Selling with purpose

Times are a changing. Your grandad has bemoaning the change over his pint for years now, telling you all about how things were different when he was a lad. Should anyone start talking about ‘their day,’ you can bet a negative comment is going to follow. That’s just the way it goes, however, some changes, like the shift to purpose driven selling, is a great thing. A positive change in a world that once consumed mindlessly and without care or consideration. Consumers are now choosing to ally themselves with brands and companies that have similar beliefs and value systems, with 66% of global consumers willing to pay more for sustainable offerings. All of a sudden, we care and we’re standing up to be obvious and loud about that. The sinister naysayers will tell you that we’re still mindlessly consuming and this is just the story we tell ourselves to justify our heavy expenses or constant spending. However, the naysayers should never be listened to and we’re not that basic. We love socially aware consumers. People who are actively seeking to place their money into the brands that stand for something, the ones that have purpose about them.

Practically, standing for something is easy for any brand or organisation, but unlocking your purpose in your brand strategy, weaving it into every aspect of your marketing and empowering your people to live by it is a different conversation entirely.   

Start with saying it, and mean what you say

Purpose cannot be lip service because you can smell the insincerity miles away. It has to be something your brand lives and breathes (pun intended) and truly believes in. So, say it often and say it loudly. Paint it on the walls. Email it to your offices every morning. Have a weekly reminder of the brand purpose. Weave it into your employee’s quarterly reviews. Your business has to be the first person to back the brand purpose and they have to back it every day.

Create a purpose lead strategy

Whatever your business is trying to achieve, whether it’s growth, new product launches or increasing headcount, ensure your strategy is built on the idea of what you stand for as a brand. Toms, typically one of the most well-known purpose led brands, wouldn’t hire individuals who weren’t committed to CSR and impacting those less fortunate. The people you bring into your business will become your business and ensure your strategy for hiring and growth incorporates the things you believe in. 

Advertise your purpose

Consumers are looking for brands that mean something and fight for causes, so ensure that your purpose is consistently cascaded out across your marketing and content. Shout about your causes, from every rooftop, not just when you need to sell specific products. Be proud of your brand beliefs and talk about them when you can to everyone you can.

There has often been a kind of stigma associated with purpose lead brands in the advertising space. As if they need to be ashamed that they’re using purpose to sell, or they hide true intentions, however, if purpose is helping you sell and helping the world, that’s the kind of win win situation we love and we think it deserves to be shouted about.

A changing world; IGTV and what we really want

This isn’t about how to use IGTV to gain followers for your brands social media efforts. You can find that kind of ‘how to’ in any number of articles on Google. This also isn’t about the features of IGTV and what Instagram hopes to do with the platform, because ultimately, you don’t care about that. Rather, this is about a changing consciousness and shifts happening that if we’re smart enough, and wise enough, we can use to really understand the people we’re always trying to talk to, our consumers.

Social media, whether you love it or hate it, acts as a weathervane for multiple generations. Updates and new features can be taken on face value, but what they really should be seen as are indications of our wants and needs and a heralding of the ways we’re now communicating with one another. Snapchat showed us that we were tired of writing and that images were our communication method of choice and the popularity of Instagram stories only reinforces the point. YouTube’s popularity is indication of how important video is to us all, but more importantly to younger generations who will very quickly become key consumers. Each update, each new platform is another piece in the puzzle and a greater telling of what we really want as consumers.

The addition of IGTV to the halls of social media lets us know that traditional forms of television aren’t working and yes, you can argue that people will always watch television, and maybe they will, but currently the way it’s working isn’t fit for purpose. What Instagram has done is create millions of channels in one fell swoop and given anyone license to own one of those channels. The world has just opened up to us in unprecedented ways.

We are saying that we want more. Want to hear from the forgotten, the underdog, the people whose voice we normally don’t hear. It’s saying that we trust these platforms and channels more than the traditional ones, perhaps because we believe they won’t sell to us, at least not yet. There is something about the everyday user being able to create a channel and post authentic content that we want and love and believe in so much more than the big corporations that have been in our sitting rooms for so long.

There are shifts happening here that if brands choose to really understand and delve a little deeper, can give greater insights to our changing world and how we form connections with consumers. We are long past the point of traditional selling. We’ve started selling with purpose and intention. With a social awareness we never possessed previously and with a commitment to creating long-lasting and meaningful relationships with our audiences. We’re placing power back into the hands of consumers and giving them the voices, the platforms and the microphone. Our world has changed and it’s no longer about us, but them, as it always should have been.

