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The power of brand communication with purpose

'The power of purpose' panel discussion is available on demand via The Drum's Digital Transformation Festival website

Brands are increasingly expected to drive marketing messages forward with purpose at their heart - but how can they achieve this authentically to drive an emotional connection with audiences?

According to Harvard Business Research, 64% of consumers say that when they connect with a brand, it’s generally because of a shared value. Now, because of that, it’s not surprising that 70% of CMOs see that having purpose in their marketing messages is a key priority.

As part of The Drum’s Digital Transformation Festival, ‘The power of purpose’ panel, in partnership with Shutterstock, brought together creative minds to explore the power of communication with purpose and highlight the best brands and campaigns with purpose at their core.

Lynn Lester, managing director events & global partnerships at The Drum, put panelists through their paces on whether they believe brands always put purpose at the heart of what they do for the right reasons or whether it’s just something they shoehorn in as an afterthought.

Do what you say, don’t say what you do

Kicking off the discussion, Robin Garnett, VP & creative director, discovery+, Discovery Inc, said: “Clearly brands do have purpose - they have to have purpose or they wouldn’t exist, but the way it’s communicated has to be authentic. You can’t say what you do, you have to do what you say. It has to be believable, credible and sustainable - what the brand does and lives or else it’s going to backfire.”

“It’s admirable that brands want to become something more than just having a product because we’ve got great societal problems happening in the world and we all need to work together to solve the bigger ones,” added Katrina Encanto, global creative director, MullenLowe London. “But it’s also important that brands don’t let their purpose drift from the role they play in people’s lives. It becomes quite tricky when you’re not true to who you are as a brand.”

Looking back at how advertising developed throughout 2020 during the pandemic, Aiden Darné, global head of Shutterstock Studios, noted the pivot from slow drone footage of unprecedented times throughout every ad spot toward celebrating what people were doing within their communities and creating a platform for people to be celebrated and recognised.

“I probably did more UGC commercials last year than I’ve ever made in my entire career which is really leaning into that authenticity,” he said. “Creating that platform and celebrating a more upbeat point of view is definitely purposeful, and I think brands are genuine because they recognise the value that brings in creating authentic storytelling.”

Yet Tasmin Lobley, senior creative at Waste, argued that the reason she got into advertising many years ago was because she wanted to be able to make people feel something, change their opinion and ultimately do good. “it turns out those briefs rarely come your way but I do feel really inspired every time I do see a brand trying to make a difference and show that purpose,” she said. “Brands are in a powerful position to give a voice to people and causes that need it.”

“Advertising is such a powerful tool and we know what impact it has on people’s lives,” added Bianca Guimaraes, executive creative director, Mischief @ No Fixed Address. “Brands do need to tap into that and use it to help but I don’t think they always do it in the right way. But there are amazing brands that do it with the right intention and put their money where their mouth is.”

Using creativity as a tool to prove a brand’s purpose

That segued nicely into some great examples of how brands are using imagery and video through their communications to achieve purpose in an authentic way. They are driving emotional connections with their audiences, by celebrating the human side within advertising, bringing in hyper-localized points of view in the storytelling and looking at it through the lens of real people.

Panelists shone a spotlight on brands which they feel are leading the charge with purposeful communications, including Barbie, Bodyform, Bumble, Dove, Microsoft, Persil and Tropic Skincare.

Putting purpose at the heart of brand communication means authentic storytelling, bravery, being your authentic self and living the brand purpose throughout the whole organisation. By tapping into what’s real and authentic, brands can be braver with their creative, their products and everything else created around that.

United World Schools (UWS) is a small but impactful charitable organisation that truly makes a difference in helping the most vulnerable children in the poorest regions of the world to open pathways and opportunities through education.

Its director, development & communications, Sofeena Lalani, explained how the charity has been fortunate to work with many brands who have taken a very transformative approach and really baked purpose into their business model. “We encourage those that we work with to really shift to transformative rather than just those transactional, one off donations,” she said.

Introducing ‘The 180 Challenge’

If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that marketing really does have the power to change the world. To keep that momentum alive, The Drum has partnered with Shutterstock and talented creatives (including those featured in this panel) to support UWS in strategizing, creating, and executing an important digital and social campaign as part of its ‘180 Challenge’.

By bringing together the best talent in the industry, the mission is to create a lasting, impactful, results-driven campaign. Using Shutterstock Studios Services, teams will be challenged with creating a compelling piece of creative for the ‘180 Challenge’ to run across digital and social channels. And to bring the campaign to life, Shutterstock Studios-an end-to-end creative solution provider that produces a global high quality library of daily fresh content, brand storytelling and more through its proprietary network of producers, cinematographers, animators and storytellers- is offering the teams photography commissions along with a dedicated project manager to assist with any requests.

'The 180 Challenge’ initiative will challenge schools, corporates and the world at large to partake in a series of activations based on 180 minutes (the time it takes young Amir to walk to and from school every day). Stay tuned for more on ‘The 180 challenge’ initiative in a panel as part of The Drum’s Creative Transformation Festival in June.

The power of purpose panel discussion is available on demand via The Drum's Digital Transformation Festival website. Watch it here.

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