Experts share why the seed of purpose bears fruit in tough times

Adgully concluded its webinar on 5, May on ‘Building a purpose driven communications strategy’. The webinar was moderated by Anup Sharma, Independent PR and Communications Consultant who was joined by:

  • Akshaara Lalwani, CEO & Founder, Communicate India
  • Lalit Bhagia, CEO, DAN Consult
  • Neha Mehrotra, Executive Vice President, Client Centricity and National Head, AvianWE
  • Priyanka Seth, Client Relationship Lead – Technology, The PRactice
  • Shudeep Majumder, Co-founder & CEO, Zefmo Media
  • Tarunjeet Rattan, Managing Partner & Founder, Nucleus PR

Anup Sharma kickstarted the discussion by noting that “communications in the COVID-19 era are very different. Earlier, corporates like the Tata Group built a city out of a village called Tata Nagar and the brand was built on trust. In the digital era, what are other brands doing? The new generation of consumers such as the millennials and Gen Z demand that brands take stances on social issues.”

In the age of hyper transparency and hyper connectedness, what is the purpose of brands in society and how are the brand narratives changing?

According to Tarunjeet Rattan, sometimes the brand is communicating their core purpose, but most of the time it is the responsibility of the PR professionals to be a moral compass for the brand. “If who they are and what they are doing is not aligned, then we need to tell them where they are going wrong,” he affirmed.

Adding further, he said, “From our end, we send our clients a media advisory every month to tell them where and how media perception has changed. In the last 6 months, a lot more clients have taken to communicating purpose, so it is very encouraging.”

Why do brands need to define their purpose?

Quoting Simon Sinek, Lalit Bhagia remarked that the author and motivational speaker had said something profusely, ‘Customers don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it’. Bhagia added that this underlying “why” defines a brands’ purpose and what makes it necessary. With technology, today, consumers have power like never before. Citing a report, Bhagia said that 80 per cent of Gen Z is worried about the health of the planet and their spending will reflect that attitudinal change. Another report by Deloitte last year showed that 91 per cent of millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause.

When we talk about purpose communications, it is only responsibility of earned media or does paid media have a role to play?

“These days I’m on the paid side of the media as against earned media,” remarked Shudeep Majunder. “It is a tricky situation if a brand comes to you and wants to run a campaign and there is money on the table. Are you compelled to go and execute the campaign and ignore the repercussions that it will have?” he asked. According to Majunder, that onus fell on the shoulders of the agency, who had to be responsible. “If you are there for the long run and you end up executing a campaign without regard for the consequences and it falls apart, then the agency will also feel the backlash and not just the brand. Influencer marketing companies like ours tend to push on the impact that brands tend to face from potential social media backlash or even. We’ve observed that brands are careful with the kind of messaging they would want their influencers to convey and in the last few months we have seen them become conservative in communicating via influencers,” he elaborated.

Purpose creates relevance for the long term

Priyanka Seth added here that brands need to look at campaigns which are sustainable, scalable and there for the long run. She cited the example of Lenovo India’s SmartEd campaign, which was launched just before the COVID-19 crisis erupted. She said that the campaign became even more relevant once the pandemic struck. The campaign raises awareness about the shortage of teachers and how smarter technologies can fill in that gap. Lenovo has created a platform that invites people from various parts of the country to come and learn if they do not have access to teachers or formal education. This became relevant in the current scenario because everyone is sitting at home and has the time.

Does the role of communication become even more challenging when the consumer is facing a tough time?

Neha Mehrotra noted that for a long time, purpose and promise have been interchanged by a lot of organisations. According to her, a brand needs to understand if they are building on a promise or a purpose. “If you are building on a promise, then there will be seasonality to the communication and it will lose relevancy. If you build on the why of the purpose, then that’s how you avoid releasing sporadic communications and maintain consistency. When you tie your communications to purpose there isn’t a dilemma whether to do it or not to do it because you are taking all your stakeholders into consideration.”

The conversations on social media are around new age brands. How can legacy brands reinvent in the age of digital?

Akshaara Lalwani: Purpose needs to have resonance. A brand needs to be authentic in what they are saying and break away from the clutter. The consumer should be at the heart of every piece of communication. Think about Tesla - why is it eating into the market share of BMW and General Motors? Because they have a well defined purpose. Take the example of Kodak, they did not take into consideration the evolving consumer tastes and preferences and did not evolve to remain relevant. It is not enough to have purpose, a consumer must sense the value and resonance in a company's purpose. Brands must be extremely careful before making tall claims. if you are selling a hand sanitizer or vaccine saying it cures Covid-19 then it affects the welfare of the community at large and you need to do the due dilligence.

Watch the full webinar below:


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