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Purpose-Led Creativity: Impactful Communications During the PandemicDecember 14, 2020

Brands that do ‘purpose’ in the right way can help revive spending, drive innovation and improve their relationship with consumers. By Deepshikha Dharmaraj.

‘Out Of Adversity Comes Opportunity’ – Benjamin Franklin

The COVID pandemic has given cause, time and opportunity for businesses to look inwards—at their operations, employees, brand communications, and other aspects that they are made up of. One of those aspects is Purpose.

Purpose is the ‘why’ of a company – the reason why it exists, to solve a problem that only it can solve in its unique way. Purpose is one of five “vital signs”—Purpose, Innovation, Communication, Experience, and Love— that work together to build Meaningful Difference in brand love as per BrandZTM, Kantar’s proprietary methodology of measuring brand health called Vitality QuotientTM or vQ.

Brands with a strong sense of purpose are perceived as ‘making people’s lives better’ and it has been proven that brands with purpose grow faster and last longer, and people in a company with purpose thrive. While having a business with purpose is therefore important, it is equally critical to communicate this sense of purpose so that our audiences understand what this purpose means.

Post pandemic there is more focus on doing things with purpose. However, brands also need to do ‘purpose’ in the right way and not just pretend because everyone is doing it. The most successful brands will find ways to walk the talk on purpose in a natural, authentic way and involve consumers in that journey.

So how does one do that? By finding ways to take the load off consumers’ backs through creative and meaningful solutions which allow them to experience the brand’s purpose. The opportunity is to connect with your audience in emotional and creative ways.

So here are some things for a company to keep in mind in their pursuit of impactful communications using purpose-led creativity:

Speak to your purpose

Your intentions and your purpose have to be really yours. They should make sense for your business and not force-fitted. Only then will your communication be perceived as authentic.

Take Sleepwell, one of India’s leading mattress brands, for instance. Their mission is to help people sleep in the most comfortable way. In the last few months, they have lived up to that in two ways. On the one hand, they ran a campaign—#StaySafeWithSleepwell—emphasizing the importance of eight hours of sound sleep in building up the body’s defences. But they didn’t just stop at talk. Sleepwell has also lent aid to the Indian healthcare sector in its fight against the pandemic by ensuring timely supply of 10,000 mattresses and foam sheets across COVID healthcare institutions and quarantine centers.

Another example is Colgate, which has ‘spreading smiles’ as its purpose. The thought behind their Smile Karo Aur Shuru Ho Jao (Smile and get started) campaign is that a smile brings you confidence and optimism, and with that, you can do anything you set your mind to. In the past they have supported people who have overcome adversity. And during this period, the campaign is talking about how people have had to re-evaluate their lives and choices and the importance of self-confidence in taking these new steps. Here is the TVC that brings it alive.

Say less, do more

Neither purpose nor creativity, you would agree, are new concepts. In the last few years, they have become two of the biggest parameters of brand value. That has led to a lot of brands talking about them in their communications. And during the pandemic, conversations have become quite cacophonic around both.

Don’t add to the noise. Take the time to develop a point of view and approach and the proof to show impact before speaking. Develop ideas that creatively address issues around your business.

A great example of that is Gillette’s Barber Suraksha (Safety) initiative. Given that barbers had to shut shop during the lockdown, their livelihoods were facing an existential crisis. Gillette decided to help barbers get back on their feet by announcing Rs 100,000 (approx. USD 1350) in COVID health insurance as well as giving them a Barber Suraksha Kit (Barbers Protection Kit) that included their products and safety gear. But they didn’t stop at that. Gillette took this as an opportunity to connect with these barber partners through videos like this to create an emotional and informative messages like this one to share what the Barber Suraksha (Safety) Kit contains and how the initiative helps the barbers.

The action preceded the talk, not the other way around.

Listen to the data

A combination of data analytics and human intelligence will lead to both an update on where you stand with the consumer in terms of purpose, as well as crucial insights on what problems you need to solve. For instance, India’s popular biscuit brand, Britannia Marie Gold targets homemakers and moms, giving them energy and nutrition to help them do more at home.

But they knew that homemakers aspire to do and be more. So, they commissioned Nielsen to conduct the Marie Gold Women Entrepreneurship Study, which threw up facts like 48% had unfulfilled dreams and aspirations to start their own businesses or pursue a hobby. Another 54% said they were still keen to start their own ventures. Obviously, there was an unmet need. To address that, Britannia Marie Gold launched the MyStartup Contest, inviting women to submit their business ideas, with 10 winners receiving Rs 1 million (approx. USD 13,500) each to realize their entrepreneurial dreams.

In the first edition, they received more than 1.4 million applications. In the second edition, conducted during the lockdown, the excitement hasn’t waned, but, in fact, surged further.

Work from the inside out

Purpose-led creativity is not just something you do to boost your image. It has to be a part of every aspect of the organization. Employees with a sense of purpose thrive in an organization.

We saw this in Cairn Oil & Gas, where we built an employee advocacy programme. Given the nature of the industry, the company is subject to a lot of regulatory and stakeholder scrutiny and often faces unfavorable public opinions, especially on social media. Cairn wanted to foster brand loyalty ownership and positive messaging from within, to develop positive perception towards the sector and company from the outside. So, we enabled employees across functions and locations in social media to become company’s brand advocates.

Accelerate innovation

This is the right time to push the envelope on technology. We are seeing how more brands are using technology to reach their consumers, through AI, machine learning, and data. Also, using audio-visual aids, AR and VR technology and voice solutions to tell your story in the most effective manner, goes a long way in creating an enduring impact.

The biggest annual cricket extravaganza, the Indian Premier League is using several features enabled by technology that are ensuring fan engagement, from virtual screens and virtual tickets to WhatsApp bots and online games. It has demonstrated successfully how sports can make a comeback in the COVID world.

To sum up, this has been a trying time for everyone, including brands. Consumer behaviour has changed for good. And that is why the responsibility for rebuilding and recovery doesn’t just lie with the government and civil society. Brands must play their part as well. Through purpose-led creativity, they won’t just connect with consumers better, but also help revive spending, kick-start innovation and pave the way for a new consumer-brand relationship.