Purposeful brands: Have you got the tone right?

There has been a growing desire among brands to take a political or social stance in their campaigns.

Marketers feel that connecting the brand with relevant causes and messages not only is their duty, but as their product interacts with millions of people every day, they believe that they are in a great position and scale to positively change the world.

As creatives, our role is to help brands to identify the right and relevant connections and communicate that with authenticity, and in the right tone.

In fact, I have always made a point to dedicate a small portion of my time for any client I work with to help connecting them with meaningful messages that do good in the world.

But identifying the right connections between a specific purpose and the brand is not easy. Without a credible history of advocating a certain cause, brands will only appear as opportunists.

Another key issue is the choice of media. Message with a purpose do not always fit into the traditional media format where it’s more a one-sided communication and not a dialogue with consumers. With limited length, lack of context or limitations in square inches, traditional media also often force brands to over-simplify or over-generalise their messages.

Nevertheless, we should continue to encourage brands to have a purpose, and we should also help to make sure that it aligns with the brands’ values, with messages that have been carefully crafted so they appear in all the right tones and play the right role. We should remind brands that they need to remain humble and wise and encourage conversations and inspire people rather than adopting a didactic tone.

Last but not the least, be sure to make it a long-term commitment, and not just blindly following what’s been trending.

I have gathered below some of the examples of brands investing in a relevant cause that engages with consumers. Whether they have been executed well or not? I like to hear what you think.

I also like to hear if you have any examples from local brands that had successfully achieved similar goals.

Gillette “The Best Men Can Be”

The brand attempted to take an ancient and highly distinctive slogan “Gillette, the best a man can get” and revitalise it for a new era. The film calls on men to improve themselves by standing up against bullying, sexism and harassment.

Volvo “Defiant Pioneers”

In 2018, Volvo partnered with Sky to produce a short film series entitled “Defiant Pioneers”, exploring the remarkably resilient recesses of the human mind. Chapter 6 of the series is a film called “Unseen Ocean” in support of the fight against plastic pollution in our oceans. In 2019, Volvo sustained the message and released a children’s book of the same theme. The book is available on Amazon and all proceeds will go towards City Kids Surfing, the non-profit founded by primary school teacher Tom Franklin, who featured in Volvo’s “Unseen Ocean” videos.

Heineken “Open Your World

The Heineken’s “Open Your World” campaign challenges Brits to break down barriers and find common ground with others who have opposing views.

Nike “Dream Crazy”

Nike launched “Dream Crazy” campaign to celebrate the 30th anniversary activity for the “Just Do It” campaign. The film features athletes including tennis star Serena Williams, American footballers Odell Beckham Jr and Shaquem Griffin, skateboarder Lacey Baker and the controversial Colin Kaepernick.

Nike “Dream Crazier”

Nike’s answer to the follow up on the “Dream Crazy” campaign. It features a voiceover by Serena Williams and celebrates female athletes who have broken barriers.

The Body Shop “In Our Hands”

At the start of 2019, The Body Shop is putting “activism at the heart of its brand strategy”and turn its stores into “activist hubs” and attract more visitors to its shops.

Lush “Spycops”

In 2018, Lush launched the campaign, promoted using the hashtag #spycops, with Lush storefronts decorated with fake police tape emblazoned with the slogan: “Police have crossed the line.” The brand claimed that the campaign had a specific aim to make changes to the undercover policing inquiry, and to address “a controversial branch of political undercover policing that ran for many years before being exposed.”

Dove

Dove’s launched “Crown” in partnership with Kelly Rowland, at the GRAMMY Awards in 2019. The music video centred around self-esteem and confidence.

Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood has long stood for what she believes in over the years, from green energy to freedom of speech to anti-fracking, and this was one of the many manifestations of the campaigns she involved in.

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