Opportunity or threat?

One of the most important key components of a brand’s success is communication. Most of the times, even though sustainable and ethical practices are in place in a company, they fail to communicate this. And while it’s still great that companies don’t act in a “good way” just for publicity, it’s also important to involve the community around them and let them know of everything you are putting into practice. Building a strong communication channel not only gives brands the chance to put out there their sustainable actions, but also gives them the opportunity to create a stronger bond with community, which feels taken into account when its informed about “internal” brand policies and practices.

Is there a connection between the rise of interest towards branded content and the creation of more & more purpose driven campaigns?

I was asked to write a paper for the BCMA book celebrating 10 years of the Association activity and started reviewing the Grand Prix winners of the BC&E category at Cannes Lions, since it has been created:

Winner of the 2012 Grand Prix was US-based Mexican restaurant chain, Chipotle, and its ‘Cultivate‘ campaign; Intel and Pereira & O’Dell won for the ‘The Beauty Inside‘ in 2013, (No Grand Prix awarded on 2014 and 2015). In 2016 ‘The Displaced‘ for New York Timer VR, by Vrse; 2017 was ‘Beyond money‘ by Santander and this year, KPN’s Evert_45 campaigns were awarded the Entertainment Grand Prix.



In all of these examples, brands put their environmental/ social commitment at the center of their marketing strategy. They transformed their own ‘Brand Structure’ into a ‘Purpose‘ to build a deeper connection with consumers.

Surely, storytelling and purposing have a lot to share, but, there is a potential downside for brands linking themselves to important social issues.



Look at what happened to Chipotle, they always claimed to be “the healthy alternative to fast food”. Chipotle’s problem started back in July in Washington state, 5 people got sick with e coli after eating chipotle, but it only made news to the local paper. Chipotle became a national story when bad tomatoes in Minnesota stores infected 81 people with salmonella in august. In response chipotle switched suppliers, About the same time in California,  Chipotle told the local health department that 17 employees were sick with norovirus, a specially nasty intestinal bug. 230 people caught the virus,. at this point, this problem, though serious, appeared to be isolated and Chipotle’s executives thought they had it under control. That changed when a separate E Coli outbreak startled state lines in late october. The company closed all 43 restaurants on 2 states. In total about 500 people got sick from eating chipotle in the second half of 2015.

“With an increasing number of businesses making it a focus of their marketing, consumers are understandably getting a little skeptical – particularly when there is not a clear line between the brand and its purpose.”

-Charlotte Rogers, Marketingweek

I think it’s an important role that companies are playing in bringing social issues to the public’s attention, but at the same time I fear it’s just a trend in marketing more than a real inside transformation for the company: sometimes it’s hard for consumers to trust brands  embracing ‘causes’ without demonstrating they “really believe” in what they say they stand for. And they are right. Unfortunately there are a lot of ‘purpose driven campaigns’ created for companies that aren’t actually facing a radical change.



Back when a business was a black box, the brand was whatever the marketing team painted on the outside. “Now that a business is a glass box, the brand is everything. Every person. Every process. Every value. Everything that happens, ever.” – David Mattin Trendwatching CEO.

Even if it is admirable that companies want to bring thoughtful issues to the public’s attention, it’s not only about bringing them to the light, but to also bring and implement solutions. Dentsu Aegis found that “there is a clear set of preferred causes that businesses adopt: purposeful campaigns around the topics of Environment, Diversity, Health and Social welfare make up 70% of all winning entries.”

Transparency is key to success, but sometimes is not enough to “put it out there”, mindful communication with a purpose behind is the ultimate goal. Reaching the right audience with the right message should be every company’s objective and while it’s not always easy, following the brand core values and being true to themselves as well to consumers is the first step to get there.

RELATED CONTENT: Purposeful communications: Now is the time for brands to step in.

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