It’s tempting to see 2020 as a year where the world was stuck on pause. Yet in many ways it has been a story of radical transformation. Faced with unprecedented problems, businesses evolve as never before, and open up to new possibilities.

A time of unprecedented change forced businesses to reimagine the status quo as old, familiar behaviours disappeared. In parallel, as communities struggled under the burden of the pandemic, isolation and economic uncertainty, and businesses were forced to re-evaluate their purpose and their relationship with the communities they serve.

It rapidly became clear that doing good was not only the right thing to do, it was a commercial and reputational imperative.  When asked how  consumers wanted to see businesses respond to Covid-19, 40% of CMOs said that looking after employees was a key priority (Isobar, 2020), followed by offering practical help and assistance.

We are moving from a time where companies talked about a growth agenda and a good agenda which ran in parallel but weren’t always connected.  The mindset of relentlessly driving business growth is no longer viable. Business cannot grow in isolation. Business can sustain and grow, as part of a connected society of inclusive partnerships, industry alliances, and joint ventures of the public sector.

Covid has brought growth and good together like never before, empowering businesses to pivot to renewed purposes and visions, with modernised products and services.

In a changing world, brands are built in new ways

There can no longer be any disconnect between a brand’s belief and behaviour today. In a world where everything communicates and everything is connected, every conversation is transparent and everyone is a stakeholder, actions speak louder than advertising alone.

We believe brands today are more than what they say, brands are what they do, built through authentic actions and meaningful interactions. As we like to say, when you know what you believe you know how to behave; and how you behave tells people who you are.

As brand behaviours come under scrutiny as never before, there can be no disconnect between brand and experience, belief and behaviour-between a brand’s promise and how it delivers on that promise in the lives of its consumers, employees and communities.

When the two fail to align, brands are damaged and businesses undermined. When belief and behaviour meets, a kinder connectivity comes alive.

One example of this is OREO’s Proud Parent campaign created in response to the cancellation of Pride events worldwide. Oreo and its partner PFLAG needed new creative ideas to get their message out, supported by 360i, a dentsu company.  Telling a story of love and family connection, it celebrated proud families, fostering inclusivity and championing the idea that a loving world starts with a loving home. The film dominated the online conversation with over 800,000 views.

While customer-centricity has been our industry obsession for many years, the pandemic forced us to look beyond customer-centricity and towards community-centricity: how are the services and campaigns we develop enhancing the lives of the wider community our customers inhabit?

To create more than a conversation, India’s Swiggy InstaMart launched “The Better Half Cookbook” to address gender inequality in an interesting way. Conceptualised by Dentsu Webchutney, the Cookbook takes on traditional books which have recipes for only one person. To bring equality to the kitchen, ‘The Better Half Cookbook’, splits recipes into two halves to give partners an equal responsibility to cook the meal. Each partner has to follow only their side of the instructions to see their meal come together. The ingredients for each of the recipes in the cookbook can be ordered directly from the book by scanning a QR code.

The power of ‘and’ not ‘or’

Even within the creative industry itself, we are asking, what future are we destined for? What part do we need to play in the creation of a better world? What steps do we need to take to align good and growth, to align our own beliefs with our real world behaviour?

We know we have huge potential to influence the world for the better, not only in the work we do for our clients and the investments we make on their behalf but through our own actions.

This is why Draw The Line, a global integrated campaign by dentsu for Malaria No More is so important to our network.  It uses our specific skills to invite youth from across Africa and the globe to join the movement to end the world’s oldest, deadliest disease. It is part of our commitment to UN Common Ground and a core part of our Social Impact strategy and involved creative and media agencies from across the dentsu network.

We have an opportunity to do good and create lasting good through our actions and we play a vital role in society by helping to shape and redefine purpose in 2021. This will enable agencies to be a force for good in society today and in the future. This is what our parent company dentsu has believed in for 120 years and will continue to hold itself accountable to be a champion for meaningful progress in 2021 and beyond.


Isobar (2020) Creative Experience Survey 2020

Purpose: Things to consider (from Dentsu Creative Trends Report 2020)

First, do no harm: Before making bold external statements, brands must have their own houses firmly in order. High profile campaigns or sponsorships will not mask, and will often draw attention to, flawed internal processes and policies. That said, the desire for perfection should not stand in the way of communicating progress; transparency, targets and tracking are key. 

Design for difference: Only with truly inclusive and diverse teams can brands and agencies tackle unconscious bias and design services that work for every user. As we progress towards that goal, a useful principle for teams is to think hard about the unintended consequences of design decisions, to ask themselves how a product or service could impact someone less privileged or secure. 

Beyond belief: In today’s climate, brands must go beyond mission and purpose statements and put powerful behavioural change at the heart of their organisation.

There can no longer be any delta between what a brand says and what it does.

Today and tomorrow, brands must align belief and behaviour as never before.