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Looking up

by Ahmad Abu Zannad, Regional strategy director, Leo Burnett MENA

It has been proven by multiple sources that a brand anchored by a human purpose – one that gives it a meaningful, active role in people’s lives and stems from a strong conviction on how people ought to live their lives – does indeed deliver astonishing business results. For example, Unilever claims that ‘brands with purpose’ are growing at twice the speed of others in its portfolio. In Jim Stengel’s book Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies he analysed research conducted on 50,000 brands in 40 countries, ultimately creating a list of 50 purposeful brands. He showed how these purposeful ones not only built loyalty but also outperformed the S&P 500 by more than 400 per cent over 10 years. A 2015 Havas Media study showed that purposeful brands outperform the stock market by 133 per cent, gain 46 per cent more share of wallet and achieve marketing results that are double those of lower-rated brands.
At Leo Burnett, we conducted a global study in 11 countries, across 155 categories, including 778 Brands, with 37,900 respondents, and it revealed that on average brands with purpose had double the market share and followers across all their social media platforms.
Yet the potential of the advertising efforts coming from these purposeful brands may go way beyond business results and can actually play a critical role in the wellness of the overall human race. Upon accepting his honorary 2014 Clio award, the comedian Jerry Seinfeld made what sounded like a harsh critique of the ad industry by stating: “In advertising everything is the way you wish it was; I don’t care that it won’t be like that when I actually get the product being advertised. Because in between seeing the commercial and seeing the thing … I am happy, and that’s all I want: tell me how great the thing is going to be.” He concluded with a definition of the human race as a “hopeful species”. Now, I am unsure if he is actually aware of all the scientific research and facts that back up his statements, but there are plenty of those.
For instance, both neuroscience and social science advocate that humans are more optimistic than realistic. There is also scientific evidence for Seinfeld’s statements on how people are happy to enjoy the process of anticipating how an experience will be, even if in reality their realised experience is below their expectations. Scientists call this optimism bias, defined as: “The belief that the future will be much better than the past and present.” Apparently, this can be found in every race, region and socioeconomic bracket.
Throughout our evolutionary history, we have developed this optimism bias as a survival technique. The optimism towards the future, with some bias towards one’s own individual future, is needed for our own basic survival. It is also needed for our own wellbeing and happiness.
The scholar Tali Sharot argues that even if the better future humans optimistically imagine for themselves is frequently an illusion, optimism has apparent benefits in the present. Research has shown that this hopeful thinking keeps the human mind at ease; it lowers stress and improves one’s physical health. Further research has shown that being accurate about anticipating your future leads to mild depression.
Now according to the above, within the context of the marketplace, where people are often in the process of buying products and services, we can conclude that without advertising (that is to say, without creative, original, entertaining and engaging communication, messages and experiences that give people an optimistic outlook towards their future, towards a future where they will look, feel, and act better than they do today), all humans might end up being mildly depressed. And this is when purposeful advertising comes into play.
When Nike draws a future for you where you will exercise like a professional athlete; when Special K motivates you to feel victorious when trying to get in shape; when Always boosts the confidence of women hitting puberty; when Samsung pushes people to do what they can’t do; when Johnny Walker invites people to keep walking; when Dove showcases to women how they ought to embrace
their real beauty; when Emirates airline inspires people to welcome a more joyful tomorrow;or when McDonald’s proves to people that feel-good moments can be made easy. Not only has such purposeful advertising proven to deliver on business results; according to psychology, it might as well be of critical necessity to the wellbeing of the human race. As humans, if we do not have such an optimistic outlook towards the future, we are prone to suffer from mild depression.