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News And Views

News & Views

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  • 23 June 2016
  • Sophie Howard

CANNES LIONS: PRs lead the race in helping brands build purposeful connections

The big topic again this year at Cannes Lions is the power of purpose in building and sustaining global brand reputation. Aline Santos, SVP of Global Marketing from Unilever, Sir Ken Robinson and Richard Edelman took to the stage this week, in a panel discussion chaired by Paul Kemp-Robertson the co-founder of Contagious Communications.

Richard began by saying, “Purpose is table stakes for brands”. The world is changing in fundamental ways and today it’s not enough to just talk about having purpose, brands need to do something tangible about it. The panel went on to discuss how consumers are ‘involved’ with brands, but marketers need to move them through a state of ‘investment’ to ‘commitment’ – and this is only done through a collaborative community effort driven by tangible evidence of social purpose.

We’ve long supported the view that brands need to humanise to engage and build trust, so this was all music to our ears. At Zeno, our passion about understanding people — their behaviors, values and attitudes – and how they relate to brands drove us to look in more depth at the changing lifestyles and lifestages of each generation. To do this, we created a multi-generational study designed to uncover how brands can make a deep connection with the people they want to reach. This is the Human Project™. One of the findings relevant for Cannes Lion attendees is that, for brands to connect and build purposeful reputations credibly, paid-for media alone is not enough. The use of peer-to-peer and owned media is growing twice as fast as paid, and we passionately believe this is the key to unlocking the future.

Back in Cannes, Aline Santos talked about her ‘Dirt is Good’ campaign for Unilever. “Creating a story about your product will be a very short one, but passion will last a lifetime” – this was the mantra that Aline established when taking the ‘Dirt is Good’ campaign into a social purpose space, lobbying Government in Vietnam to instil breaks during kids school time, and opening 600 playgrounds worldwide. Aline went on to say, “many brands are creating beautiful narratives but we need to start showing the love.”

This led the conversation on to the role that brands play today in working with Governments to make changes for the greater good. Sir Ken Robinson said, “Government is slow; brands are more trusted to deliver these days. This is a moment in time for brands to step up.” It’s about brands activating purpose, not just talking about hidden corporate agendas. This reminded me of the game-changing ‘Home Sweet Loan’ initiative we launched recently for Starbucks. Understanding the housing crisis in the UK, and spiralling rental prices, Starbucks recently announced that it will help its employees by providing rental deposit loans for those who have worked for the business for over a year. Not only leading the industry by example, but actioning something they strongly believe in.

The panel discussion concluded with Richard saying, “Marketers can’t play the game the old way. You can’t buy enough prime time to make a difference. Working in a community is the best way to make genuine social purpose tangible from the bottom up.” Marketing is fundamental to corporate strategy and committed consumers will only be created if purpose is put into actual practice.

…In the words of Gandhi, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”