How to approach brand purpose: a media planner's perspective

We live in an age where brands can be easily caught in embarrassing situations if they get brand purpose wrong. However, many brands have demonstrated –detailed in a case study below — that getting their Purpose right can mean outperforming competitors.

The goal with any purpose-driven campaign is the same as with any other: to drive commercial value and expand the potential customer base for the brand. The goal is never to limit or reduce that audience. This is especially important to remember when many Purpose issues have the potential to be controversial. Planners understand how brand values are translated through different business models, markets, and know how to get the right impact from that campaign. The best brands have solid values, and a reputation that means they will naturally already resonate with specific issues. This ensures every purpose-driven campaign is on-brand and aligns with the brand’s objectives. 
Brand Purpose vs. Brand Value

To be successful, Brand Purpose must match a brand’s core values. Although the two overlap, they are very different. Brand Values identify what a brand believes in, and Brand Purpose is a way for brands to “nail their colours to the mast” and prove those values to their audience. This could be from taking a social or political stance or to having broader philanthropic goals. Brand Purpose is not a commercial goal, even though it can lead to positive commercial gain.

Brand Values dictate a Brand’s Purpose. A brand’s values are broader terms that are used both inside and outside of a company, to define how the brand works and operates, whereas Brand Purpose is purely consumer-facing. For example, a Brand Value could be to “push boundaries”, which could be translated into a Brand Purpose campaign that redefines boundaries about gender. The value lends itself to creating a pro-active work culture as it does to how the brand presents itself in all of its messaging activities, as well as being a vital ingredient in any special projects, or purpose-driven campaigns.

Building a successful campaign

Effective planning understands values and knows how to incorporate that into a Purpose campaign, ensuring relevancy and coherency when adapting it across different channels.

As planners, we build a purpose-driven campaign in the following way:

1. Start with questions: Why are we doing this? What’s the objective? Is it a long or short-term goal? Is this a campaign that is time sensitive? Do all of these questions align with the brand’s values? The answers to these questions must be clear before continuing.

2. From this, we can begin to understand the campaign message, and how we tie-in those values to the purpose campaign. This is a process of understanding the brand inside out.

3. The campaign must then translate that message into a story that can resonate with the consumer, focusing on making it as specific to the brand and specific to that territory. We must crystallise the message within the particular values so the campaign so it has coherency, while still being able to adapt to different audiences most efficiently.

4. Once the media plan is signed off, image metrics are important to measure (as opposed to sales metrics)

5. Ideally, this would tie-in to creative work that can express the message appropriately.

After this point, there should be a commitment to stick to these values and Purpose for the long-term. Good planners will know that this is a long-term strategy, and it takes time to build a brand in this way. Although social and political issues will change over time, it’s a lot harder to change brand perceptions.

Case study: S7 Airlines

Carat Russia was the media agency behind S7 Airline’s “campaign for peace”, which was launched just days after tensions erupted between Russia and Ukraine. This was a direct response to the tension shown in the region. Their values were directly applied to the following purpose-driven campaign.

S7 said “As a carrier, we connect both countries. In Russia, almost everyone has relatives in Ukraine, and vice-versa. We’re for relatives and friends, and we’re for peace. We’re always happy to see Ukrainian citizens on our airlines. We do not want politics to influence relationships between people. This is in no way a demonstration of our political views. We’re above politics.”

Our client articulated a clear Brand Value, and links perfectly to the process illustrated above. S7 identified their brand values of bringing people together and wanted to express this through channels that would really make an impression and cause an impact. Naturally, it was territory specific, as the campaign ran within Russia and Ukraine for two weeks. It also showed how a brand could act quickly and with intent. There was a huge emphasis on large billboard, out-of-home style ads that would communicate these values, which would make a bigger statement for a Purpose-driven campaign. The campaign was a success, winning Cannes Lions awards in the Outdoor and Mobile categories.

Challenges: Markets and Business Models

Keeping this process for effective planning in-mind, good planning understands that there are no definitive rules for how Brand Purpose can be applied to every brand and in every market. There is both a challenge and an opportunity in ensuring messaging can fit a brand’s business model, and to those in their local markets and how likely they can adapt.

For example, some local markets won’t be aligned with the global operating position. This also applies to understanding the limitations of a particular brand’s business model, i.e., some brands are very heavily centralised with responsibility for ensuring all campaigns retain that core brand image. However, other brands have a looser hold on their marketing practices as they market themselves across different countries. Their brand values are judged on a territory-by-territory basis.

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