I’ve been thinking a lot about brand purpose and the values that underpin a brand. Thinking about how these brand values play out through every touch point – and wondering where some brands go wrong when it comes to their marketing (namely, their advertising).
Advertising at its core is designed to disrupt an audience experience. It’s an intrusion when we have to sit through an ad before we can watch the video we’ve queued up on YouTube, or when our viewing of a website is thwarted by a full page splash ad. So why then, when marketers know they will be most likely interrupting their audience, are so many ads and their execution bland, boring or just plain insulting?
Don’t get me wrong. I love a good ad. I’ve made some in my time too. The right ads stand out, get cut-through organically and usually generate a few complaints.
But if they’re going to annoy the very people they’re targeted at (from both a content and form perspective), that’s kind of missing the point, right?
Why are these ways of communicating still things??
There’s the “shouty, urgent-urgent-buy-now” style, most typically employed by those who either haven’t much else to say, or are grossly lacking imagination.
Or perhaps my personal ‘favourite’, the friendly and helpful brand that uses a passive-aggressive “no-thanks-I-don’t-want-my-awesome-free-tips”, style (that’s not-so-subtly condescending of its audience).
How about the ‘inclusive and modern’ cleaning products that still employ blatantly backwards stereotypes (mum in the kitchen wiping the benches, silly old dad doesn’t have a clue how to clean). The ripple effect of this of course being that they simply perpetuate bad behaviours and attitudes.
Marketing and advertising doesn’t have to be this way. Nor does it need to make you feel bad or stupid.
And brand owners needn’t forget who they are and what they stand for when creating their communications – or where and how they communicate.
If you’re reading to this point going, what is she ON about? I’m talking about aligning your purpose with your brand values with your ACTIONS. Words in a strategy document mean zip, zilch, nada if you don’t actually ACT on them.
Want to see what living true to your brand values and purpose looks like in the real world?
It looks like Thinx, who create period proof underwear for people with periods. They’re inclusive and actually show people of all shapes, sizes and colours in their marketing. They stand for something and they go out into the world and show what they stand for. They also have a cracking brand personality that comes through beautifully through every touch point – from social to order emails and everything in between. Yes, they use advertising that will absolutely follow you around the web, but it’s aligned with their core message (and mission of changing an entrenched consumer behaviour). Oh and it’s not done in a sleazy, salesy way.
Or how about Flora & Fauna who are an eco store on a mission to help people make more ethical choices for everyday products. They’re a certified B Corporation. They partner with recycling programs like TerraCycle to help their customers recycle – and reward them for it. They demonstrate through their social media how customers can make better choices and invite conversation and connection – which in turn helps spread their message.
Then there’s no.issue who create sustainable, branded packaging. They do smaller quantities so there’s less waste. They sell compostable mailers for product-based businesses to sell their wares in – encouraging more people to operate more sustainably. They use eco-friendly inks and are part of an eco packaging alliance that actively plants trees around the world with every order placed. Living. their. values.
They don’t just say they’re for the environment and then ship something in a bunch of plastic. They don’t say they’re about supporting women, and then only show the thinnest of models made up to the nines in their marketing material. Nor do they harass their audience with ads that disrupt their online experience, guilts or shames them. Nor do they pay for followers and engagement bots, or use black hat SEO tactics. Cos these things just don’t align.
Ultimately, the customer will see through this. Think of it kind of like brand karma.
Do you see how your values run through everything you do? Every interaction with your audience is an opportunity to live true to your values. That’s why it won’t amount to anything if you’re not making conscious decisions at every step along the customer journey.
And how, pray tell, am I being more conscious about living true to my brand values?
By continuing to be selective about what brands I work with. Brands doing good things for the world, run by good people. By bringing more of the good sort of marketing to outweigh the downright terrible. More good marketing for good people who will bring about the things the world needs to change, heal and grow.
You might notice I’ve pledged to The Ethical Move, to market responsibly with integrity and transparency. That’s why from now on, you’ll see my pricing in whole numbers. Not $197 instead of $200, or $49 instead of $50. Round, clear numbers that aren’t designed to manipulate you, the discerning and intelligent audience.
I’ll be reevaluating lots of old assumptions and ensuring everything passes the sniff test for positivity ✨ and sustainability 🌱 It’s just the beginning, and it will be an ongoing evolution.
I encourage you all to consider your internal processes through to your customer journey and see how you can use each step as an opportunity to better live up to your values. You might actually discover a way to powerfully differentiate or even innovate.
Tell me, which brand do you love the most for living up to its values?
Need some help getting started with your values?
I made a Brand Building Basics Workbook that has helped loads of people get clear about what their brand is all about. You might find it useful too.