So perhaps we should concern ourselves less with the new features of IGTV and how we use it, but rather the idea that our consumers want a voice, and how do we as brands give it back to them?

We just want to believe in something

We live in a secular world. Life does not slow down on a Sunday, unless of course you’ve had a particularly heavy Saturday night and your raging hangover has confined you to your bed. In those instances, church bells and sermons are the last thing you need, let alone a choir screeching in your ear. The only thing we really believe in anymore is a good brunch spot on Sunday mornings and the night tube. So why then, in a time of such disbelief and apathy towards religion, institutions and an old-world order, are we so obsessed with brands standing for something? When was the moment we began demanding more from our companies than the services and products they gave us?

You could argue that the apathy we experience is in fact the very reason we want to believe in something and if we can’t, at least our favourite brands can and somewhere in our jaded dispositions we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that we do in fact, believe in something, even if it is by proxy. Buying shoes becomes a far more justifiable action when your shoes are from Toms and help give shoes to children around the world who need them. You can easily spend a wad of cash at Patagonia when you know in doing so you are inadvertently helping save the environment. Similarly, Method makes even domestic chores a more consciously led activity as they promote chemical free living. There isn’t an industry that has escaped the purpose revolution and we now consume mindfully, instead of blindly buying for the sake of it. We buy for need, but also to save the world.

At least, that’s what we’ve told ourselves, and even that ideology has a sinister undertone. The case can easily be argued for guilt free consumption, but consumption nonetheless, however, despite our often biter and sardonic tone, we like to believe that this revolution is real and worth fighting for. The truth is, the world has changed. Technology and social media changed everything, and that includes our relationships with brands and companies. They shifted us from the outside looking in and brought us into the heart of the business. Brands are no longer the stoic, unattainable, no questions asked entities they used to be. Social media has given us a platform to talk to them, fight back, argue, discuss and empower. This relationship is now two-way, and they have to give as much as we do for this to work. In the same instance, social media has given us a megaphone and we’re using it for everything, most importantly, social change. It’s not that we didn’t care about racism, the patriarchy and climate change before, we did, but we also didn’t know as much about it and had no platforms to talk about it. The online world we now live in changed all of that. Gave us an education, and a voice piece, and then brought us together in communities of people just like us and suddenly social consciousness was front and centre. Something everyone could get involved in and not just the old school Glastonbury hippies. 

Combine those two things and it’s obvious to see that purpose led brands aren’t just about selling more, but rather about staying relevant in a world that has quickly changed and will continue to do so. Of course, on a purely grass level it helps sales figures and profit, but it’s so much more than that. It’s indicative of a world that has opened up and in doing so, has given us greater opportunities to care. It is in short, the opportunity to step up and be better. The brands that take this on board and integrate a real purpose into their business, as opposed to lip service in their mission statement on their website, are the ones that will lead the next generation of companies into the future, and rightly so. Why should we follow anyone who doesn’t have the best interests of our world at heart? We’ve all watched Blue Planet II, we know the consequences of our mindless consumption and social media has made us care more than we ever used to before. We’re here for change, and we’re ready for our brands to lead the way because we don’t always know how to. We’re ready to believe, and we need their help to do it.

Staying on when everyone wants to turn off; digital detoxes and advertising

There comes a point where you just know you’ve gone too far. You might be teasing a mate and suddenly realise he’s not laughing anymore but likely to lean over the pints and punch you. Or that awkward moment you realise you’ve gone too far in a fight with your partner and you’ll be sleeping on the sofa for at least a week. Or the moment you make a family member cry because you were a little too honest. You just know. The atmosphere changes, everyone tenses up and if looks could kill, you’d be flat out on the floor by now.

We’ve apparently hit that point with our technology and somewhere between checking our phones first thing in the morning and taking them to the toilet with us, we went too far. The constant online presence, checking in to every restaurant, tagging friends in everything, recording every moment for the gram and tweeting anything funny that anyone ever said tells us we’ve overdone it. Taken this joke a little too far. The result is now digital detoxes, whether it’s retreats in the south of Spain or bath salts (it’s actually a thing), the rising popularity of ‘switching off’ continues to grow.

But for brands that relay on their consumers being constantly switched on, addictively connected to their devices, surely digital detoxes aren’t in our best interests?

Naturally, because we sometimes like to be contrary but mostly we like to consider things from all angles, we disagree. The popular desire to disconnect from screens and smartphones doesn’t signal the death of advertising or consumerism, but rather is a changing attitude in our audience and brands must do what they always have done, at least the ones who have survived that is, and they must care about the same things their consumers care about. They must embrace the new trends as wholeheartedly as their people do and be less bandwagon and more leader.

