Always tell the truth

As a mother of 3, I spend a lot of time advising my children to always tell the truth. As everyone knows, if you don’t tell the truth you will inevitably be found out at some point. Despite a few childhood cultural myths – like The Tooth Fairy and Santa, I take this seriously. And I expect the same in return: I want to believe our brands tell us the truth and are authentic.

In recent years, many brands have been talking about their higher order social ideal or purpose, surely the pinnacle of a brand’s truth. If you look at the Cannes Creative Effectiveness Lions 2017, sustainability and CSR were used by 47% of the campaigns, a significant increase on the 18% in 2016. Yet the media is full of examples of backlashes against ‘bolted on’ ideals, perceived to be cynical attempts at commercial gain through association with worthy causes, or exposed as a distant cry from the real practices inside the organisation.

The problem seems to be twofold: how can brands find their authentic brand truth and how can they bring it to life consistently?

We believe that brands need a purpose or a reason to exist, but that this doesn’t necessarily need to be a higher social ideal. There are many fantastic examples of effective and motivating purposes which espouse social values, for example Innocent ‘Make natural, delicious and healthy drinks that help people live well and die old’ to Ikea ‘A better everyday life for the many people.’ However, there are plenty of purposes that don’t. Baileys for example chose to move away from its social purpose of ‘Making women shine’ back to its historical heartland of ‘Your co-conspirator to pleasure’ as customers didn’t believe or even really want Baileys to make them shine. The change in purpose has driven their brand share.

To discover your true brand purpose, you need to start with your brand roots or what has made you famous and bring this together with your brand values or what your brand truly believes in. Developing brand purpose is as much an art as a science, but if you stick to what always needs to be true for your brand to be your brand, then you are likely to be in authentic territory. If your brand has a social purpose at its core, like Lifebuoy soap’s promotion of healthy hygiene habits, that’s great, but if your core is simply about customer happiness, like Zappos, then that can be just as powerful.

So once you have your brand purpose, how do you bring it to life consistently for your customers and employees? We believe that purpose should act as a guiding direction for a brand’s customer experience and also their employee experience. By using purpose as a guiding light for the entire end-to-end customer experience, a brand can achieve consistency which will stand up to scrutiny, an inevitability in our connected world. Tesla, now bigger than Ford, has built its entire customer experience around its purpose ‘to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transport.’ This includes its products, its network of charging points and its customer engagement strategy, led by CEO Elon Musk, who personally interacts with customers, welcoming feedback and suggestions to accelerate product innovation.

If you would like us to talk to us in more detail about finding your purpose or bringing it to life across the customer and employee experience, please do get in touch. You can also view our award-winning work on brand purpose with M&S.

BRAND LEARNING: Inspiring people. Lifting capabilities. Growing organisations.