Winning top honours at the Computing Marketing & Innovation Awards for Petrotechnics (the innovator of some incredible ops management software for the hazardous industries) set us to thinking:
When brands have a strong social purpose, it’s a lot easier for communications to deliver an emotional impact.
So to what extent should it be the job of marketing to give brands a social purpose?
Should it be the main thrust of the brand campaign, or a side issue?
And does this change from the B2B to the B2C world?Let’s look at some examples from our own experience:
Petrotechnics: helping a beleaguered industry to remain profitable without sacrificing safety.
Gigamon: leading the fight against cybercrime.
IP Solutions: helping companies have a dialogue with their customers.
TMF: no matter where in the world you do business (within reason), they’ve got your back.
Well, we hate to make rules, but it’s certainly working. But enough confirmation bias, what about some counterexamples?
Sungard: humour to the rescue! (Unless you believe in zombies, in which case it’s still a brand purpose execution…)
LexisNexis: More contrarian evidence. You could say their social purpose is a more professional legal profession. But obviously it’s really a benefit sell appealing to self-interest.
And how about B2C?
Lego: selling imagination- highly effective social purpose.
Coke: sharing the feeling – more social purpose.
Old Spice: Funny can be more powerful than purpose.
KitKat: Fun for fun’s sake for a fun brand.
Obviously you can build a brand without social purpose (especially when you’re selling something inherently unhealthy). But while you can keep it out of the lead campaign, that doesn’t mean you have to ignore it altogether, as the next execution shows:
McDonalds: ‘We hire individuals, not surnames.’ Cunningly putting social purpose into a recruitment ad, not a brand ad.
Conclusion: Purpose works when it’s real. But there are plenty of other ways to generate emotion. And you certainly don’t need purpose in every ad, in every campaign. And who knows, perhaps we’re in danger of provoking a backlash against ‘purpose’? You tell us.