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Brand purpose must resonate with company image and category: Kantar's top brass

Soumya Mohanty, Managing Director, Client and Quantitative, Insights Division, Kantar and Prasanna Kumar, Head of Creative, South Asia, Insights Division, Kantar, discuss how brands should be careful with purpose-related communication

(L) Soumya Mohanty and Prasanna Kumar (R)

As more and more brands try to better connect with their audience by aligning their identity and communication with a larger societal purpose, there is a greater need for them to be careful with their positioning, say top experts from Kantar.

Explaining how brands can do it more sincerely, Soumya Mohanty, Managing Director, Client and Quantitative, Insights Division, Kantar, said there is a need for brands to be meaningful in a different manner.

“Meaningful brands meet the consumer’s need from the category. It's rooted in the category and consumer context. Meaningful brands adapt with time, but they remain true to the consumer's needs. ‘Purpose’ or ‘responsibility’ by itself is not meaningful but can be so if placed in the overall context of brand-consumer relationship,” she said.

Sharing similar thoughts, Prasanna Kumar, Head of Creative, South Asia, Insights Division, Kantar, said if a brand has consistently stood for progressive thoughts or breaking stereotypes, such values naturally become associated with it. Such brands can easily take up a purpose, e.g. Nike. Or if the product is naturally extendable to a larger cause, such as Lifebuoy, which can do public service announcements around consumers using any soap. “But if a brand is more in the fun space, it needs to be careful on how far the brand can appear to be ‘purposeful’. A beverage or alcohol brand can support restaurants and pubs…perhaps saving water but need to be careful to be authentic,” he added.

Mohanty said having a high order brand purpose or a higher social purpose, where the objective of having your brand plays a meaningful role beyond its category, is quite tempting as it offers a new basis for consumer dialogue. But brands must also be careful about identifying the purpose of the engagement. She said it must address something that’s a genuine concern in society and something your consumers care about. She said it must connect to category benefits and a brand’s heritage, courage, long-term commitment and continual attention.

“In other words, brands need to be careful about looking at it as a one-time effort or pursuing purposes that are not intuitively connected with the category and brand heritage,” she said. 

Brands must pay attention to the media mix as attention fragmentation and clutter are increasing at all levels such as the number of screens, ads, brands, creative formats, Kumar said. “The context of the channels is as critical as the creative and hence brands should invest in understanding their consumers and context of the different touchpoints and customise creatives for a greater impact,” he added.

Speaking about what trends we will see in terms of creativity after the pandemic, Kumar said while staple storytelling styles may continue, one can expect higher implicit integration of Covid-appropriate behaviour, higher positive tonality and greater contextual sensitivity.

Kantar’s Creative Effectiveness Award winners

Kantar recently announced the winners of Kantar’s Creative Effectiveness Awards, which tested 150 ads across categories markets, TGs and media channels. The five categories are Personal Care, Durables, Food and Beverage, Home Care and Digital. According to Kantar, these ads exemplify essential characteristics of being creatively engaging and landing persuasive brand stories.

Brands such as Hindustan Unilever, Kellogg and Bosch have been awarded in the first edition of these awards. Asked what these brands did which others failed to express, Kumar said they got their basics right such as strong insight in an expression that is instantly rewarding and memorable. 

Mohanty said sometimes brands tend to waddle into a higher order brand purpose/social purpose territory in pursuit of emotive connection that might have given them some saliency but with limited gains.

“The essential starting point for a strong brand would be giving the consumer a reason to buy and then ladder up in the expression to the emotive need. Practicality and emotion shouldn’t be traded for each other. A practical benefit leads to an emotional payoff. An ad that stops at only functional merely informs; an ad that doesn’t have a strong reason to buy or practical benefit only entertains; an ad that does both persuades,” she said.

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