Adidas recently announced the launch of a new pair of trainers that you can recycle.
‘It is our first step. A statement of intent to end the problem of waste.’
Boy, a trainer company is going to ‘end the problem of waste’! Wow, we thought!
Well, actually, it’s the waste that comes from millions of pairs of trainers.
A problem of its own making.
Like Evian and water bottles.
But at least Adidas recognises the problem and is prepared to do something about it.
And Evian has promised to use entirely recycled plastic bottles by 2025.
Because brand purpose and brand activism make for good business sense.
The Co-operative has just reminded us that it is ‘For people with purpose’.
Which at least speaks as much to colleagues as it might do to its customers.
But there are perils of being too purposeful.
You get it completely wrong – like Kendal Jenner and Pepsi
You divide opinion – like Gillette’s The Best Men Can Be
Or you simply can’t live up to it – Unilever had a promise of doubling its growth while halving its impact on the environment, which was quietly dropped. Now that’s changed to ‘Our vision is to grow our business, while decoupling our environmental footprint from our growth and increasing our positive social impact.’
But let’s look at purpose as what it really is all about – ‘making a difference’.
And trying to do great communications in the world of Counter Violent Terrorism (CVT), is probably one of the most purposeful jobs you can get.
At a recent Angles event, Rachel Hamburger, Strategy Director at M&C World Services, revealed some great examples of helping to challenge opinion and make change in some of the most crisis-ridden parts of the world.
How do you stop young men from becoming pirates in Somali? It’s very difficult to go directly to the young men – there are few other choices for many of them. So the campaign was aimed at young women with a message pointing out the pitfalls of marrying a pirate, not least that they might not be around very much!
And how do you discourage Neo-Nazi groups from walking in your town? You sponsor their march! In this example in Germany, for every metre the Neo-Nazis walked, €10 went to a programme called EXIT Deutschland, which helps people escape extremist groups.
And a final, compelling example: the Colombian Government commissioned Bogota-based ad agency Lowe SSP3 to come up with some new propaganda which would make the exhausted fighters homesick, and demobilise – at least for Christmas. Watch this – very powerful:
While we applaud brands for being ambitious about doing something purposeful, if it feels just like a marketing tactic, don’t. If it goes to the heart of who you are and you are committed to it for the long term, then go for it.
But just remember, no matter how good your intentions, if you don’t get the tone right and you don’t commit on the ground, your message is not worth the trainers it is printed on!
After all, if we learn anything from the work of ad agencies tackling Counter Violent Terrorism, it’s all about the work you do in the field!
Special thanks to Simon Lucey of the Hype Collective for organising Angles.