We’ve all seen ads and thought “I just don’t get it”. What are they trying to say, why did they partner with that company, celebrity or charity? Or they just totally miss the mark. Remember when Pepsi partnered with Kendall Jenner? In an attempt to convey “unity, peace, and understanding,” Pepsi published an ad on YouTube that imitates something America has seen a lot of lately: protests.
Getting it wrong.
Many critics of the video made the comparison of the Pepsi-created protest in the video to the Black Lives Matter protests, specifically in response to the killings of a number of minorities at the hands of the police. Not only did it feature happy looking protesters holding signs about peace and “joining the conversation” which seemed totally insensitive and off the mark, but then Kendall offers a police officer a Pepsi which is meant to magically fix all divides!
So how on earth did this ad ever make the light of day? What was going on in Pepsi’s boardroom to so badly miss the mark? Well, I’m sure if consumers are confused or a campaign feels off it’s because the brand hasn’t truly understood its purpose.
Purpose has been one of those words floating around with marketers for a while. In recent years, it has slowly been moving up the agenda as companies looked to do well by doing good – a clumsy bolt-on, doing purpose for purpose sake. I'm sure Pepsi’s intensions were to do good, but when brands receive a backlash behind this misappropriation of ‘purpose’, they must evaluate what brand purpose actually means.
What is brand purpose?
So, what is purpose and why is it important for brands who want to grow and flourish?
I believe a brand’s purpose should be a higher order philosophy, point of view or reason that they exist in the world. It should guide everything the brand does, providing both a vision to judge its activities against and a direction to guide future activity. In its most simple form, purpose is purely the reason why your brand exists! A clear brand purpose should be brought to life in the most compelling way which can often be the difference between success and failure.
Savvy marketers are starting to understand that purpose doesn’t have to be lofty or out of reach, they don’t even need to push through some big societal change. The purpose should be deeply rooted in the brand itself and what it stands for and most importantly what makes it different. Finding that ownable territory and becoming known for something - essentially finding the right brand positioning.
Consumers don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
We need to remember that in this highly competitive international world for brands, consumers don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. If you’ve seen Simon Sinek's brilliant TED talk, ‘Start with why’, you will understand this. He gives a compelling example from Apple. In the competitive world of computers why have they done so well? They could just talk about what they do – they make great computers. But Apple sells a vision, a WHY – they believe in challenging the status quo, and believe in thinking differently, the way they challenge the status quo is by making beautifully designed, intuitive to use & user-friendly products, they just happen to make great computers.
When you get into the WHY you really start to understand why Apple has been so successful, they become much more appealing than other computer brands and you start to build an emotional connection with them. It creates a point of different as their designs have evolved with this WHY and vision in mind, and have created something for consumers to buy into, an ownable territory.
Simply put, if you don’t know why your brand does what it does, how can you expect consumer to know and want to buy you? Or even be loyal to your brand.
Getting it right
One brand that pops to mind that does this so well is Pampers. Their purpose is all about improving your baby’s sleep and development. This is deep rooted into all they do, all the way back to their innovation stream, guiding new product launches. If their nappies don’t make it easier for your child to sleep better and play more, allowing babies to develop better, then they won’t launch it. Often their ads don’t even feature nappies but show the results of happy babies and parents. This higher purpose benefit elevates the brand and you’d almost have to be a bad parent who doesn’t care about your baby’s development not to buy them.
So what can we learn? For purpose to work there must be a clear line between your brand, its reason for being and how it communicates to consumers. No matter how big or small the brand is, start with understanding your ‘why’, your brand’s reason for existing and you will find that purpose will be surprisingly easy to find.