Embrace the Backlash, and Behave Like Your Brand: How to Really Activate Brand ‘Purpose’

By Cindy Gustafson, Chief Strategy Officer and Joe Maceda, Invention Studio Lead, Mindshare North America

One of the biggest marketing themes and talking points of 2017 has been about driving purpose. Everybody wants to do it. Nobody wants the backlash that can accompany it. And so the questions on marketers’ minds are: how do you activate purpose the right way, to make a real statement? How do you do it in a way that doesn’t feel fake?

We did a deep dive on some of the most interesting campaigns this year at Cannes Lions, where purpose as a theme reigned supreme. Looking at some of the remarkable entries from around the world, there are five crucial takeaways that every marketer can apply to their media plan to create smart, agile, purposeful work.

1) Behave Like Your Brand

The most successful, purposeful brands are those that can make their media live up to their brand’s essence. They’re not just picking a charity or a cause because it sounds good; rather their media actions are a clear reflection of what the brand actually does and stands for.

For example, take Uniqlo Heat Tech. In South Korea, the company gave out branded insulating window inserts to 500,000 Uniqlo customers for free during the winter. The inserts increased the room temperature as much as 20% and served as free promotion of the company’s Heat Tech clothing line. It worked for the brand not just because they did a nice deed for consumers, but because it naturally aligned with the product (which is about keeping you warm). Uniqlo gained 500,000 out-of-home ads for free and ultimately saw over 200% sales growth for their Heat Tech products.

2) Embrace the Backlash

Today, some of the most successful work is coming from brands that are fulfilling social needs that might alienate some consumers. If done thoughtlessly, it can come off as shallow or fake. But when done right, the results can be game changing—both for the cause and your brand. A recent study from Refinery29 shows that 91% of all millennials will swap out a brand to go with one that has a cause. The truth is, to really have a brand POV, to make your core audience care about your brand, it might requirethat some people disagree with you.

The “Fearless Girl” from State Street is a great example. It was championed by many as a symbol of female empowerment. But it had its fair share of haters too – people who didn’t think it was necessary, people who were upset about its impact on the “Charging Bull” sculpture. One artist even put a small statue of a urinating dog next to it. And yet, whatever your thoughts about this statue, you can’t deny that the backlash didn’t hold it back – if anything, it drove people to double down on their support.

To read the rest of Cindy and Joe’s advice, including insights on data-as-creative, planning for agility, and more, check out the full piece on Warc: https://www.warc.com/NewsAndOpinion/Opinion/Embrace_the_Backlash,_and_Behave_Like_Your_Brand_How_to_Really_Activate_Brand_Purpose/2486