How marketers can help brands find their voice
What, how and why brands choose to advertise is under increasing scrutiny as consumers move towards more thoughtful purchasing. David Kells, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Raconteur, examines how brands are getting their approach to purposeful advertising wrong and what they can do to find an authentic voice.
When Greenpeace scaled the Cannes Lions’ Palais and stormed the beaches of the Croisette to unveil its ‘No Awards on a Dead Planet’ campaign, the advertising industry received a poignant reminder of its role in the global environmental crisis.
Why are so many brands getting it wrong?
Because what brands choose to advertise, how they choose to advertise and why is under greater scrutiny than ever before, and missteps and unsubstantiated claims can become damaging Twitter storms and global headlines in seconds.
So, why are so many brands getting it wrong? And what role do media agencies have in helping brands find their authentic voice and drive a more trustworthy purpose-led conversation?
Above: Gustav Martner invaded the Cannes Lion stage at this year's festival to protest at how the industry continues to advertise fossil fuels.
Authenticity is key
In recent years there has been a steady rise in brands publicly committing to more purpose-driven efforts. So much so that the market has become oversaturated, making it challenging for competitors to set themselves apart. In addition, audiences are becoming increasingly savvy and socially conscious, placing added pressure on brands to not just have a purpose but also be transparent about their efforts and results.
While it’s easy for brands to talk about their purpose pledges, it's a completely different task to get them to share evidence of meaningful and positive impact.
This is because while it’s easy for brands to talk about their purpose pledges, it's a completely different task to get them to share evidence of meaningful and positive impact without the smoke and mirrors of ill-constructed definitions and goals. With more brands coming under scrutiny for claims of greenwashing, pinkwashing and wokewashing, this reinforces the need for authentic communication. Customers today need to be convinced that a message is true and not just a marketing communication gimmick, and they need brands to demonstrate their role in society beyond just transactions.
Rob McFaul, Co-Founder of Purpose Disruptors, a climate action group set up to help drive the advertising industry towards net zero by 2030, believes the advertising industry has a role to play in driving change. “The shift we’re starting to see is an understanding that, through campaigns, we can do more than just raise awareness of environmental issues or promote our clients’ sustainability credentials," McFaul says. "We can normalise sustainable lifestyles, encourage sustainable behaviours and play an important role in helping our clients transform their business models so they can thrive in a net zero world.”
Information is power, and by being authentic and transparent about where you are in your brand journey and the areas you wish to improve, consumers will feel empowered and more willing to engage. It’s a simple yet powerful tactic to not only help convert the sceptics, but also build loyal brand ambassadors over the long term. McFaul adds: “We’ve found changing habits from a sustainability standpoint are down to people’s concern for their future and the future of their children, nieces and nephews. People care and are reflecting their concerns with their buying decisions.”
Above: Brands are coming under scrutiny for claims of greenwashing, pinkwashing and wokewashing.
What can advertising agencies do to drive purpose?
So, what role do agencies have in helping brands find their genuine voice? It can start with seemingly small steps, as long as there is a genuine call to action and change. The #changethebrief alliance, started in response to growing scrutiny of the industry’s need to harness its own influence, is picking up pace. The alliance, now boasting 5,000 signatories, provides agencies and client-side marketers with the skills and confidence to promote sustainable behaviours through their campaigns.
Where does purpose-driven marketing go from here?
This has included initiatives such as encouraging people to take shorter showers by creating four-minute, ad-free Spotify playlists of ‘songs to sing in the shower’, as well as creating packaging that urges consumers to freeze leftover food in order to reduce food waste. The goal is to normalise these eco-desirable behaviours in society through advertising, and use media and marketing investment to achieve this.
Marketers and agencies are more than just consultants. With a constant finger on the pulse, they are advisors to clients on culture, audiences and trends, and it is vital for brands to recognise this and understand the crucial role their media partners play in how they should respond to social issues. So, where does purpose-driven marketing go from here?
Above: Spotify has encouraged people to take shorter showers by creating four minute 'song to sing in the shower' playlists.
Be clear in your communication
Having clear communication about your brand's goals and values can help maintain your reputation, draw in new clients and make your current clientele feel connected to what you do. In addition, studies show that 63% of consumers favour making purchases from brands with a purpose. Therefore, even though purpose-driven marketing is excellent for building brand reputation, doing so is also in your best commercial interests.
Adland needs to come together and collectively work on what is, in effect, its toughest brief yet.
Looking ahead, adland needs to come together and collectively work on what is, in effect, its toughest brief yet. It’s more important than ever for advertising agencies to play this key role in the development, planning and activation of legitimate purpose campaigns. Consumers will become increasingly sophisticated at sorting the wheat from the chaff and, therefore, brands and agencies must work together to create a purpose-led narrative that is authentic and clear.