In a world of purpose-led brands, social consciousness, marches and hashtags turned revolutions, no one can afford to pay the price of apathy. We are living in a time of such social commentary and we are all expecting everyone to say their piece and that includes brands, corporations and the big ole blue-chip. No one is exempt from this. The attitude of consciousness naturally filters across politics, culture and personal health and wellness, so as digital detoxes become more commonplace, brands have a responsibility to incorporate it into their advertising and marketing one way or another.

It sounds oxymoronic, but some brands have already started and done it brilliantly. Dolmio conducted the Look Up experiment which was a brilliant way to highlight the importance of family dinner time, the need to disconnect and their own product. Suddenly they became more than pasta sauce, they became a nostalgic desire to sit around the family table and enjoy a meal together. KFC similarly incorporated the idea of eating together by launching the Phone Stack. The idea was that in their chains customers downloaded an app, stacked their phones and everyone on the app would be linked to a stack. The longer the stack remained the more rewards they earned in store. Once someone moved a phone, the link was broken, and the stack ended.   

Encouraging less tech time doesn’t mean brands are going to start losing out and getting less eyeballs on their adverts. What it actually means is they’re tapping into conversations that are necessary and currently being had. It means they’re aware of the pain points of their people and doing what they can to address them. It is only by ignoring the current trends and movements that brands begin to fade into irrelevance because after all, so much of branding and repeat sales is being relevant and right now, we’re all worried about how much time we’re spending on our phones without the will power to turn them off. We’re children of the digital revolution, brought up on screen time and brand incentives. This is one thing we need brands to lead the way in and incentivise us to switch off and connect with the people around us a little more.

What’s your type, on paper?

The nation sits glued to ITV2 with baited breath and intermittent roars of laughter. We’re waiting to see what will become of the couples on Love Island and who will be the first to burst into tears tonight. It could be argued that in the middle of an obscenely hot summer we’re all just drawn to sparkling blue waters and the notion of lying around on a beach all day, but that’s not just it, there’s more to this Love Island fever than idle daydreaming of cooler destinations. While the target demographic is 16-24 year olds, it hasn’t stopped older audiences tuning in every night to get their fix.

Perhaps it’s all just behavioural sciences and we’re fascinated by drama and the ways in which people interact with one another. There’s certainly an argument to be made for modern romance, dating in the time of social media, the transition of masculinity and the insecurities of millennials. In fact, there’s enough material there for an entire psychology conference. And maybe, we just like to see real people, just like us, struggle with the same things we do in our everyday lives. Catching up with the Kardashians every week is all good and well, but the percentage of people who can actually relate to them is slim and those who can, probably aren’t keeping up with them.

But perhaps we’re overcomplicating it and the truth of the matter is, sex sells. It always has and as long as any kind of tension exists between the genders, it always will. From perfume, to chocolate, to valve caps and cars, we’ve used sex, or some form of physical desire, to shift products off the shelf and into the hands of consumers. Is that actually just what our type is and the type of every brand out there these days? From sponsorship deals to social media strategies, there doesn’t seem to be a brand who isn’t jumping on the Love Island bandwagon, even subtly referencing it in their ad campaigns. We are apparently in need of sun, sex and absolutely ridiculous love dramas.

But perhaps the most interesting thing about the show and surrounding social consciousness is the way we have become attached to the characters on our screens, and not because they’re celebrities or household names, but because they are in fact, just like us. Whether we’re watching Dani and Jack fight over the shopping or the girls chatting and getting ready, they look and act and talk just like the audience on the other side of the screen. They do things we do, cry over the same things as us, and devoid of plastic asses, personal trainers, chefs and assistants, they worry about the same wobbly bits as we do. They are ultimately and fundamentally relatable.

It feels like the signalling of a new age of advertisement and marketing, one that is already creeping in thanks to social media influencers and the YouTube stars of today. Perhaps the big celebrity names have had their heyday and a younger generation, more influenced by Instagram famous models than by George Clooney want to watch the people that look like them. It might not be the case for the traditional brands like Dior and Givenchy, but for brands making a name for themselves now and targeting the golden demographic that is 16-24 year-olds, they perhaps understand that people want their stars to be less out of reach, and more like them. That our type, on paper, is in fact the people who are just like us.

