A piece in Ad Week asks, “Is it time for brands to top taking stands (unless intrinsically linked to their mission)?” No doubt there are companies plunging into political debates to take a stand and thinking that will appeal to customers, but it doesn’t help that many companies.
And it also misses the point about a brand having a purpose, so no companies should give that up. Brand purposes don’t need to be political at all, and usually shouldn’t be in order to be effective.
Steve Jobs did a great job at explaining brand purpose and being relevant to your customers. It’s important to define who you are, and tell that to your customers. It’s also important to tell that to your employees, so they know how to make decisions inside the company.
Apple can focus on creative types, empowering them to pursue their missions and dreams. Nike can celebrate great athletes. None of that requires saving the world, all of it defines who the business is and what they’re trying to do.
American’s “We Know Why You Fly” campaign more 15 years ago was a little bit creepy but I always felt missed the mark. It said ‘we understand that every traveler is a person with a very human goal for their trip’ and so therefore the airline was going to be a little bit human and treat a passenger as a person. That didn’t quite translate into the trip experience. It also was just a marketing campaign and not something that became embedded in the company culture.
One of the commercials in the series, though really resonated for its potential – a businessman reclining into his seat and crashing at the start of a long flight, the voiceover talks about what he’s done on his trip. Now he’s headed home.
The airline understands the business traveler. If it makes every decision focused on how to get the passenger where they need to go, when they need to be there, in the most comfortable way possible that’s a brand purpose. It focuses decision-making around schedule and product and it tells customers who they’re going to take care of and how.
A brand purpose isn’t Delta withdrawing conference discounts from NRA events, it’s just asking what does a brand stand for, and whom does it serve? For a brand purpose to be successful it shouldn’t start with an ad campaign, the ad campaign brings clarity to an airline’s mission.
Copyright:stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo
Unfortunately too many marketers have come to think of brand purpose as uniting a company with a social cause. That can be a brand’s purpose, but for most companies it rings hollow and falls short — and they should just start by clarifying what they’re really about, not what they think they need to be about (or what consultants tell them they need to be about to court millennials).