Brand Courage Essential for Success in 2019

As part of our Creating the Difference event series, we recently hosted a group of communications experts including John O’Brien, managing partner at ONE HUNDRED Agency and author of The Power of Purpose; Martina Poulopati, global brand communications manager, Essity Feminine Care; Bert Moore, chief strategy and innovation officer at Ketchum London and Jo-ann Robertson, CEO of Ketchum London, to explore what 2019 holds for brands looking to root their communications in a strong purpose.

(L-R) Bert Moore, chief strategy and innovation officer at Ketchum London; Jo-ann Robertson, CEO of Ketchum London; Martina Poulopati, global brand communications manager at Essity Feminine Care, and John O’Brien, managing partner at ONE HUNDRED Agency.

Our debate, titled ‘Communication zeitgeist for 2019’, focused on brand courage for many reasons. The communications landscape in 2018 has been characterised by a fragmented news environment; polarised political discourse; fake news and filter bubbles; and lack of trust between organisations and the public.

The session revealed some important learnings:

Brands must avoid purpose washing; authenticity is critical

Purpose led marketing is in danger of facing a consumer backlash. It’s in danger of becoming a marketing bandwagon, much like corporate social responsibility (CSR) before it.

“CSR failed because it was typically an external initiative to the organisation. If purpose led initiatives are to work they must be driven from the heart and board of an organisation,” said Jo-ann Robertson, CEO of Ketchum London.

There is great power in purpose

Society is demanding that organisations serve a social purpose beyond profit. The toxic cocktail of corporate scandals in the corporate and charity sectors, combined with the banking scandal, have hit public trust in organisations.

To prosper long term, organisations must not only deliver financial performance, but also benefit all their stakeholders including shareholders, employees, customers and the communities they operate in.

“The organisations that will flourish are those with a clear sense of purpose based on authentic values,” said John O’Brien, Managing Partner, ONE HUNDRED and author of The Power of Purpose.

“Enlightened organisations and their leaders have embraced and are actively championing a greater sense of purpose than simply making money.”

Backed by the right insights, purpose-driven marketing can bust societal taboos

Essity Feminine Care (known as Bodyform in the UK) is an excellent example of a purpose-led organisation. Its desire to break taboos that hold women back is the mission that unites the brand with its purpose, according to Martina Poulopati, global brand communications manager at Essity feminine care.

Its most recent marketing campaign, #bloodnormal, is testament to this mission. It aimed to start a movement to normalise periods.

Brand communications, including an eye-opening film showed dealing with periods in a variety of taboo-breaking situations. The campaign became an industry disruptor in this category by daring to show menstrual blood in advertising and saying goodbye to blue liquid.

Purpose driven campaigns such as #bloodnormal have the power to really push culturally acceptable boundaries to address a societal issue. But what does it take?

“Adopting a bold approach requires careful planning and insight. Inevitably, not everyone will like it and that’s a potential reputational risk. Testing and data was critical to persuading stakeholders that the campaign would work,” explained Poulopati.

It was this data that gave Essity the confidence that women all over the world would celebrate this much needed change: research showed that 74% of women wanted to see real representations of periods.

The campaign has reached 32 markets via media and influencers in 2017 and 2018. In this, #bloodnormal kickstarted a conversation around a taboo subject in social and mainstream media around the world.

Look at ‘societal tears’ for impactful purpose-led communications

Modern marketing communications is about stripping an organisation back to its core purpose, according to Ketchum London’s chief strategy and innovation officer Bert Moore.

By identifying and genuinely addressing societal tears – real issues affecting real people – brands can build the strongest relationships with both consumers and the communities they operate in.

“Purpose and authenticity are overused words in modern marketing but these are critical values for a modern brand seeking to build trust with its stakeholders,” said Moore.

Ultimately, establishing a meaningful purpose requires strong data and insights, business buy-in and, most importantly, courage. But the brand trust and loyalty that a business gains makes the journey worthwhile.

To learn more about how you can build lasting relationships with your audiences in 2019, get in touch with Jo-ann Robertson or Bert Moore.