Four key principles for brand purpose anchored in sustainable living

Here are four key principles to help you achieve real brand success in Asia, with sustainability and purpose-led activity.
09 August 2021
sustainability purpose APAC
Jamie Mismanos

Senior Consultant, Singapore

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Having a brand purpose anchored on sustainable living is an important vehicle for brand communication. Our BrandZ data shows that being socially and environmentally friendly ladders up to brand power. Brands need to find an underlying consumer tension within the territories they want to own, and build that into a story that resonates with consumers.

Being socially and environmentally friendly is a key lever in building the sense of purpose that people perceive in your brand. Purpose is in turn essential to build trust and meaning around your brand, and that ultimately shapes your brand power.

But, whilst we see the topic of “purpose” being discussed widely, it is not always resonating with consumers. We are now in the era of ‘purpose fatigue’ – and a lot of purpose-driven advertising is failing to cut through. This is often because brands are talking about the environment but not linking anything to the issues that really matter to consumers. A brand might say “We have pledged to be Carbon Neutral by 2035” but what does that really mean? In fact, 62% of Asians worry brands are involved in social issues just for commercial reasons. For a purpose to be successful, it needs to be at the heart of your brand.

The first important step is to understand what matters to consumers. Once you know this (if you don’t yet, then check out Kantar’s Sustainability Foundational Study), it is then critical to activate against the issues that matter for your brand.

Here are four key principles to help you achieve real purpose-led activity that can bring success for your brand:

1. Be authentic.

  • Don’t: Follow the temptation of piggybacking on what’s trendy right now or be opportunistic because a subject comes to the fore. Do not veer too far off your course, as you will risk your brand being disconnected with the purpose you are trying to champion.
  • Do: Craft a credible purpose that is connected to your brand’s history, products and reputation. Starting with product and brand truths is vital to establishing your authentic right to play. Take, for example, the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a framework, and identify areas that are most in line with your brand’s current position, as well as its future ambition. By really focussing on what it means to your brand, and what it means to your audience, you can articulate a story that resonate in a meaningful way.

2. Be brave.

  • Don’t: Hide or back down when there are obstacles or things get tough – this can have a more negative effect. You may seem insincere if you buckle under pressure.
  • Do: Confidently stand by your purpose. Be prepared to face, or even open difficult conversations if it’s what you truly believe in and to take the lead to enact change. If you have carved out an authentic purpose for your brand then you should bravely be the voice of the people you serve. Purposeful brands are courageous brands.

3. Be relevant.

  • Don’t: Default to a blanket strategy when activating your brand’s purpose. If you go in blindly or make assumptions about the people you want to reach, you will risk losing sight of your consumers’ sentiments.
  • Do: Ground your strategy in the dynamics of your market and consumers – get to know what their needs and motivations really are. This will help you find the right tension to anchor your brand on that speaks to your audience needs. It could also help surface beliefs or conventions that need to be disrupted for the betterment of society. What is relevant evolves over time, so brands also must adopt and evolve how they articulate their purpose accordingly.

4. Be responsible

  • Don’t: Stop with communications and a press release. Never say what you are not intending to deliver.
  • Do: Walk the walk! Put your purpose at the heart everything the brand does. Engage with your internal teams to align on driving purpose responsibly as a unified team. Set clear commitments and track progress against these to really embed new behaviours and live by what you stand for.

Keeping this checklist in mind will ensure you are activating a strong brand purpose that sets your organisation up for success.

Find more information on Kantar’s Asia Sustainability report and how your organisation can start to take effective and informed steps to successfully navigate your sustainable journey.

Kantar’s Sustainable Transformation Practice brings together expertise and assets from across Kantar through a framework of six key pillars. This supports organisations across the spectrum of sustainability challenges in order to meaningfully define and powerfully activate sustainability strategy.

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