that you can see. And inside that shell is an iPod, and you plug it in and you listen to the sounds of the ocean as you enjoy your sashimi. Why did Heston Blumenthal go to this trouble?

He did it because he did a study with Oxford University and they proved that sound can boost the sensation of taste. And this is really a lesson for us about context. Context is one of the things we have within our weaponry to change preference for our audiences. And if I look at the Heineken ad, again, and we contrast that – the Heineken ad – to a BMW M5 sweeping though the alps in Switzerland, I know which one heightens my expectation of my experience that I hope to have one day with that brand. And that will influence my preference. That Heineken ad, I could swap that for a San Miguel. No problem. Doesn’t really mean anything.

That brings me nicely to my rightful conclusion. And I am going to end with a little something on Heineken, as well.

If you’re a marketer sat there now and you can positively answer these questions, such as:

  • Am I doing it for my audience, not me? Am I doing it for my audience?
  • Can I commit to this with a long-term roadmap, and do we have the resource and conviction in our business, and the culture, to see it through like Unilever did?
  • Am I owning a sustainable position, an emotional position in the mind of my audience?
  • Am I gonna make my employer more money? That’s absolutely fundamental.
  • And, can I do it in a sustainable context for my brand or a suitable context for my brand?

Then, if you can answer all of that in positive way, it’s my belief that you can fulfil the obligations that are inherent in our profession but, quite possibly, you’ll also be able to do something loftier, something more adventurous, something that might actually win you an award. And, at the same time, you might make the world a better place.

And, as a final thought on the Heineken ad, one of my colleagues, rather humorously pointed out to me, said: “It’s a bloody stupid idea to talk about your differences over alcohol anyway”. Which I thought was rather insightful. Thank you very much.