From #metoo, climate marches, to Black Lives Matter, social movements and activism grow strong. Because of social media, being vocal about social issues has become easier and more commonplace than in the previous decades, enabling diverse groups and minorities to gain visibility and strive towards equality and justice on different fronts. This trend has also been affecting behaviour and communication of brands, with some of them developing an open, politically or socially engaged voice.
Social and cultural relevance is a cornerstone of brand storytelling.
When Gilette published their campaign film “We Believe: The Best Man Can Be”, all praise and all hell broke loose at the same time. The brand surfed the wave of the #metoo movement, condemning toxic masculinity. A very conscious decision, that for sure. A risky one? No doubt about it, either. A relevant one? Well, absolutely. Gilette is a brand that is over one century old, with a slogan “The best a man can get'' that has functioned for over 30 years now. When the times and societies change, savvy brands respond and take their position. It is about staying connected to the surrounding reality.
As the world turns, new viewpoints emerge. People and societies reevaluate their norms. That’s a natural process, and long-existing brands often wake up as a part of the old, decaying narrative. That is why it is key to notice a shift at the right moment and act on it. This principle is not applicable only to the big, iconic players. Social and cultural relevance is crucial for smaller brands, too. It is a cornerstone of brand storytelling.
You can find your connection to a purpose on a much smaller, tangible and local level.
Brand storytelling is not only about campaigns. It is an entire experience that starts from a specific standpoint, designed in the branding process. Many relate it to brand purpose, a reason for existence beyond profit. There is, however, a downside to the recent craze around purpose branding. We see players of all sizes making grandiose claims they do not deliver on. Campaigns with lofty statements in sustainability and social responsibility keep budding, and are especially hard to watch from sectors like big food or fast fashion. True transformation in these cases can only come from a profound revision of the business and supply models altogether, not brand campaigns. So what are we even talking about?
We believe that introducing the notion of ‘purpose’ to branding needs to happen in a responsible, thought-through and realistic manner. First, the purpose does not have to be related to the major social issues and challenges: knowing your audience and community as a brand, you can find your connection to a purpose on a much smaller, tangible and local level that is linked to the brand DNA. Forcing it will never make it.
We expect this dynamic to develop in the future into POST-PURPOSE BRANDS that will continue considering their reason for existence beyond profit, but in a much more concrete, tangible manner, showing their values directly in the products, packaging, open supply chains and rational plans on how they will contribute to the growth of their direct communities. Brands as engaged citizens? We hope for this scenario to come true.
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