A tool for building brand identity – with integrity

Sensemaking / A tool for building brand identity – with integrity

James Payne introduces the Wayfinder: a tool to help brands find their purpose.

By James Payne / 13 Nov 2014
One of the things I hear most often from marketers is that they struggle to connect their corporate sustainability efforts with what their brands stand for.
Integrating social or environmental value into marketing is too often seen as a niche idea that only makes sense for ‘nice’ brands like Innocent or TOMS – brands that have social purpose ‘baked-in’ from the very beginning. As a result, there’s a dominance of sustainability-led communications that focus on care, harmony and gentle collaboration – something I call the ‘sustainability story-rut’. But this narrow focus excludes much of the spectrum of human motivation. And with it, a huge range of brands.

So if you are a brand like Lynx, Louis Vuitton or Hugo Boss, how can you create social value in a way that supports what your brand stands for?

By exploring what neuroscientists call the four primal emotional operating systems, we have mapped a broader range of the human motivations that brands seek to resonate with. The Brand Substance Wayfinder enables any brand to identify which of the 12 motivation states it best fits with and point to a corresponding Brand Substance strategy to create social or environmental value in a way that’s consistent with their brand story.

Brand Substance Wayfinder

Within the ‘contentment’ zone, which spans feelings of fear and anxiety to security and safety, respect for tradition and quality are well-worn paths in brand marketing. Levi Strauss frame up their sustainability strategy around being ‘guided by the same values since its founding in 1863’, which creates opportunities for more authentic engagement. The ‘authentic roots’ strategy is exemplified by the Levi’s ‘Go Forth‘ campaign drawing on its heritage using the ‘new frontier’ of regenerating the US rust-belt as the focus of a $2 million commitment to rejuvenate the town of Braddock with urban farms and community-building investment.

‘Nurturance’ is the second emotional operating system and spans feelings of separation, distress and panic to connection and care. Brands that stand for being caring, nurturing and honourable usually find it easier to integrate creating positive change into their marketing activity. That said, brands in the banking sector that should stand for being trustworthy have seen a huge disconnect between their brand image marketing and the reality of recent banking scandals. The way the recently demerged TSB bank is attempting to build trust as a local, community bank exemplifies a ‘deeper caring’ strategy.

The third emotional operating system is called ‘seeking’, and spans feelings of boredom to playfulness and curiosity. The ‘play with purpose’ strategy can be seen in the way that Virgin Media stayed true to its ‘make it fun’ brand-value, even when addressing a serious issue like online child protection. Its Switched On Families Playbook is an engaging digital parenting tool that helps parents to engage their children with development-appropriate content and fun games.

‘Assertiveness’ is the fourth emotional operating system, and spans feelings of frustration and anger to power and achievement. Humans will go to incredible lengths for peak experiences of freedom, victory and epic wins. While many marketers would assume a conflict exists between these kinds of motivations and sustainability, Nike proves this isn’t the case. The ‘values victory’ strategy can be seen in the Nike Better World platform: “Making athletes faster, stronger, better with less impact. That’s not sustainable. That’s unstoppable.”

Brands have embraced the full spectrum of human motivation for some time. The ‘Brand Substance Wayfinder’ shows that sustainability can do the same, and positively channel motivations like toughness, individuality, a sense of adventure, or even a desire for power, to engage consumers in creating positive change.

James Payne is Strategy Director at Given, which brings together brand strategy, marketing innovation, behaviour change and sustainability consulting. For more information about the Brand Substance Wayfinder and additional case studies that bring the twelve strategies to life, go to givenlondon.com/wayfinder

Image credit: Given London

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