Sanjeev Kotnala: What comes first: the idea, the award or the brand?

16 Jun,2021

By Sanjeev Kotnala

 

Sanjeev KotnalaIt’s Tuesday morning and I have just finished reading the Campaign India feature covering the probable Cannes winner from India. I am happy to note, I have seen or heard about most of them. I get the news that No Indian entry has made it to the first shortlist at Cannes advertising awards – the Glass, Titanium, and Innovation categories. And another that tells me the one favoured by the Indian advertising fraternity to win. There is no surprise.. Don’t worry! We as a nation will bounce back with brand purpose led communication next year.

 

I watch #WombPainStories by AMV BBDO London for Essity’s, and I remember the well-crafted earlier campaigns ‘Bloodnormal’ to ‘viva la vulva’ in the past. It is definitely a masterpiece in thought and execution. And once you factor in their earlier work, you understand their passion, consistency, and belief in what they are doing. That is the sign of a sustained efforts and a real brand purpose to me.

 

 

Whenever I see a communication like this, the sensitive subject of Brand Purpose is raised. How brands try finding a purpose with marketing and revenue in focus. Sometimes, they win awards as a bonus, and many a time, it seems to be the only objective.

 

The purpose exists or is discovered. And it is absolutely fine not to have a purpose till the brand delivers an excellent customer experience around the promise it makes. But, in marketing, we tend to mine, unearth and create brand purpose; it sounds so much professional. But, remember, unlike the jury, the consumer is most often a far better judge of a true genuine brand purpose and quickly identifies that it is merely business-oriented.

 

While at it, let me thank Campaign India as I went through the Cannes, probably from India and then later saw this campaign from Mastercard. #TrueName where one can choose the name on the card. It can be different from the name on their identity papers. Personally, it is a great inclusive initiative, but I would be disappointed if it wins the Glass at Cannes.

 

 

And such an inclusive approach reminded me of Boondh Social Foundation’s #Ungender menstruation campaign that attempts to bring a more gender-inclusive concept for mensuration. In the campaign, three menstruators tell their experience and raise valid questions.

 

#BlameNoMore seems another one in the same lines- sincere and accountable. It is crafted well. It shocks you at the end when you release the questions that have only one answer. Our nation could do with some such hard-hitting communication.

 

 

I feel that advertising, like any other communication, discussion, and narrative, can nudge the thinking. Light the spark that can fire up the imagination and result in a change. But, at no time, we, in advertising and brand, should take ourselves to shoulder seriously the onus of shifting the societal biases and creating changes at the community level.

 

However, the destination can be far and barriers insurmountable, but taking the first step is getting a step closer to it. That can be the role of advertising and brand communication, showing the world a mirror. For example, #Ungender or the #Sharetheload, #toxicmasculanity, #fearlessGirl or #untouchable should be seen in that light.

 

When I see NOTPLA– not plastic, the faith in advertising and brand purpose is re-established. This is one of the initial nudges to make the future brighter and better. The first step is the birth of an idea. It succeeds, scale-up, or dies is immaterial to me. Till the time, it provides a direction and a possibility worth considering. We must not forget that rarely an idea starts with business viability; it comes with improvement, processes, scale and converts.

 

 

And there is the final question that talks of the balance between the three points. What comes first, the idea, the award or the brand?

 

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