In 2017, WARC launched the Brand Purpose category in the WARC Awards. The 2018 winners have just been announced. Here, Lucy Aitken, WARC’s Managing Editor – Case Studies, talks through some of the best performing papers and shares comments from the judges.

Brand purpose continues to confuse people. In this year’s entries, we received a lot of excellent examples of CSR, some strong tactical work and some brilliant brand positioning. But none of these were seen by the jury as being brand purpose. For the record: for these awards, we define brand purpose as ‘initiatives that have achieved commercial success as well as a benefit for a wider community.’

There was no mistaking that the Grand Prix winner, sanpro brand Bodyform/Libresse, achieved both. Challenging taboos around periods, Bodyform’s #bloodnormal campaign, through AMV BBDO, showed blood trickling down a woman’s leg, women changing pads, men buying pads and a woman asking for a pad at a dinner party. Sure, it attracted a lot of online vitriol – the paper’s title – ‘This is what happens when whores and pimps become marketers’ – is actually taken from one of the hateful tweets responding to the campaign. But the judges were in no doubt of the massive impact this campaign had made.

During a lively judging session, Harjot Singh, Chief Strategy Officer of Europe, McCann, said: “In one shot they’ve changed the paradigm of the entire category.” Bodyform achieved 90% share of voice, beating P&G-owned Always. MullenLowe London’s Chief Strategy Officer, Jo Arden, added: “No brand would now dare feature white jeans and blue blood.”

The Gold winners: Tecate, Johnson’s Baby, Paytm

Very high on most judges’ scoresheets was the Gender Violence paper from Tecate beer in Mexico, through Nomades, which took a gold. This Heineken-owned brand leveraged its tradition of being the ‘beer of men’ to good effect when it moved away from its macho image and took a stand against gender violence. In a country where two thirds of women have suffered some form of gender violence, this was bold. Tecate needed to make a strong statement, so it told Mexican men: “If you don’t respect women, we don’t need your business. You’re not one of us”, effectively banning violent men from buying the beer.

Tecate worked with the NGO Red Nacional de Refugios, an NGO which helped women who had been victims of violence, and also helped build a Female Empowerment Centre. Requests for help to the NGO following the campaign rose by 75% and Tecate grew sales and market share. The judges were impressed. Chris Norman, Founder and Managing Director, Good Agency, said: “To acknowledge that this brand is connected to violence – that men drink too much and this stuff happens – you can’t row back from it. They’ve nailed their colours to the mast.”

Touch, a paper by BBDO Indonesia for Johnson’s Baby, also claimed gold for advocating the benefits of baby massage and arresting a sales decline. One judge, Rajoielle Register Cross Brand Strategy and Growth Audiences Lead, Ford Motor Company, singled out how it had moved the product away from its heritage into being more focused on parents. “They did a really good job about not making it about the brand but about putting the onus on caring for the care-giver and how you care for your baby.”

And claiming the last gold was the Indian digital wallet brand Paytm which increased its market share by taking on the same functionality and emotional resonance as cash in India. Chair of the judges, Chief Marketing Officer IKEA, Claudia Willvonseder, commented on the campaign, through McCann Worldgroup India: “It is an excellent case history about brands using purpose. The execution is authentic and it uses a very strong insight. It’s also not just for the few but for the many and goes far beyond marketing.”

FMCG giants dominate silvers

Unilever is often regarded as the poster child when it comes to brand purpose, so it was no surprise to see one of its brands claim a silver. The Vaseline Healing Project, via BBH New York, sought to remind people that Vaseline is an indispensable component of disaster relief organisations’ emergency kits.

This initiative earned the brand a 4% increase in brand awareness, reversing a decline in market share. On the judging panel, Vanella Jackson, CEO, Hall & Partners, said: “It gave a really mundane product a very big role. It elevates it into a product that’s genuinely making a difference in people’s lives.”

P&G has also been behind some memorable and highly effective brand purpose work: think detergent Ariel’s Share The Load. This year, it was P&G-owned shampoo Pantene that picked up a silver with its Beautiful Lengths campaign through MediaCom and Grey in Israel. This was a hair recruitment drive to help cancer patients suffering from hair loss due to chemotherapy. Result? More women donated hair and Pantene’s sales increased. As Ford’s Rajoielle Register said: “When we talk about cancer, it’s all about research, runs, drives and making money and what happens in preparation for treatment, not what happens after the treatment.”

Empowering women

The lion’s share of award-winning work focused on empowering women: Microsoft’s Make What’s Next, through m:united//McCann, was a plea for girls in US high schools to stick with STEM subjects and won a silver. Judge James Hidden, Managing Director, Ogilvy Chicago said: “They were tackling a big issue here and doing so in an innovative way.” Cheese brand Puck’s mission to encourage Saudi men to help in the kitchen during Ramadan, via FP7/DXB, was seen by most jurors as Ariel Share The Load for cheese, but impressed nevertheless, taking a bronze: “It is trying to do something really noble and important for that culture,” said TBWA India’s Govind Pandey. Audi’s The Doll That Chose To Drive and Reebok’s Girls (Don’t) Fight were also female empowerment campaigns that took bronzes.

Yet brands pursuing this strategic path need to exercise caution. As Pandey said: “Every brand is trying to do something for women so now they all blend into each other.” To quote the Microsoft winner in this category, it’s time to make what’s next…

WARC will soon be recruiting judges for the 2019 Brand Purpose category. Please email if you’d like to be considered.