7 June, 2021
Alberto Martinez

Article originally written for ABC.

Historically speaking the most successful brands have been, and continue to be, those that have a clear purpose. From Disney with its “Create happiness” as far back as 1923, to Google “wanting to organize all information, making it useful and accessible.” From Nike “inspiring and awakening the instinct of sports improvement in each person” to Dove “celebrating the unique beauty in every woman.” It has and will always be the year of brands with a purpose, because only this type of brands are conscious of the REASON WHY they do things, and that enables them to work towards the achievement of their objectives with greater ease.

In the trend we have been witnessing in recent times and that is, fortunately, permeating all segments of the society, we should differentiate between brands that are incorporating social, sustainable, and solidary aspects to their purpose…and those that originate from that purpose. This second type are Brands that aim to do business for the common good, with a vision to build a better future, to make the world a place worth living in, closer to what we used to call a social purpose and which some people refer to nowadays as purpose-driven brands.

Within the first group we would have brands like Levi’s and their changes in the production of jeans, Carrefour’s Black Market or Adidas, or national brands like Estrella Damm.

Brands that are clearly committed to change because they couldn’t, and shouldn’t, continue to do things the way they were doing them before, and who have arrived first in their categories giving them a competitive advantage over their rivals, and being backed up by the essence of innovation, the reason for doing things, and not by product innovation this time round.

The second group would consist of Brands like Tomms with the clear and impressive promise of “we are in business to improve lives”, Allbirds with

“Made From Nature, For Nature”, or the closest to us, ECOALF.

In both cases we are getting good news, so we only have to promote them as communication specialists, and reward them as consumers, something that has already been shown in countless studies from the likes of Gartner or Accenture.

These analyses indicate that now in 2021, we should no longer refer to this as a trend, as something that only a few are experimenting with, but as a consolidated, almost empirical fact, which forces brands that haven’t done so to get down to work to avoid suffering heavy losses in their income statements… When many of them are still coping with the digital transformation, they have already being caught up in the next challenge.

Undoubtedly the pandemic has acted as a catalyst in this matter, social urgency has led to increased consumer scrutiny of the motives and specific measures being taken by the different brands.

Some of them have taken notice and responded to this social demand. Seat started to manufacture respirators, Inditex offered its logistical and contact network to obtain PPE, SAS trained flight attendants to provide healthcare support and offer this support to the authorities…and these actions, these messages, became the best initiatives for the reputation of these brands.

Today we are facing a massive crisis of confidence. People no longer trust in governments, the media, let alone companies. This climate, combined with the absolute access to information by consumers, has meant that expectations from brands has never been higher.

Today it’s not enough to just do something and to do it well, to have a useful product, that tastes good or looks nice, today what matters, and a lot, is why I make this product and more than anything else how I make it. The celebrated reason that we were talking about earlier.

The pandemic, as in many other aspects, has shaken brands and made them see, more clearly, that the product is the base, but it does not guarantee success and that intangible elements like purpose, culture, stature of the brand are indispensable.

The BRANDS, in capital letters, will come out of this stronger, but nowadays that word is built differently to how it was done before.

In times of COVID, importance has been given to things that were not considered before, which have been transformed into corporate messages:

  • Reacting quickly to what is happening when making executive decisions.
  • The pandemic has shown us that society, and businesses, are much more adaptable, more flexible, than we thought they were. Giant corporations have switched to working from home with less than a week’s notice, something that was previously unthinkable for them, and has been a powerful message both internally and externally. 
  • The collaborative attitude. Great social upheavals always involve gestures of solidarity, collaboration, teamwork. That attitude in companies, preferring to earn a little with a lot, rather than a lot with just one, being able to grow exponentially and not just on paper thanks to collaboration…Collaborate, that’s one of the messages that has been reinforced.
  • Take advantage of the momentum of the unblocking work that the pandemic has exerted on many existing obstacles, to move forward, improve, learn, and grow. Not looking back and facing the future in view of the progress that we have made, with hope and positivity. That message also differentiates brands
  • Work as a part of cocooning. The famous comfort zone has been strengthened and work is an important part of it. Worker-centric organizations are highly valued today, and dare I say it, will be a requirement in the future.

Finally, also relevant is the way in which these messages have been communicated.  Not only using the traditional windows such as the media repercussion, RRSS or advertising spots, but also letting us see the important role the main asset of our companies: the people, play in achieving this dissemination; proud of their companies, they published, shared, commented and talked about how their company was managing the situation.

A final consideration to take into account is the influence that this brand purpose has when creating a campaign or an image from an advertising agency Here we can quote Laurence Peter who said, “if you don’t know where you’re going, you will probably end up somewhere else.”

As communication and advertising professionals we always ask to start any project with a good briefing, a clear, concise mandate. Knowing what we have to tell, what we have to communicate and by no means restricting or pigeonholing ideas, on the contrary, it’s a guide, a compass that shows us where we have to go as a brand.

Apple has spent more than three decades doing things that reflect its Think different, Nike launches everything with Just do it, everything from Red Bull is just like their product that “gives you wings”…. They know why they exist and how to communicate it. These brands have created many of the great advertising campaigns in history and will continue to do so because their purpose is perfectly defined and, most importantly, they strictly enforce it.

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