Brands are members of society
Here’s a thesis: Today, brands operate like members of society.
I believe there are 3 key truths by which brands now transcend into citizens of society:
Brands connect on an emotional level.
By trading on human emotion, they are now citizens of society.
By being citizens of society, they have the responsibility (or opportunity) to better that society of which they are now members.
Yes, a brand’s #1 job is to produce superior products and services and continue to innovate to meet consumer needs. But the minute a brand steps into the lives of its consumers by connecting to them on an emotional level, that job grows and changes.
In today’s world, people argue that the best brands connect to their customers on an emotional level. Advertising accounts, sales numbers, and Super Bowl spots are won and lost on this premise alone. No one says “Wow - did you see how clean that baby was?” when they see a Johnson & Johnson baby spot. Instead, they get a feeling that connects with them on an emotional level. And once that happens, marketers and brands become human. Humans who are citizens of the world. And with that citizenship comes responsibility to contribute to the betterment of the world.
Let’s look at some examples of brands that nailed it in the emotional connection category. Some of these are overt stances in social opinion, others are a bit more understated.
This piece shows that being a Mom to an athlete doesn’t always look like a scene from Friday Night Lights; but sometimes comes in the form of supporting their children challenging social and cultural norms by their sheer desire to compete in sports. I love it because it illustrates inclusion in the most succinct way through the ending line: “Imagine if the World could see what a Moms sees.” P&G's purpose to support moms is so perfectly aligned with their strategy and allows for an emotional connection unrivaled by hardly any other brand.
A lot has been written about this campaign - good and bad. I love it because it shows the perfect balance of humility and bravery by openly calling out the shortcomings of the brand's own tagline. Gillette stands hard on accountability, standing up for and demonstrating what is right and calling on today’s men to boldly hold themselves to a new standard of excellence. And, to me, there is nothing “toxic” about that at all.
This spot scored high marks in both the “strong purpose” and “strategic alignment” categories. Delta simple states that, regardless of our background, we are a lot more alike than we think and if we get out in the world and experience it with each other, we’d see that. And shouldn’t we all what unites us rather than what divides us? This spot hits “inclusion” on a unifying and aspirational note.
I heard recently at a conference that brands should align their own purposes with what their customers care about. And that takes listening to understand, not telling to enforce. And once those customer values are understood, a brand must stand for those things in a meaningful and truthful way if they ever want to connect with their customers emotionally. Then, and only then, can real brand love be created.
These are all just my opinions. I encourage you to form your own. After all, isn’t constructive and honest debate from differing viewpoints the source of greater understanding?
Blair Brady, CEO | Co-Founder