Blog | 6 March 2020

What is your brand for?

Never let it be said that the marketing industry doesn’t love a good trend. We spend a lot of our time waiting for the next one, hoping and praying that we can join its long trail of pilgrims.  All drunk on the Kool-Aid, all eager to say we saw the light and thankful it brings fresh meaning to our lives.

Sometimes these trends disappear under the crushing pressure of reality – media-neutral planning was a dream once upon a time.  Sometimes these trends become an accepted norm, even though under close analysis they are almost as meaningless as, er…. collecting ‘likes’ on social media.

Everyone’s favourite obsession at the moment seems to be congregating around ’brand purpose’, but its timing could not be more spot-on.

We are at a crossroads. Change seems to be accelerating and the institutions, practices and thinking upon which we built the post-industrial age are being challenged as never before.

This is both necessary and a good thing. There are difficult questions to be answered, particularly when it comes to business, marketing and brands.

If, for one moment, we were able to step back from our day-to-day marketing lives and ask, ‘What is this brand for?’ or ‘What value does it add?’, there would be a lot of souls to be searched. We know deep down why these brands and products exist, but the pursuit of profit at all costs and meaningless consumption does, thankfully, look to be on its way out.

Consumers are increasingly looking for significance from their purchase decisions. They used to be content in the knowledge that you told them, ‘This is good for you’ or ‘Good for the environment’. Now they not only want definitive proof, they also want to see your business acting with integrity – or they will go elsewhere.

Before we get too worthy, it is important to point out that consumers are also looking for mindless distraction. Candy Crush has a right to exist, but it won’t be here in 10 years’ time. However, many of the brands we consume on a regular basis – and these often have a long heritage – are right to be concerned.

As we hear in this week’s podcast, the Co-op is a great example of a brand that knows its value and role in life. This is a brand that understands its purpose as a community partner.  It has been this way for 175 years and it uses the motivation of another century-and-three-quarters of success to help draw its map for the future.

It practises what it preaches in terms of supporting local producers, working with local councils on recycling initiatives and ensuring that some of its profits go back to the local community that helped to generate them.

Having a distinct purpose is a competitive advantage when it comes to marketing and the content you need to produce. If you know your role, then business and communication planning become so much easier. Understanding and, in many cases, redefining your brand purpose is the key to relevance and longevity. If you don’t know why you exist, how can you move forward?

So, as with the Co-op, your brand purpose needs to flow throughout your organisation. It needs to permeate every function of the business from its brand values to its functional operations and its supply chain management. It’s not just what you say any more, it’s what you do and how you make people feel. If you don’t do it right, you will get found out.

The Content Talks podcast speaks to high-profile senior marketing professionals about how they measure their content and create business models that deliver customer engagement and product sales for their businesses. These industry leaders will help you understand how to create genuinely great and valuable content that resonates with your consumers, and makes your brand stand out on and offline. 

Alex Marks
Alex Marks
Strategist

Alex supports the strategic development of River's business and acts as an experienced marketing partner for our client teams. He is a regular commentator, writer and conference speaker on a wide variety of digital,  marketing,  and content strategy issues.

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