Words and phrases like 'doing good', CSR, sustainability, social good, purposeful and meaningful are creeping into more and more briefs
"The noise around creativity for good is getting greater". That's what Lucinda Sherborne, DDB New Zealand's head of planning said was her number one take out from this year's Cannes festival.
It may sound like the latest formula to win awards, but be careful dismissing it so quickly. Words and phrases like 'doing good', CSR, sustainability, social good, purposeful and meaningful are creeping into more and more briefs. Perhaps it’s the millennial effect, transparency driven by connectedness, maybe the evidence (like this, this and this) has become overwhelming. Whatever the reason, it’s happening.
The challenge in responding to these briefs is finding the core truth to build up from. This is often called brand purpose, but that’s been a bit overused in recent years. I’ve found it more effective to think about making a brand matter to the world, asking two simple questions. Who or what do you serve? How should the brand serve it/them?
Ben & Jerry’s and Lifebouy are two such brands and they’re both enjoying high single-digit or double-digit sales growth over the past three years
For some brands it's easy. They have it built into their core. Ben & Jerry’s and Lifebouy are two such brands and they’re both enjoying high single-digit or double-digit sales growth over the past three years. Ben & Jerry’s has the original vision of the founders - "making the best possible ice cream in the nicest possible way". Lifebuoy is about saving lives by cleaning hands. For them it’s easy, others have to work harder to find it.
Dove took a different path and they’re also enjoying double-digit growth. They looked at the world around them and found a cause to dedicate themselves to. Something that was deeply important to their audience, but something their audience wasn’t conscious of. For Dove, the homogenous media portrayal of female beauty wasn't widely recognised at the time they got started. It was something they dug deeply to find. As Henry Ford said "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse".
There's four approaches to finding the truth a brand stands for:
- Buried in the brand's heritage, because starting a business is either about seizing an opportunity, or solving a problem
- Find something that really matters to your audience, but they don't yet know it
- Understanding the fundamental drivers of business success in the future and work to address them
- Experiencing something so profound you can't not act on it
I've talked about the first two. The third is where you get into business strategy. BMW didn’t start DriveNow, their car sharing programme, to reduce the huge resource impacts of making cars. Although that is a worthwhile outcome. The broad rule of thumb for complex products says they use 10 times the volume of resources to create the product. BMW started DriveNow because people are buying less cars, but the need for mobility is still growing. Launched in 2011, they now have 500,000 customers worldwide and it continues to grow fast.
The fourth – having an epiphany - is what kicked-off M&S's Plan A. Stuart Rose, then CEO, took Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth for holiday reading. He got back and took the top 100 people in the business to see the film, galvanising the business to take action. From there Plan A was born, which in turn led to product innovations and campaigns like Fuller for Longer ready meals and Shwopping. The ready meals notched up a 37% market share in the healthy ready meal category. Shwopping drove footfall, increasing sales and delivering more than £8 million in additional revenue for Oxfam, the partner.
Moving things forward always starts with asking the right questions. Regardless of the language people use to describe it, just asking who the brand serves and how are always very good starting points.