Cannes Review: Why brand purpose is here to stay

Cannes Review: Why brand purpose is here to stay
June 28, 2019 Bridget Jung

Cannes Lions is like no other festival in the world. It’s intense in every sense. The work. The talks. The people. The location. The excessive quantity of rosé. And, of course, the competition. Over the course of a week, more than 30,000 entries from 89 countries were whittled down to 710 Lions. That’s just over two per cent of total entries.

This week on la Croisette gives us the privilege of stepping away from the daily grind to admire the best creative work in the world. I left full of inspiration and excited about where we’re headed as an industry.

This year more than ever we heard a lot of talk about authenticity, especially when it comes to brand purpose. This is nothing new – we’ve been talking about it at Cannes for the past 10-15 years. But what does feel new is a more authentic and long-term approach to brand purpose.

We’re seeing less one-off campaigns that piggyback off the latest issues to create and drive earned media. Instead, we’re now celebrating committed and sincere brand behaviour that develops and grows richer over a sustained period of time. We’re seeing brands deliver more considered responses with tangible actions that solve real problems rather than simply drawing attention to them.

This year there was a big push on diversity and inclusion, but the most successful brands and organisations were baking this directly into their core business, product or service. This is much more powerful than simply creating an emotive piece of communications. Microsoft provided a great example, putting accessibility at the forefront of product design and creating an Adaptive Controller for the Xbox.

IKEA created a special range of add-ons to its most popular products, making furniture fully accessible for people with disabilities. Each add-on was designed to solve a different accessibility issue from opening a door to getting up off the couch. This highlights how important diversity is for our industry. The insight came from McCann Copywriter Eldar Yusupov’s personal experience of living with cerebral palsy.

Tommy Hilfiger launched a fashion line for people living with disabilities. Even the design process was inclusive, involving an online community of 1500 people with disability to make sure the range solved real problems.

Julia Goldin, Global CMO of the LEGO Group, talked about how its brand purpose is now taking the brand into new areas of product innovation. This includes Braille Bricks, which help blind and visually impaired children learn through play.

And brand purpose doesn’t have to be serious or emotionally heavy to be effective. Viva La Vulva is one of my favourite campaigns from this year. This two-minute film celebrates female genitalia in all its forms, fighting the myths, insecurities and stereotypes that women face every day. This is the third year that Libresse has tackled the taboos of fem-care marketing, following the launch of a #bloodnormal movement back in 2017.

The key takeout from Cannes for me this year is that brand purpose is here to stay but has to be done in a meaningful way. Brands and agencies need to think long-term and find creative ways to change or adapt core business models, products and services. It’s about helping to solve the real problems that are most important to our audiences.