10. September 2020

The younger you go, the more brand choices are driven by purpose.

Before her keynote on 'Purpose-led Marketing: 2020 Advertising on Racial Equity' at the ADC Creativity Summit at DMEXCO @home, we were able to have a chat with Cecelia Wogan-Silva, Chief Creative Evangelist on Purpose-led Marketing at Google's Partner Plex in California, and lifelong advocate consulting brands on going beyond the goal of profit and making a positive contribution to society.

You inspired many creatives to embrace ‚purpose‘ as a keystone of their work. How do you convince others to follow your lead?

Thankfully, I don’t need to do any convincing! The numbers are doing all the work. We have been seeing a transition over the past many years in which consumers shifted from product based buyers to belief based buyers. Edelman Trust Barometer has shown about 64% or 2/3 of consumers globally have become belief-based buyers – meaning in essence, that values of a brand are a major deciding factor for consumers today. I’d say that products and reliability are table stakes and „why your brand matters to the world“ is the big bet.

And it’s not just consumers‘ reported behavior – it’s truly where the money is. Millward Brown’s BrandZ Index shows that brands with a high sense of purpose had a valuation increase of 175% over the last 12 years, compared to the median of 86%. Nike was rumored to be losing customers following the controversial „Dream Crazy“ campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick. In fact, that year Nike enjoyed 31% increase in sales and since then its seen a huge increase in the company’s valuation. Much of that can be credited to taking a stand for someone who chose to take a knee.

That doesn’t mean everyone who takes on a cause will make any money… sadly, many advertisers are simply wasting their money to follow the herd on purposeful stories. But done right, it’s a game changer.

Sadly, many advertisers are simply wasting their money to follow the herd on purposeful stories. But done right, it’s a game changer.

Fridays for Future, Black Lives Matter – Why should brands and companies have to position themselves now? What makes the difference between today and the past?

Much of this addressed above. Some say 2020 is a train wreck. I see it as more of a crash, with several factors all intersecting at once. This year we are seeing companies rapidly transform themselves to function in a new world (post-pandemic), shifting to DTC models overnight and building out digital platforms. The shift to digital means tons of competition for eyeballs and interest among brands. That practical reality for business just so happened to converge with this unprecedented moment in the spring, when every brand was focused on society as whole. Suddenly it wasn’t about Brand X or Y, it was about our „being in this together“.

Taking a position around Covid-19 was critical context for what came next.

To be honest, I’m guessing most people won’t remember which brand stood for what – taking a position around Covid-19 wasn’t going to earn much brand love or even ad recall. But it was critical context for what came next. All that spirit of togetherness collided with the harsh reminders that no, actually, not everybody is experiencing the world the same way. We’re increasingly aware that human rights are compromised all over the world – those of Black Lives or refugees or people without economic means.

So, changing business, a renewed sense of humanity and a sharp reminder of life’s injustices – all these pressures exploded and illuminated how powerful brands could really be effecting change. It’s not new news for many of us. Brands wield tremendous power and cultural influence. But now, there’s no going back.

Which role does Generation Z play in all of this?

Great question! Gen Z is going to be the largest buying generation in history, so every brand is probably paying close attention to what they want. And when they get into dialogue with Gen Z, they’re going to discover the most ethnically and socio-economically diverse populations they’ve ever encountered.

Gen Z is going to be the largest buying generation in history.

Basically, Gen Z has all the same expectations for brands I mention above and then some. The younger you go, the more their brand choices are driven by values. Part of that has to do with the fact that this Generation are mostly digital natives, and that means they can hold brands accountable on social media with a quick touch of their smart phone.

But surprisingly this is the same Generation that is the most skeptical – younger customers can sniff out opportunistic, inauthentic brand positioning. They want the real deal – stories matched with action. They don’t want to just buy from a brand, but they want to join in with a brand. So that means brands need to think beyond the message to build something far more participatory.

Companies, with their wealth and power, can do a lot to shape the world.

What can advertising contribute to a better world?

I’ve heard industry folks saying that purpose has no purpose in advertising. I agree to some extent – if it’s bad advertising, no purpose is going to make it effective. But companies, with their wealth and power, can do a lot to shape the world and the advertising they do has real consequences too. Advertising reaches people widely. It tells emotional stories affecting how people feel about issues and what they choose to do about them. This is why advertising is known as the culture driver of the modern era.

People respond to great stories collectively, and a movement is born. Sometimes that movement is about everyone wearing special running shoes with a swoosh, or getting the same ear buds, but sometimes a movement reminds us that being girl isn’t shameful thing, or that the planet needs help to avoid cooking to death. In a perfect world, good, effective and purposeful advertising is a movement we can all join.

Cecelia Wogan-Silva ist Chief Evangelist für Purpose-Driven Marketing bei Google’s Partner Plex und wird am 24. September eine unserer Speakerinnen auf dem ADC Creativity Summit bei der DMEXCO @home sein. Das vollständige Line-Up und alle weiteren Infos findet ihr hier.

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