2020 has been heralded as the year of the “unprecedented,” “disruptive,” and “transformative” which for sure, it has been all these. However, in a year like no other how can we identify the brands that will thrive? Some say it’s those that are agile, reacting to and predicting consumer demand that will see success. Whilst these are important sub-factors, what we see time and time again is those that win out in the long term are consistent.
Consistency isn’t about ignoring change, instead what we are talking about is not wavering from brand purpose. After all, the purpose is at the very core of why the product or business exists. With such focus on the “why”, navigating change is much clearer whether it be through a global pandemic, technological evolution or uprising of competition.
Let’s take Nike as an example. Their purpose is “to unite the world through sport to create a healthy planet, active communities and an equal playing field for all”. This purpose not only drives them to create sports apparel, but it also provides a clear guide for how to respond to situations like Covid-19. For a healthy planet, they not only asked consumers to “stay inside and play for the world”, they also transformed their manufacturing to produce protective masks, donated trainers to the frontline healthcare workers and celebrated their digital ecosystem keeping people moving.
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Another example is Coca Cola and their vision to “refresh the world. Make a difference”. Their Covid-19 response saw them put marketing on hold whilst they redirected efforts towards supporting their people and communities. On returning to advertising, they welcomed consumers to the new normal with their emotive “open like never before” campaign. This campaign encouraged reflection, appreciation for the world we live in, a celebration of connections we have and valuing the small things in life that have become ever more important.
If Nike had just been focused on selling sportswear or Coca Cola on soft beverages, their motivations would have been short-term and positioned as purely a product. Each time something happened in society, they would need to keep pushing for awareness whilst consumer attention was elsewhere. Instead, their focus on brand purpose carves out a clear role for them to be a part of the culture, shape it, and as a side-effect keeping them top of mind.
This purpose approach works for all businesses big or small and even personal brands. It is all about “purpose beyond profit,” as Richard Branson puts it. This ultimately forms deeper long-term consumer connections. Moreover, it makes our work a lot more interesting too. We transition from sales to storytellers, from marketing to making an impact. The numbers stack up too! The Kantar Purpose 2020 study showed that across 12 years brands committed to their purpose grew at more than twice the rate of those that didn’t. Unilever even declared in 2018 that 70% of its growth came from brands acting on their purpose and that their speed of growth was 46% faster than other brands in the same company.
This point is even clearer when we look at those that fixated on what they do rather than why they do it. If Blockbusters had the purpose of “bringing the best of entertainment to your home” would they have been sidelined by Netflix? If Kodak focused on “capturing moments that matter, big or small” would they have stayed as a camera business?
So, let’s not fear change. Of course, we don’t want another pandemic, but society won’t stand still, and we are making leaps each day. Just look at what e-commerce has achieved in 6 months! The way to confidently move forward in this change is by knowing why you are moving forward with it, not wavering from your ultimate aim and purpose. It may seem a bit existential but let’s remove the marketing jargon we attach to brands and embrace our inner 5-year-old, keep fixated on the why.