For the last few decades big brand economy has grown in power and influence, coming up alongside state politics and the news media as a factor to be accounted for.
Breaking out of traditional advertising channels, branded content is now an everyday part of life, and brand support is now crucial for wider projects to kick off with the required energy. Be it sports events, music festivals, or independent bloggers receiving private sponsorships from cosmetics companies; we need brands.
Couple this with the overhaul to society created by the Internet, and the potential for brand exposure has never been greater – nor more easily scrutinised. Our age of uncertainty has seen politics change fast and hard. From Arab spring optimism to terrorism, from liberal expansion to the protectionist alt-right.
As 2016 is nearing its end, twitter has spawned a wave of bitter, comedic memes referring to the dramatic and unforeseen world events the year has brought. Like the old philosophical adage: everything flows, nothing is for certain. This is more felt now than ever.
Fake news and circular debates continue around the functions of democracy, the fear of future recessions, the effects of climate change, to name just a few. And lest we forget the Panama papers leak, the TTIP EU free trade controversies, or Hillary’s secret big business connections.
Companies can choose to avoid how these challenges continue to swamp us, or they can choose to work with it. Numbers show that brands who can anchor themselves in a deeper social purpose are the most resilient in times of uncertainty and they report increased growth over the long haul.
Evidence shows that a growing number of consumers look to buy from brands with a purpose (for example the Harvard Business Review with Ernst & Young and Edelman’s Brandshare). In an index published by Radley Yeldar, Unilever, Philips and Lloyd’s Banking Group are the top three companies to most effectively act on, deliver and, crucially, communicate their social corporate responsibilities.
It is not just about doing good to secure the collective future. A credible purpose builds emotional bonds and loyalty with brands. Crucially, it builds empathy. It also retains young creative talent among company employees, which is vital for brands to stay competitive.
In his book Start With Why Simon Sinek explains what makes a successful company. He states that the brand value lies at the core, the how to act on it comes next, and finally, the product lands as the final evidence.
Brands who begin by communicating the products or services they sell, and then selling their brand purpose as an afterthought, can only go so far. The brands that express why they are in the business, and then subsequently what they offer as a manifestation of this purpose are the ones that stand out, show trustworthiness, and create the potential to expand the categories of products and services they produce.
When we buy the why: the company core value, any type of innovation launched becomes infused with interest. Consumers want to know the beating heart inside the brand.