The current wave of consumers subscribe to brands for their mission statements: S Subramanyeswar

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The group CEO, MullenLowe Lintas Group and chief strategy officer, MullenLowe APAC, S Subramanyeswar, shared nuggets on the interplay of advertising, purpose, and brand evolution during the IAA Young Professionals masterclass

In a world where brands compete for attention in an ever-evolving media landscape, the importance of brand purpose has emerged as a transformative force.

To bring this issue to the forefront, S Subramanyeswar, group CEO, MullenLowe Lintas Group and chief strategy officer, MullenLowe APAC, took the spotlight at the IAA Young Professionals Masterclass held in Mumbai on 7 November to have a candid conversation on the dynamic interplay between advertising, purpose, and brand evolution.

The birth of brand purpose 

Subramanyeswar probed the audience with the pivotal question, “Where do you get the insight for purpose?” before emphasising the need for what a brand stands for.

“I love the idea of building brands. The concept behind building a brand should be about creating a point of view or a purpose. In today’s media landscape, taking a stand on a belief is critical,” he expressed.

Explaining how return on investment sometimes diminishes this drive for purpose, Subramanyeswar said, “The financial experts often observe that as we progress and acquire more knowledge, we tend to intellectualise many aspects of our endeavours. This tendency can inadvertently complicate matters, making them more challenging than simplifying them, even though the goal is often to make things easier.”

He also underscored that a brand is not just its product or service – it encompasses the values and associations that accompany it. However, he urged marketing and advertising professionals to have a deeper exploration of what the brand aims to advocate for.

Unlocking brand uniqueness

Subramanyeswar shed light on the unique propositions that define each brand, stressing the need to understand and leverage them for success.

He voiced, “All brands are suffering from the bane of similarity. The so-called differentiation is most vivid only in the marketer’s mind.”

Subramanyeswar went on to offer advice to marketers and how they should manage intangible aspects beyond physical presence, acknowledging that brands should go beyond mere commodities, evoking emotions and associations.

“Brands encompass both products or services and the values and associations they offer to customers. However, this perspective has limitations as brands compete in a crowded landscape, distinct in their propositions, visibility, and consumer incentives. It’s no longer a one-size-fits-all scenario,” he declared.

Embracing technological breakthroughs  

Subramanyeswar also shared a belief on how technological advancements can propel brands to the peak.

He said, “In a world where technology is ubiquitous, innovation is the key to staying ahead. The challenge comes in when numerous brands appear indistinguishable. Differentiation is the cornerstone of success.”

He proposed the role of a brand’s internal belief system, asserting that this is the lynchpin of genuine differentiation from competitors.

“There is one element in a brand’s DNA that can diverge from other brands, and it comes from a core belief,” he said.

Champion incremental progress  

Subramanyeswar stated that small changes can lead to progressive results for a brand.

He shared, “Art is about effecting incremental change. When brainstorming with patients, it often involves searching for subtle shifts, as significant ideas don’t always announce themselves right away. It’s in the nuances that true strength lies, for even a small impact on just ten people can be substantial.”

He also shared examples of legacy brands such as Tata and Hershey’s, among others, that have exhibited unwavering commitment to societal causes, exemplifying the power of purpose.

“Traditionally, capitalism was often seen as purely profit-driven, centred on extracting wealth from people’s needs and movements. However, looking back at its roots, we find a different narrative. Corporations like Lifebuoy, which emerged in 1895, were initially born to save lives during a plague outbreak. These pioneers weren’t solely driven by the idea of capitalising on a crisis. Instead, they were rooted in a purpose that revolved around serving the community, transcending mere profit motives. Jamshedji Tata, a prominent figure in this context, emphasised community service over profits. Milton Hershey of Hershey’s committed to practices like sourcing milk from trusted suppliers,” he stated.

Generation purpose: Shaping the future of brands

Subramanyeshwar went on to emphasise that today’s consumers, particularly the younger generation, expect concrete actions from brands, placing a higher premium on authenticity.

“The pivotal role of generation Y and Z in shaping the future of brands is their insistence on transparency and purpose-driven actions. The current wave of consumers subscribe to brands for their mission statements, and their purpose, rather than solely the products they sell. Consumers, especially the younger generation, demand brands to respond by bringing clarity to the value and taking real actions,” he pointed out.

Navigating an ever-changing brand landscape  

Subramanyeswar concluded his talk by highlighting the necessity for brands to remain reflective, inspirational, and adaptable in a world where they are products of the culture they inhabit.

“Brands must reflect, inspire, and adapt to the evolving cultural and societal landscape, as they are products of the culture they exist within,” he said.

The article was first published on Campaign India.