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How to find your brand purpose

Brands are under increasing pressure to give something back to society. But how should they do this and what are the pitfalls? Camilo Plazas reveals how brands in Latin America are using media to share powerful messages and drive positive change.

The whole world knows about the social economic challenges in Latin America. Extreme poverty, gender inequality and corruption are just a few of the problems in the region – and people are concerned things are getting worse.

According to an International Transparency ONG Study, 62% of Latinos think corruption is increasing year on year. That’s prompting a growing desire for change. But beyond local governments and NGOs, people here are increasingly expecting big brands to make a positive contribution too.

Such is this desire to do good that more consumers are choosing brands that champion the causes they believe in, even if this comes at a price. As a study by Los Andes University revealed, Latin consumers, are prepared to pay up to 15% more for brands that are actively working to do good.

Latin consumers are prepared to pay up to 15% more for brands that are actively working to do good

Brands, of course, are aware of these demands. And in recent times, more and more have been taking a stand. But there are bigger things at stake than just profits. Big brands really do have the power to make a difference, by using their messaging to raise awareness of causes and prompt consumers to take action.

Spreading a brand’s goodwill message is tricky, however. To turn heads, brands need to prove that they mean what they’re saying. That’s where the right media strategy can make a difference.

Creating a purpose-driven thinking model

Creating campaigns that drive change requires a different approach to conventional sales messages. That’s because purpose-driven thinking is less about creating a brand and more about taking a stand to affect change.

Whereas brand advertising is about promoting brand benefits, reasons to believe and unique selling propositions, purpose-driven campaigns are about creating advocates and missionaries, establishing a point of view (rather than a point of difference), and pursuing long-term behavioural change, not just short-term profits.

The following table summarises the differences between the two approaches:

The difference between purpose and brand

Above: The differences between creating a brand and taking a stand (source: Brighthouse)

But finding the right cause to support isn’t easy. And brands will fail if they if they start piggybacking causes they have no reason to be involved with. People will soon see their support as insincere and react negatively.

Brands will fail if they if they start piggybacking causes they have no reason to be involved with

To find the right purpose for their brand, marketers must first ask themselves three questions: What does the world need right now? What is their brand good at? And what is their brand passionate about? Their purpose will lie somewhere in the middle of all three.

Brand purpose venn diagram

Above: Brands must ask the right questions to find their purpose

Learning from Latin America

Purpose-driving thinking is commonly used by government agencies and NGOs to create compelling messages and create advocates for a cause. But these tactics can also revolutionise the world of business and brands. If you are a global brand looking to activate your brand purpose, you might lean on these three lessons from LATAM:

1)  Solve real-world problems through your owned media

The primary goal of purpose-driven campaigns is to inspire change, not drive sales. In some cases, brands and NGOs in LATAM have been doing this by using their owned channels to drive engagement, not just reach. We can look to Brazil for one example of how this is done.

Brazil is a country clouded by corruption. To raise awareness of politicians who have issues with the law, Reclame Aqui Institute created a simple web browser plugin called ‘Colour of Corruption’. Whenever the name of a politician with unresolved legal issues appeared on screen, ‘Colour of Corruption’ highlighted it in purple. Users could hover the mouse over the name to check his or her judicial record.

2) Think problem first, media strategy second   

To affect change, it often helps to identify a problem associated with your cause and then think about how you can use media to solve this problem. That’s exactly what Nike did in Colombia, with its ‘Equality Signs’ campaign.

In Colombia, lots of people think sports are for men. Even park signs only show silhouettes of men. So, in line with its commitment to equality, on International Women’s Day, Nike decided to change the way people see things – by handing out lots of magnetic ponytails.

The ponytails came with a simple instruction: pin it on any park sports sign to turn a man into a woman. Overnight, thousands of signs were transformed to show women running, cycling and playing sports. Nike saw a cause-driven problem and used media – in this case, signage – to solve it.

3) Use programmatic tech to speak to the right people in the right places 

Data is an increasingly important part of the media mix, and it plays a crucial role in purpose-driven campaigns too. Understanding where your most likely advocates will be and when can make a difference between success and failure. In some cases, ensuring your message only reaches specific audiences is important too.

In Colombia, more than 400,000 women suffer domestic abuse annually. But many victims are too afraid to report it. To help them, the Colombian government created ‘Men-Free Banner, a message of hope only they could see. It targeted victims based on their Google searches, using programmatic technology and retargeting tools, and showed increasingly dramatic videos in real time to grab the attention of victims and prompt them to call an abuse hotline.

This article is taken from BLINK, MediaCom’s media industry magazine. Click to read more content from ‘BLINK #12 – Building the brands of the future‘.

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