Top Marketers on How to Drive Brand Purpose


According to Viacom Velocity’s Culture of Proximity 2.0 study, young audiences want brands to fill a void that traditional institutions have left by participating in social and pop culture conversations.

The findings echo Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at BET Networks Jeanine Liburd’s statement at last October’s Top 100 Women in Marketing event at Viacom, where she said, “In the space of brands who are going to win, it’s about courage. To create environments that don’t have ‘isms in them, you have to take an incredible risk and be O.K. with taking a revenue dip.”

This new environment, where brands cannot afford anymore to sit on the sidelines of potentially controversial issues, was also discussed by entertainment icon LL Cool J and top marketers at the 2018 ANA Masters of Marketing in Orlando, Florida.

“I’m so proud of this,” Viacom/Nickelodeon President of Global Consumer Products Pam Kaufman told LL when sharing two of her company’s most notable initiatives during the last year. She explained MTV’s +1 the Vote campaign, which helped register an additional 800 voters leading to the midterm election, and the National Student Walkout to promote gun safety, when Viacom's channels went dark for 17 minutes “to promote gun safety and to make sure that we recognize what the students have to say.”

Articulating brand purpose, Amanda Brinkman, chief brand and communications officer at Deluxe Corporation, said, “Every company, big or small, needs to identify what their brand purpose is; what would the world be missing if they weren't in business,” she said. Brinkman added that, while the right and unique “brand action” isn’t always commenting on political issues, it should be something that advocates for consumers in a way that makes a difference to them. “If you have a platform or leverage to make a difference when it comes to policy, influence or advocacy, that's your responsibility to help do that.”

Eastern Bank is another company that, as its Chief Marketing & Communications Officer Paul Alexander says, “leans out on a number of issues,” including transgender and immigration rights. He admitted there'd been some “blowback” as they take a stand on these issues, but assured LL that they’ve also brought in new customers who aligned with said values.

Meanwhile, Procter & Gamble Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard said that nowadays “people expect more from [brands].” “People are looking for brands, what's your point of view? They want to know who is behind that camera, and the more they know there are human beings, that amazing,” he told LL, as long as said point of view “has to do with the brand.”

Aetna’s Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Bacus addressed the opioid crisis. She told LL that her company committed to reducing opioid consumption among its customers by 25% over three years. Bacus added that, in the long run, the campaign would help everyone by preventing unnecessary medication and allowing individuals and the company to save money in the long run.

Eric Reynolds, executive vice president at The Clorox Company, said that when he started his career, he was told to “sit down, shut up, work, do well and advance.” “[Nowadays] young people have a voice,” he told LL. “And if the company doesn't stand for their values they will walk. We want to be the kind of company where people feel like their opinion matters.”

Chief Marketing Officer at Deloitte Digital Alicia Hatch also addressed the issue. “We believe in looking forward; everyone has a place. It's a collective effort,” she told LL. “[At Deloitte] we’ve created space for this. It’s something that we did, that was on brand and allowed us to drive that conversation in a way that was authentic to us.”  

Last but not least, Chief Marketing Officer for Marchon Eyewear Thomas Burkhardt offered a refreshing perspective. “If a company stands for, say, LGBT rights, how that could be controversial? It says humans are valuable. Those companies show more respect to their employees as well as their customers,” he concluded.