Purposeful creativity - why it works and why it fails
Adrian Mills, Creative, Brand & Advertising Leader at Deloitte Digital
OK. LET’S start with a focus on failure. There’s lots of it.
The reality is, purpose as a philosophy is undermined, routinely, by brands that trumpet lofty purposes that reach far beyond what they functionally do. It happens all the time.
We’re not a beer. We bring people together.
We’re not a tissue. We’re a movement.
We’re not a soft drink. We’re solving decade old geo-political conflicts.
It’s quite easy to dismiss the idea of purpose driven creative when surrounded by so many examples of higher purposes that fall flat.
But please dear reader, don’t be too quick to judge. Most failure began life as good intention. Unfortunately best intentions often lead to over-reach. Because over-reaching is hard to reach past. Here’s a hypothetical illustration.
Are we a tyre brand?
Or a safety brand?
Surely, if we’re on millions of cars we’re saving millions of lives… right?
Which means we’re also saving children!
And what about dogs?
You know what, the world wouldn’t be as safe without us? Yes?
There’s your ad. Put that to some piano music.
You can see how naturally the thought process runs, and how intoxicating it is when the inanimate is reframed as immaculate. This kind of thinking has become de rigueur within creative agencies the world over since brand purpose caught on circa 2006.
Just quietly dear reader, I propose right here that any tyre brand brave enough to position themselves as the saviour of dogs, will absolutely sell more tyres. That’s at least interesting.
Unfortunately though, most purpose driven communication isn’t interesting.
Almost all of it falls into the trap of talking about anything but the consumer need, ignoring to its detriment the fundamental laws of self-interest.
The worst culprits are the brands that believe their purpose grants them an invitation to enter conversations unrelated to their core product. Hello Pepsi and Kendall Jenner.
However, to dismiss purpose as a fad or failure ignores the examples of it done well. When lightning is bottled.
The great case studies consistently capture the collision of business strategy, brand strategy and employee value proposition.
They reveal a true manifestation of belief, rather than a depressing manifesto of half-truths.
The success stories show us brands doing the right thing, not the obvious thing. We see their purpose manifest in principles, and these make it possible for marketers to justify hard decisions.
The best brand purpose work is felt deeply within a business before it is communicated to any external audience.
When it does reach the outside world, the inherent truth bestows upon campaign creative the power to rise above widespread and rightfully ingrained audience cynicism.
Purpose driven creative, at its best, is a wonder of the world.
It makes us lean in. It physically alters neural pathways. It carves a deep emotional groove in its audience and changes what they believe and how they behave. It creates followers and advocates. It endures. It multiplies. And much more.
Getting purpose right is the best investment a business can make.
It is the primary attractor and retainer of talent. It underpins brand value. It informs products and experiences. It makes sense of everything.
You may struggle to find a Deloitte team member who doesn’t subscribe to our purpose: to make an impact that matters. It’s threaded through the fabric of the firm. It’s what we sign up for when we enlist.
When Deloitte’s purpose manifests, it does so with a radiant power rare in business, driving value through inspiration. It draws great talent to the firm. With great talent comes great opportunity. It has once again seen the firm ranked by Brand Value as the most valuable Professional Services and Financial Services brand in the world.
Our purpose is fundamental to our success.
It’s the reason I work here.
At Deloitte, we are living proof of purpose. And there are many more businesses just like ours. If you’d like to see some great examples of purpose driven creative, a few of my favourites include: