Consumers are in flux: at a time when technology seems as isolating as it is enabling and an era where governments and governance feel more divisive than ever, they believe that brands can help bridge the gap.
Marketers are increasingly looking towards purpose-driven advertising and communications, as this year’s Cannes International Festival of Creativity highlighted yet, they warn, that purpose must resonate.
Senior marketers joined WE global marketing SVP Kristin Flor Perret and The Drum associate editor Sonoo Singh to discuss how prioritising humanity can be a powerful competitive advantage.
Steve Axe, chief marketing officer, Nomad Foods; Annabel Venner, global brand director and CMO for DirectAsia at Hiscox; and Alice ter Haar, senior manager, EU marketing, Deliveroo joined the panel event held at Shakespeare’s Globe on Thursday, September 19.
Driving purpose is not just a millennial trend, and it’s way beyond brand puffery
“There is a broad range of people looking to buy purpose-driven brands that reflect their values,” said Venner, adding that it was a myth that this trend was mainly millennial.
“Hiscox as a brand doesn’t have a purpose, but as a business we do,” she added, saying that they took that business purpose, translated it into strong values that were then linked to the brand’s advertising. “We don’t come up with marketing puffery around purpose, it is very much around the heart of the business.”
Purpose and a point of view had to be linked back to the business and its core, said Axe, or else run the risk of coming across as “inauthentic”. As a food business it was relevant for Nomad to have a point of view around issues such as sustainability and climate change, but less relevant for it to play to political or other macro considerations.
He points to brands that have gone into places where they did not necessarily have relevance “and consumers very quickly unravel that. They know it’s not what your brand is about.”
Earlier, WE’s Flor Perret outlined the integrated communication’s agency’s third Brands in Motion survey which polled more than 25,000 consumers and decision-makers across eight global markets.
The data uncovered a growing expectation and clear opportunity for brands to bring greater stability to an increasingly polarised world. Some 83% of respondents believed that brands could play a greater role in providing stability, and 74% that they expected brands to take a stand on important issues.
A time for personal accountability
This year there was also a call for collective accountability, with 96% saying that consumers – as well as government and brands, had a role to play in ethical responsibility.
The findings chimed with the panel. Ter Haar said there had to be personal accountability: “We’re not all passive consumers. We know the risks of fake news and how it can change elections; do all sorts of scary stuff. But each of us does have such an important individual responsibility.”
Another topic the panel discussed was around data, and business and technology platforms’ responsibilities towards its use. Venner said that as an insurance company it had a lot of data on its customers and had done a “huge amount” beyond that imposed by law such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and imagined (or feared) a future where data could be used against individuals in such industries as insurance. “There’s an inordinate amount of risk in the data that you give out. I really don’t think consumers know what they’re giving up.”
Disruptor vs the disrupted
Flor Perret conceded that marketing with a purpose is often easier for disruptors and start-ups such as Deliveroo, free from the constraints of legacy structures and established ways of working and thinking, but as Axe pointed out – purpose-driven marketing and disruption are nothing new. The brands that have stood the test of time have always been "doing" disruption and purpose.
“When they were born they had a purpose, they were disruptors… the likes of Clarence Birdseye [an American inventor, entrepreneur, and considered to be the founder of the modern frozen food industry] were trying to do things socially, economically, politically,” he said. “Disruption has been at the heart of brands since day one. It might be a faster turnaround today, but there’s also a faster burn-around as well. The challenge when you get to a certain size is that people forget,” added Axe, urging such businesses to get back to storytelling the core of why their brands mattered and matter.
It’s all to play for, according to Flor Perret, of brands' prioritising humanity to connect with their consumers. “Over the three years [of Brands in Motion] expectations have never gone down for brands - they’ve stayed flat or gone up,” she said. “This is happening in a world we agree is getting more complicated, there are more choices and yet consumer expectations are higher.”
To further explore the growing expectation and opportunity for brands to bring greater stability to what has become an increasingly polarized world, WE and YouGov released its third iteration of Brands in Motion.
The Brands in Motion 2019 global study aims to quantify the motion brands experience every day — and understand how this motion is either driven or inspired by technology. In 2019, consumers continue to have very high expectations for how brands will use technology to innovate.
To download the free report complete the form below.