• Transform magazine
  • October 15, 2019

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Purpose and passion pervade Cannes Lions programme and awards winners

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While there has been an effort made in recent years at Cannes Lions to focus on creativity as a broad spectrum, rather than simply as a marketing output, there remains a distinct lack of representation of non-advertising or marketing campaigns among the awards winners themselves, at least on the design side. However, the conference and programme of the festival has indeed incorporated a wider definition of creativity, drawing in creatives from across the communications landscape.

The Design Lions, often where a rebrand or brand strategy project will get a gold nod, was bereft of brand-related design in its 2019 class of gold and grand prix winners. The winners were almost exclusively focused on building brands for good with an emphasis on accessibility issues, societal change, female empowerment and other purposeful commitments. The BBC took a Silver Lion for its rebrand of BBC2, alongside Superunion, while the Brand Agency of Perth, Australia took a silver as well for its packaging of ‘Hungry Puffs’ for Foodbank Western Australia.

The focus on purpose has been a key one at this year’s Cannes Lions festival, for winners and speakers alike. Just today, Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever pushed brands and agencies to think harder about their commitment to purpose and the way that is expressed in their actions. “At Unilever, we need to take action on the way that we manufacture our products, action on the way people use and dispose of them,” he said, adding, “In the future, every Unilever brand will be a brand with purpose.” He called on the industry to “hold each other to account” in only communicating purpose when it is legitimately founded in action. He cited that the most purposeful brands in the Unilever portfolio were among the most successful financially. That ongoing commitment has allowed Unilever to position itself and its portfolio brands as sustainable leaders who take action across their operations in support of those goals.

That theme was reflected earlier today at a panel discussion hosted by media planning agency PHD which focused on challenger brands. Speakers joined the session from Oatly, Tony’s Chocolonely and Craftory, all brands with strong social commitments and missions. They spoke of the development of a challenger brand around that mission as a means to building awareness, success and, crucially, to ensuring longevity. For Tony’s Chocolonely, a Dutch brand founded around the mission to eliminate slavery in the chocolate market, the brand’s recent expansion is a way for it to keep “growing big by acting small. We need to grow big,” said marketing director Pam van Ham, “to realise our mission.” That growth has compelled one of the Netherlands biggest supermarkets to adopt the brand’s slave-free chocolate sourcing model for all its own brand chocolate. All three of the speakers stressed the need for the company’s social purpose to be ingrained throughout the business, from the founder or owner down through each new hire and every onboarding process.

At Diageo, the drive for a better world has encouraged the company to communicate with fewer clichés and stereotypes, particularly in its advertising. Diageo now strives to portray people “as you’d expect to see them in real life,” said Andrew Geoghegan, global consumer planning director at Diageo.

That was a theme emphasised by speakers from American retailer Target who made the case for hiring a diverse group of people as a means to creating more diverse products, thus meeting all of its consumers needs. It had done this successfully with the launch of accessible clothing brand for kids Cat & Jack. The case for diverse hiring practice was echoed by Pinterest CMO Andréa Mallard and global brand and marketing leader of EY, John Rudaizky. Mallard said, “This is smart business. You get better ideas with diverse teams.”

Diversity and social purpose has pervaded many conversations across the Cannes Lions festival. However, as Jope argues, it should be supported by tangible action and a commitment to change that runs through the heart of the business in order for it to be more than just marketing, but to truly become a brand positioning commitment.