The “doing” vs. “being” of branding

Simon Mainwaring / Brands / 9 years ago

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AdAge recently did a great article on micro-sponsorship highlighting leading brands like Quaker Oats and Pepsi that are reaching out to communities for their stories and ideas around positive social change. To me this begs the question, are these marketing or research campaigns?

In my mind they’re a little of both and a smart thing to do. Not only are these brands participating in social conversation but they’re learning how to be effective.

The social good space will soon become crowded just as the green space has. The challenge for brands will then be how to define yourself in a way that is most meaningful to their consumers.

Too often brands are caught up in their doing – the doing of getting their latest product to market, of meeting their next quarterly profit projection, of jumping on the latest mobile technology or app.

What is more critical and determinative is the “being” of a brand.

If a brand understands who it is it’ll be able to articulate and demonstrate its core values clearly to consumers. And when it does that, every social change initiative will reinforce their authentic brand narrative rather than come off as a cynical effort to polish an unrelated brand identity.

So before a brand rushes off to do something, it would be wise to stop and be something. That way it’ll be more clearly defined, more meaningful to consumers and a standout in a crowded space.

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  1. Avatar jeremymorris says:

    Right on Simon. Brands are much more than the sum of their products and services. What they stand for, how they behave, they way they treat suppliers and employees – all these things are critical dimensions of a brand alongside product and service quality in the minds of a customer. It's important to distinguish important 'being' dimensions from trivial ones though. Too much branded social marketing 'stuff' falls into the latter category IMO


  2. Thanks, Jeremy. All the doing's are important but I just hope brands slow down a little to get the right things in place first. Brands are not going to market now, they are building relationships and that's a whole different come from. Thanks for the great feedback. Simon

  3. Avatar Iconic88 says:

    Hey Simon, another gem, thank you.

    One of the holes in what brands are doing now is their lack of congruency. Brands should align themselves with communities that are tightly related to them instead of this shot-gun blanket approach. It's so inefficient and brands like Pepsi would create more leverage, in my humble opinion, by supporting anonymously and financing causes that research and educate people about diabetes, cancer (they could be specific and target stomach cancer), environmental campaigns against litter etc.

    As an idea, Pepsi could create a range of products made of environmentally friendly bottles with bottled water produced locally in each country. If Nokia can transform from a tyre company into a mobile phone manufacturer, then with some strong leadership, Pepsi could redefine the softdrink industry and lead change. Strategically, they could produce a range of products with an eco-friendly and healthy foundation, lobby at Government level globally to impose huge taxes on soft-drinks, fund diabetes research in a huge way, get behind Jamie Oliver's food revolution campaign in schools, and push on.

    That's how I think Pepsi could be more than they can be. Can you imagine what they could do to their competitive landscape? 😉

    What do you think?

    All the Best, Mahei

  4. I agree that every brand including Pepsi could do better. I don't think they would ever target those areas that may be perceived as red flags for their products. That would be a big call. But relevance is so critical because when you are it reinforces your core brand narrative without rather than being an add on. That said, Pepsi is one of the bravest brands out there right now trying to do meaningful work. Plus they are leading the way for others. That deserves credit for sure. Simon

  5. Avatar Iconic88 says:

    I really think Pepsi has done a superb job in this area and for a large blue chip company to make a call to drop their Super Bowl ads was huge. This action alone effectively received free PR for them which was probably worth more than the ads. The execution and timing was great to launch off the back of that into their social media campaign. Great work.

    Regards, Mahei

  6. Agreed. The RR behind Pepsi's non-participation in the SuperBowl was the best marketing they ever did. And reaching out to the community instead is even smarter. Totally agree, Mahei.

  7. Avatar maryhruth says:

    An excellent point, strongly conveyed.

    I'd be interested to know what your reaction is to this article –

    Bit of a surprising take on the question, especially coming from Paul Sloane.

  8. Thanks, Mary. Hope all is well. Simon

  9. Avatar Jodi Henderson says:

    This post reminds me of one I just read by Umair Haque (“From Social Media to Social Strategy”, which I think I got from you on Twitter, so thanks for tweeting it). A brand has to *be* something before it can *do* something and be successful in this more social world of ours. After all, the *being* part gives direction to the *doing* part so that makes it really important.

  10. Thanks, Jodi. Yes, I am a big admirer of Umair's thinking. I actually wrote the 'being vs. doing' piece the day before Umair's came out which is why I then tweeted his out. I thought they worked well together. Plus, if you have a moment, here's something I wrote last November that also plays into Umair's thoughts from this week. I hope together they're all useful. It seems almost over simplistic to say a brand must 'be' first, but its so essential and profitable when done right. Best, Simon

  11. Avatar Jodi Henderson says:

    To me, a lot of this “social media stuff” is simplistic conceptually and that's what makes it so amazing that people, brands, etc. struggle to do it right. Anyhow, thanks for the extra reading and enjoy Connect Now!

  12. Agreed. Really its communication 101 through the lens of technology. It's simply trying to convince people to get out of their own way in their rush to embrace or profit from social media. As Plato said, “learning is just remembering what we already knew”. Couldn't agree more. Thanks, Jodi.

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