The leisure centres of the new world

The mention of leisure centres is enough to take most of us down memory lane as we remember our childhood, the soft play, swimming pools and afternoons spent happily running around while parents sat in the café, probably talking about how tiring their children were. The leisure centre is where you would go on Saturday, a generally healthy activity, bar the pleas from sweets out of the vending machine at the end, but when you’ve spent the afternoon jumping in and out of the pool and running around the soft play, you were never begrudged the bags of space raiders at the end.

Leisure centres now seem part of a forgotten world and instead we now have, shopping malls, the new weekend destination for tired parents and excited families. Once upon a time, shopping malls were just that, big places with lots of shops, however, with the arrival of new complexes like Westfields they have become the new leisure centres of today. No longer a place exclusively for buying things you need, they have become places to dine, to walk, or run, around, exhibitions and entertainment centres. Whether it’s the cinema, ice skating, bowling or Kidzania, there is something in them for everyone, once again, drawing consumers back into the places full of retail opportunities, because once you’re there to meet friends to go to the cinema, popping into Zara or Topshop to ‘just have a look’ is not a huge leap, and as well all know, a look inevitably turns into a purchase.

While the debates around the death of the high street and online shopping heralding the end of retail have been raging, the conversation should in fact be turned to shopping malls and how they’re in fact bringing in a new dawn of shopper experience and retail. The truth is, we do live in an age of consumerism and capitalism, we have always lived in this age, and people are not going to stop wanting things any time soon. As long as social media is thriving, and people consistently share the things they have, other people will always want those things. These are some fundamental facts that underpin the way we live today and so conversations around the demise of retail are quite frankly futile at best.

However, the ways in which we choose to consume that retail will change and that’s the very thing that brands need to stay ahead of. How do they secure spaces in these new ‘leisure centres’, and then how do they become an appealing space for families. Or even just consumers who are walking around with no intention to buy. What experience are they creating and how does it enrich consumers? That’s the real question here because retail isn’t going anywhere, but now we have malls and they have become the latest destination of choice, in fact, they have become our new weekend pastime.

We’re f***ed; living in a bubble

That’s admittedly a dramatic opening to any article, but we’re straight shooting people and we like to call it like it is, and all indicators point to the fact that we’ve shafted ourselves. By we, we’re talking about the entire plant, and by shafted, we mean the plastic that we’ve strewn across the world, resulting in what can only be called a global crisis.

We’ve spent years living in a bubble of willful ignorance, consuming plastic in just about everything (quite literally everything), and now David Attenborough has weighed us all up and found us wanting. We’re referring to Blue Planet Two, which Attenborough, as Godfather of, well, just about everything (the man is a national treasure after all), highlighted just how damaged our oceans are because of the half a million tonnes of plastic swirling around it. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, or in a cave for the last year, you’ll have watched it and been as fired up as any of us as every conversation, especially those in offices across the land, turns to the documentary and our consumption of plastic.

Of course we weren’t immune to it over here, and because we spend our days working with retail brands, our conversation turned to the role brands play in crisis’s like this, and how much responsibility actually falls on the shoulders of the consumers. We’ve all been recycling like mad, trying to remain consciousness while having the occasional glass of almond milk to feel like green citizens, but when the huge corporations of our world are churning out plastic faster than we can say vegan, plant based and wooden straws, our efforts are superfluous in the face of those odds.

Perhaps the time has come to head straight to the source, and in this case, that is those mighty corporations that are producing mass amounts of plastic for us to consume. And if we do assume that recycling and plastic consumption now falls under an organisations CSR policy, how will that change things during the buyer journey, and how soon is it before it becomes a marketing tactic to entice socially aware consumers?

The answer is obviously not long, and you can already find some businesses making use of their ethical products and social awareness to bring more revenue through the door, but perhaps it’s time we look at this as a great thing. In fact, a pretty bloody wonderful thing. If we’re to assume that we’re entering a new phase of social responsibility, then brands changing their packaging or plastic consumption to meet the needs of these new consumers is quite frankly a great thing. Why can’t consumerism help save the planet as well as satisfying the buying habits of the nation?

It can, and in fact it should. We’re opening our arms over here to brands that are willing and ready to reduce their plastic consumption, even if it is only to satisfy a specific market, at least they’re doing it and surely that’s the step we need to take to stop living in this bubble, which by the way, is made of plastic.

