Aline Santos, EVP, Global Marketing and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Unilever | Effie UK Council, on why brands with a purpose stand to win.
The pandemic has turned life and business upside down, challenged plans, and tested processes. In this context, companies need to seriously raise their game to be effective and succeed. The MENA Effie Thought-Leadership Program is your chance to Rise and Shine. Two mornings of sessions that will show you how to improve your performance and impress the Effie jury. Leading up to the event organized by Mediaquest on May 18-19, Communicate shares a series of thought-leadership pieces on what effectiveness in marketing means in 2021.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General, Executive Director of UN Women and Chair of the Unstereotype Alliance, recently offered these powerful words to the business community. She said: “You have to repurpose your skills to serve a greater good than profit.”
Her words come at a time of huge disruption and with the devasting backdrop of widening inequalities exacerbated by Covid-19 and systemic racial injustice exposed the world over. It is now undeniably clear that business must step up to be a force for positive change and deliver more than great products or services. Purpose is no longer an option, it’s a core requirement to the future of business.
Growth of consumer activism
Consumers holding brands accountable has been on the rise since the dawn of social media and hashtag activism. We saw its power with movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp and more recently with #BLM. This new level of consumer activism is the absolute reality for brands. People expect brands to take active roles in social, environmental and political discussions, instigating and effecting positive social change. In recent findings from the Edelman Trust Barometer, 85% of respondents want brands to ‘solve my problems,’ while 80% want brands to ‘solve society’s problems.’ Research by Shelton Group suggests that 90% of millennials buy brands whose social and environmental practices they trust.
This presents new and exciting opportunities for business. By aligning a brand’s purpose and values to the issues your audience care about and the problems that need solving in society, we have the opportunity not just for greater creativity, emotive storytelling and new reasons to engage our audiences, but it also presents us with the opportunity to build more authentic and meaningful relationships. If we can find a clear and authentic purpose, act on that purpose with measurable action and intent, then we can anchor ourselves to the next generation of consumers as well as protect and improve long-term brand value and effectiveness.
Purpose as a driver of profit
There is a common misconception within the business community that to truly be a purposeful brand you must sacrifice profit to do good. This idea must be turned on its head. Companies can deliver both purpose and profit.
Unilever has long believed in brands with purpose. Today, we see the brands that we call Unilever Sustainable Living brands – think about Dove, Hellmann’s and Domestos – consistently outperforming the average growth rate of the rest of the portfolio. Kantar’s BrandZ research shows a correlation between brand power and purpose. This is important because their research claims that high brand power results in greater market share. Their Purpose 2020 study also shows that brands recognized for high commitment to purpose have grown at more than twice the rate of others. This is why our CEO Alan Jope has said that he wants to make every single one of our brands purposeful. We believe that growing your business with purpose is the best way to future-proof it. The benefits of commitment to purpose are felt internally, too. It can make employee engagement go through the roof.
Purpose is also a powerful unlock for creative effectiveness. Unilever is honored to be the only organization to have two brands featured in the Effies ‘5 for 50’ shortlist, which recognizes brands that continue to grow, be effective and future-focused. The two brands are Dove for its Campaign for Real Beauty and Lifebuoy for its longstanding fight to improve hygiene and save lives.
What these two brands have in common is purpose. A strong, authentic, and long-standing purpose that is core to everything the brand says and does. Nearly two decades after the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty launched, the brand is still championing inclusive beauty and is the world’s largest provider of self-esteem education, reaching 60 million young people since 2004 and an aim to reach ¼ billion young people by 2030. Lifebuoy has a very clear purpose of saving lives through handwashing with soap. A crucial message for our times. Through its outreach and partnerships, the brand has helped over 1 billion people around the world improve their handwashing habits.
Purpose requires courage and stamina
There are many lessons to be learned from the Dove and Lifebuoy examples and perhaps the most important one is that your brand purpose needs to be actionable. People value what you do more than what you say. Actions require commitment, investment and integration with your company’s business strategy. How actionable your purpose is depends on its simplicity. If your purpose is unclear, it will remain written on a page rather than being implemented business-wide and having a real-world impact.
So, let’s think about what we can all do to serve that greater good mentioned by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and, together, let’s make business the biggest healer of society.
This article was first published on Effie Thinks, a series of think-pieces written by inspirational business leaders and innovators who are part of our network of Board & Council members and judges. Featuring expertise from right across the industry, the opinions are diverse, but every piece contains insights relevant to all marketers driving growth for their brands in today’s challenging climate.