Alice asked the Cheshire Cat,
who was sitting in a tree,
“What road do I take?”
The cat asked,
“Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the cat,
“it really doesn’t matter, does it?”

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Relevance depends on purpose

Whiplash Team, September 13th 2019

Relevance depends on purpose

The results of The Havas Group’s latest Meaningful Brands 2019  report are devastating: 81% of brands could disappear tomorrow and consumers wouldn’t mind. And it’s no wonder:  brands today have more technology, more data, more resources, but in the eyes of consumers, they are meaningless.

In the hyper-connected world in which we live, where symbolism and compromise are transcendent, consumers perceive brands as irrelevant, unable to make a difference. For users, the set of symbolisms that a brand conjures – associations, expectations, information – no longer make sense.

Because it’s not about what technological tools are used. Neither marketing strategies,  nor omnichannel or personalization. Nor data analysis or advertising campaigns. It is about what drives the brand and transcends time: its purpose.

It is the purpose, and strategically managing the organization from that reason to be, what makes a brand truly relevant.

As expert Martina Olbertova, a regular contributor to the Branding Strategy Insider, explains, brands are not just vehicles to sell products, services, and experiences.  According to Olbertova, brand’s main business is the exchange of meaning, and the fundamental goal of a brand should be to help people maximize their internal potential and give their best.

Indeed, if we remember that a brand is a symbolic ecosystem that is created in the user’s head and consists of all the information and expectations associated with a product, service or company, we understand for example that Nike users buy its products because they associate the brand with elite athletes, and that makes them demand more and more of themselves. Or because in times of social engagement, they identify with the values Nike has expressed when hiring Colin Kapernick for their advertising campaigns.

However, the issue here is how to make brands meaningful to their customers again. Is it possible at all? It may be, but it requires putting the spotlight back on the essentials, the fundamental reason why the brand exists.  The brand’s why and what for.  That is, we need to return the meaning to where it belongs: a purpose that generates value.

On the other hand, in order to generate brand value, the brand needs to be recognized – valued – by those to whom it is addressed. And this only happens when that set of evoking symbolism has personal resonance with the user. If the brand does not connect with the needs, expectations, and values of its users, not from the surface but from the core,  it can hardly be meaningful to them.

It is that timeless purpose, which encompasses everything and is evident in everything that the organization does, that builds the legacy of a brand and makes it historic.

Therefore, the management of the brand, its purpose, is strategic and not circumstantial. Brands that are managed from the purpose and not from the momentary objectives of the business are those that consumers perceive as solid, in addition to being more cost-efficient and more simple to manage in day-to-day operations. The purpose gives coherence to the strategies and to the actions that derive from them. It is, in short, a cohesive element, which offers substance to the brand over the years. And, in these times of disruption, it is essential for subsistence. 

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