Sticking it to the man; deleting social and not shopping on Amazon

If you thought the rise of veganism was bad, you’re about to be bombarded by a new wave of social consciousness that demands you delete your social media, especially Facebook, and stop shopping on Amazon in a bid to be more mindful to local businesses. Perhaps the hipsters searching for their gluten free loafs was just the beginning and we are indeed entering a new period of enlightenment, sparked by the recent revelations from Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. The carelessness of Zuckerberg with our personal data has led to trending hashtags and moral dilemmas everywhere as we debate leaving Facebook and joining platforms that are built on the notions of privacy.

Perhaps leaving social media and avoiding Amazon’s easy consumerism is the new way to stick it to the man as creating start-ups doesn’t seem to be doing the trick anymore, but how realistic is it and what does it mean for the world of advertising? Whether we like it or not, our social media presence allows us to be part of communities in a world where physical communities are dying out and as humans, we have a natural desire to belong to things. As much as you might sometimes want to leave the grind and retire to a cabin in the woods, it doesn’t really work like that and our desire for human companionship would start to kick in at some point. Not to mention the huge sharing of information that happens across social media and our ability to be part of conversations that are not always accessible to us in our physical lives. The question is less should you leave it, but rather is our world set up to give us what we need without it?

The advertising world certainly isn’t and if more people leave, will we revert back to billboards and posters advertising our wares? The reality is that social media or not, online has a place in most people’s lives and Facebook’s recent blunder means that a group of techies are probably sitting in a room somewhere, building the next social platform, all with the USP of absolute and total privacy, with the promise never to share data. As long as those platforms exist, companies will find a way to be part of them and therefore to advertise their products. The job of advertising is to be where the eyeballs are, and whether it’s online or in that cabin in the woods, they’ll find a way to be there too. The arguments therefore aren’t so much whether this will affect the ad world, but rather how will it change us because let’s be honest, advertising and marketing isn’t going bust any time soon.

And should a new wave of socially conscious consumers really herald in a new dawn where Amazon is shunned and Facebook deleted, surely then it will bring about a new of advertising and talking to consumers. It might make us all a little bit more innovative and a lot less dry. It might make things more exciting for us all, and maybe, just maybe, it might be the shake up some companies need.

Make it Instagramable; a new world of social selling

There is an area in Miami called Wynwood. Wynwood has been, for many years, a part of town that you don’t walk through, ever. Not even in broad daylight. Even most South Florida residents wouldn’t walk through Wynwood. It’s a rough area with high drug and crime rates, and there’s always a story of someone who just got killed in Wynwood. However, there is one main street in Wynwood, and maybe three other side streets that are safe to walk down and are known for their beautiful graffiti murals. It also houses the Wynwood Walls, an outdoor museum that came later, showcasing large-scale works by some of the world’s best-known street artists.

Just about every inch of the Wynwood Walls are an Instagram bloggers dream. Bright colours, incredible patterns, potent messages are fashion bloggers answer to dull brick backgrounds. Once a few fashion bloggers discovered the walls, word spread, hashtags were added and suddenly, Wynwood is described as ‘the most happening’ area in all of Miami. Artisan coffee shops have sprung up, whole food bakeries and every type of craft beer imaginable suddenly has a home in this particular, once avoided, part of Miami. Derelict warehouses have been turned into bakeries, art galleries and stylish bistros, not to mention late-night bars and craft breweries, while every new start-up is vying for real estate. Once upon a time you could easily drive down the main street, however, the queues of traffic and throngs of people have made driving through Wynwood a myth.

Of course, there’s multiple factors at play, but so much of the success of this particular area is down to its fame on Instagram and as the need for beautiful backdrops rises, the masses flock to Wynwood. As consumers spend more and more time on the platform, hoping to find cool spots, great views and recommended products from their favourite influencers, social selling on Instagram becomes more and more important for brands. People will look for holiday destinations on travel blogger pages like Gypsea_lust and Doyoutravel before deciding their next holiday. Interior design ideas are garnered from bloggers like Alyssa Kapito and young millennials get life advise from the likes of Caroline Calloway. No matter what it is, we want to see it on Instagram before we buy it, the social platform becoming the new try before you buy.

The coffee shops and areas of London that suddenly become Instagram famous because of a cool light instillation or a bloom of flowers around the door tell brands and businesses that if you want to attract crowds, make sure that your setting is Instagram worthy. Make sure the walls are painted, preferably in bright colours, the unattractive elements covered up and everything so picture worthy that it can’t help but attract hordes of people who are living that #gramlife.

It’s easy to roll your eyes and logically think it’s ridiculous behaviour, and it absolutely is, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s happening every day. Entire areas of cities are making money, and having money poured into them in business development and real estate projects, and all because enough people on Instagram liked it.