An Evolving Model for Modern Brands — Beyond “Belief, Purpose, Pursuits”
-by Christian Erickson, Creative, Partner
Zeus Jones was founded on a simple premise: it was time to think differently about the nature of brands.
We saw that in an increasingly interconnected world, the old idea of a brand that stood for one thing just wasn’t working anymore. Many of the fastest-growing brands at the time actually stood for many things, and delivered many kinds of experiences. What gave these new, modern brands focus was not a single-minded idea, but a sense of purpose. We set out to help brands find their purpose and activate against it.
However, we ran into a problem early on: although many brands were becoming purpose-driven, there wasn’t a standard framework for these kinds of brands to work against. Along with our clients, we needed to build these frameworks from scratch.
A lot has been written about brand purpose, so I won’t repeat it here. But typically a purpose operates on a very high level — expressing how the brand will affect culture, serve people or change the world for the better in some way. A good purpose helps a business go to market in lots of different ways, and constantly inspires new thinking. But having a big, inspiring purpose can also lead to a lack of focus if not put into action in the right way. Early on, Zeus Jones and its clients were looking for a framework that could create that focus.
The answer came in the form of “pursuits” — a concept we developed with our clients at Purina ONE® — to describe their specific efforts in nutrition, science and the environment. Once we had worked together to define the Purina ONE® Belief and Purpose, we added Pursuits to the final brand document and the Belief, Purpose, Pursuits (aka BPP) framework was born.
The simplicity of the BPP framework is one of the reasons it has been adopted across a lot of the companies we work with, including Nestlé, General Mills, Purina and many smaller organizations. But while the framework has worked well and driven change for a vast majority of brands, there are still some cases where it hasn’t provided the value it was designed for. We see a few reasons for this:
1) The BPP is designed to drive all actions within the brand — not only marketing but also product, innovation, process, etc. For some companies, brand is still seen as marketing — or even as a communications construct — and the BPP wasn’t designed to drive communications.
2) The BPP is inherently internally focused. It describes the mission of the brand in the world. Because of this it doesn’t explicitly describe the consumer opportunity — what is the problem we are solving for them and how do we fit into their lives?
3) The BPP is purposely non-prescriptive. The role of the framework is to help the people who work on the brand understand what the goal is, not be prescriptive about how to get there. It’s designed to create an intuitive and entrepreneurial mindset. But in many large organizations where marketers rotate jobs every year or so, the lack of specificity can mean that brands change strategies each time a new team comes on board.
In many cases these gaps are filled by other frameworks that work alongside the BPP like traditional positioning statements or key consumer insights. But in thinking about the next evolution of purpose-driven brands, are there new frameworks to be considered? The BPP has done an excellent job moving brands part of the way from traditional to modern approaches. But what are the evolving needs of modern brands and how can we express the strategies that will drive them?
We don’t have the answers, yet. Here’s what we’re asking ourselves as we think about brand models of the future:
1) How can we design a model that more clearly helps brands take actions, and then communicate those actions? The BPP was developed as a way to help brands build more ideas around them, but its main goal was to turn branding into actions, not communications. How can we sharpen the model to make these two things more distinct?
2) How do we go beyond just inspiring ideas into orchestrating all of our actions? Many brands are making the transition from communications-first to actions-first thinking. But while there are many frameworks that help coordinate, plan and prioritize communications, there are fewer when it comes to brand actions. In some recent cases, we’ve supplemented the BPP with more detailed models that help organize brand actions.
These are some of the questions we’re asking ourselves about the future of brand frameworks, but it’s only the beginning. This is part of an ongoing series. As we explore the future of the brand framework, we’ll share our journey with you and invite your thinking.
Tell us, what other factors do you think should be taken into account? Which tools are working for you and which ones aren’t?
-by Christian Erickson, Creative, Partner