Brand trust and transparency have become more important than ever and the need for brands to demonstrate their purpose and values was a key theme raised at 2018’s Web Summit.

On the first day a very well attended session was ‘The Marketing Insider’s Tips for 2019’ as everyone wanted to hear the priorities of the panel, which included SVP and CMO at IBM, Michelle Peluso, Weber Shandwick President, Gail Heimann, and co-founder of CO:Collective, Rosemarie Ryan.

The first theme discussed was the need for brands to take a stand.

A recent example mentioned was the high publicity 30th anniversary Just Do It campaign from Nike, featuring former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the national anthem to raise awareness of police brutality and social injustice, a cause that was taken up by NFL players and other athletes at all levels of competition. Kaepernick says in the ad “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Although the campaign sparked protests among some consumers and the company’s stock initially dipped, sales bounced back and online sales grew by 31% in the bank holiday weekend after the ad launched. For Nike it was about standing up for a cause that reflects the brand beliefs.

The panel highlighted the need for brands to be passionate about their values because of an increasing imperative for brands to stand have morals and be ethical. Businesses need to have a purpose, but it has to be authentic to the brand. This is especially important, the panel highlighted, within the younger market, a trend which likely explains why Nike was willing to take the risk it did.

Latest research by Nunwood/KPMG refers to the integrity economy and how leading brands seek to build trust wherever and whenever possible. These brands establish a two-way relationship with their customers, encouraging them to participate and to be involved as active shapers of the products and experiences that improve their lives.

This focus on demonstrating values and engaging audiences was nicely illustrated in another discussion at Web Summit with Adam Petrick, Global Director of Brand Marketing at Puma, where he detailed how Puma has transformed its culture, brand and community by making the shift from storytelling to ‘storydoing’ (also known as ‘storyliving‘).

Specifically, the sports brand has launched #REFORM, a new platform that will give support to activists from the worlds of sports, music and entertainment in championing causes such as universal equality and criminal justice reform.

Reform is directly inspired by Olympian Tommie Smith, and his silent gesture’ that sparked global debate around the issues of civil rights and universal equality at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

Puma’s goal is to go beyond inspiration and turn intentions into actions. Reform captains will work with the brand to identify beneficiaries of Reform tactics, including product creation and recognition grants. Reform summits will allow like-minded individuals to gather to promote an agenda for change. Throughout 2018/19 and beyond, Puma will be working with Reform captains to launch further programmes that will seek to promote the goal of universal equality.

puma reform

Demonstrating brand values doesn’t just happen through big campaigns. A number of brands are now taking steps to demonstrate how they are acting more sustainably. According to Unilever, 54% of consumers now have a desire to buy sustainable products. Unilever has made this a part of how they do business and they report on this extensively in their annual report. Unilever ranks its performance against delivery of sustainability goals and delivery of those goals drives their business. Within the company, sustainable brands grew more than 50% faster than the rest of the business and accounted for 60% of growth in 2017.

What is important is for brands not to just make statements about their values and purpose, but to demonstrate them through their actions.

There are also real benefits to brands that are transparent about their company practices. In a 2016 survey of CPG shoppers, 94% of consumers said they were likely to be loyal to a brand that offers complete transparency. Fifty six percent said they would be very likely to remain loyal to a brand for life if it offered complete transparency and 73% of consumers would pay more for a CPG product if the brand demonstrated complete transparency.

Trust and transparency are therefore crucial elements of brand success as highlighted in Econsultancy’s report on the topic. Brand transparency is now becoming not an option, but a requirement.

Storytelling for Marketers