Five minutes with Lee Trott
As a senior copywriter at Oliver, Lee Trott has worked with brands such as Sony, GSK, Brother and NFU Mutual. He discusses brand purpose and choosing the right battles for your business
How can a brand build trust among its customers?
It has to start with the obvious: make a product that doesn't make me regret spending money on it. This product (or service) has to live up to the expectations I have about the item, as well as the expectations I have about the brand as a whole. Customers are getting harder and harder to please, but, when a brand gets all the ingredients right multiple times, that’s the litmus test for trust.
Regardless, don’t overstate the product’s importance in your advertising. We don't need to see an ad for tissues that compresses a family's entire life into a 2 minute montage, with tissues appearing in every shot. We want to know that the tissues handle stains, sandwich slips, and won't tear when I sneeze on the Central Line and blast everyone in a snot-tornado. We need to have trust in the quality of the product, not just what it says about itself.
Why do you think there’s been a rise in the pursuit of brand purpose?
I think brand purpose started as a nice-to-have for big enterprises – it was a luxury. Once successful, a brand could give time to do good in the world. Today, however, we understand the huge impact that we have on the planet. And it’s become a driving force for businesses today, because it has to be. It’s the only way to align with what consumers really care about. With the anti-plastic movement that's happening, for example, many small businesses are being born purpose-first.
On the other hand, consumers are also getting wise to irrelevant or inauthentic brand purposing, or companies that use 'purpose' as a way to sell stuff. Gillette's Toxic Masculinity campaign could be considered an example of this. It’s a noble and important brand purpose, but it felt overcooked – therefore, untrue. The brand hadn’t embedded the new purpose fully enough into its DNA before going full throttle with it; people still associated it with images of F1 women in latex, Gillette written across their bottoms. And many men felt offended as a result.
Do you think all brands are fit for purpose?
I do think all brands are fit for purpose, because all people are fit for purpose. Everyone wants to find a purpose in life, and good brands today help us get there. Purpose is arguably what we’re talking about when we ask ‘what’s the meaning of life?’ To find out what puts your mark on the world.
We know the impact big business and our daily luxuries have on the earth, and we all want to negate that effect somehow.
Is there a recent example of one brand purpose campaign you were impressed by?
Rowse Honey protects the bees, and whilst they don’t shout about it, it’s a nice Reasons To Buy (RTB) factor in the background that makes me choose their honey over others. They also started a campaign for real Manuka honey, the expensive New Zealand honey that has been faked countless times. Again, it’s not big or glamorous, but it tells me they’re using their expertise to improve the quality of honey. That’s a brand purpose that fits, doesn’t overtake their product and shows their expertise.
What kind of creative strategies can a brand adopt to build trust and foster advocacy?
Today the power is well and truly with the consumer, which means that the only strategy brands need is to give more of themselves. All too often brands ask customers for something (social following, recommendation, surveys etc.) with little or no reward. If you want to build advocacy, you need to offer more; you need to inspire action. For example, if your product exists to protect bee populations, don’t tell customers to protect the bees – buy their community a bee house.
These days, even a retweet on Twitter is validation for a brand. But brands often miss this opportunity to give something back. Loyalty won’t last long unless they do.