Fight To Do Work That Matters

June 19, 2013

MeanStinks_Horizontal_-Logo_2C-LargeWhatever field you’re in, from medicine to marketing, people want to do meaningful work. This week at Cannes, winners of Lions are being rewarded not just for creativity, but for winning hearts and minds around the world by creating work that matters.

So how do you do this kind of work? If the goal is true engagement, then perhaps you need to pick a fight and be clear about why.

In the #WorkThatMatters presentation from Coke – the Cannes Lions 2013 Marketer of the Year – we learned of the company’s continuing mission to make their brands matter culturally. Their formula starts with clear understanding of the fundamentals: What does our brand believe, what is its purpose and what is the cultural tension that the brand will oppose and overcome? These questions are central to who we are as people, and they apply equally to brands. By being clear about these aspects of identity, the brief for the campaign work allows for multiple expressions of a core idea, thus reinforcing the brand’s purpose and creating a virtuous circle.

Big brand marketers like P&G (client), Coke and others intuitively understand that building campaigns that champion people results in award-winning work that simply… works. These campaigns are powerful and singular and engage people as people in rallying behind a common foe. As a result, consumers start to share ownership and pass along the message, conferring credibility and powerful word of mouth.

For P&G, the Secret brand’s award-winning work around teenage cyber bullying – Mean Stinks – is a perfect example where clear purpose and picking a fight resulted in a “movement” that drove millions of girls to rethink their ugly behaviors and recognize that nice can be cool. It’s an evergreen issue that the brand can claim a stake in, and one that has helped to differentiate the brand among its competitive set in a way that goes far beyond mere functional benefit.

Similarly, Coke took on political despair and emphasized optimism with its recent work connecting the bitterly divided peoples within the disputed Kashmir valley with an innovative vending machine, creating a video connection between Pakistanis and Indians designed to remind them that there is more that unites as human beings than divides us. By championing the idea of optimism in the face of despair, the brand transcends mere product to engage us in a richer conversation that speaks to the heart.

By openly addressing social tensions, these brands and others are standing up to be counted as cultural commentators, shaping conversation as opposed to merely reacting to it and expressing clear beliefs for consumers to understand. From this courage and conviction comes work that matters. This work stands out not just at Cannes but all around the world, on the Web and in the minds of billions. It’s the work that we all come to see, and that we wish we had done ourselves.

So the question is: Will you fight to do work that matters? If so, we’ll probably be admiring your work in Cannes next year.

James Kelly is EVP, Global Director of Strategic and Creative Planning at Ketchum and works with P&G.