'Ethos' brands must tell better stories

30 May 2014
LONDON: Brands, especially 'ethos' brands, can learn a lot from broadcasters when it comes to telling an effective story, a leading industry figure has argued.

Kath Hipwell, planning director at Red Bee Media, observed in Marketing that at a time when content marketing was taking an increasing share of media budgets, brands needed to be able to produce "gripping and compelling" material. And brands that put certain fundamental values at the heart of their business should be better placed than most to achieve this.

"Sweat shops, childhood obesity, looking after our planet, fair trade, animal testing, children having shoes to wear to school: these are all issues that most people will engage with on an emotional level and which are popularly debated topics in current affairs," she said.

But few brands that purported to address such matters were successful in accomplishing this aim, she suggested. Far too often their tales were uninspiring and lacking emotional impact.

For example, Ben & Jerry's, the values-led ice-cream brand owned by Unilever, produced a short film extolling its ethos, which Hipwell described as "moderately interesting but I'd have rather had a free cone".

She held up Chipotle, the upmarket fast-food chain, as a model for this sort of material – a strong ethos communicated through branded content and games that audiences choose to interact with in their millions.

An example of this was the brand's Cultivate a Better World campaign, a content driven marketing platform with a digital-first distribution strategy, telling the (animated) story of a family farmer giving up industrial methods to return to more sustainable techniques.

"There are some amazing stories to be told by brands that live by their values and Chipotle proves that worthy beliefs can be communicated through content in a way that is charming, funny, and not at all worthy," Hipwell concluded.

More generally, having a purpose that goes beyond immediate functional benefits has been shown to give brands an edge in the marketplace, according to Chuck Kapelke.

Writing in the ANA Magazine's winter 2013 edition, he cited "the Stengel 50". This list of brands, compiled by Jim Stengel, the former global marketing officer for Procter & Gamble, had built loyalty by focusing on ideals.  He found that these had outperformed the S&P 500 by more than 400% over a decade.

Data sourced from Marketing; additional content by Warc staff
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