Purity of Purpose

Returning to the FUSE stage this year is Tess Wicksteed, Strategy Director at Pearlfisher. This time she will be sharing the podium with Tom Barr, VP Coffee Design at Starbucks. Tess's series of blog posts will outline the key brand building principles that can evolve brands from exciting challengers to globally loved icons.

As challenger brands grow in influence they evolve and change in many ways, but they always stay true to their core idea or mission. They do this because there is a reason for them to exist in the first place. They are not just making it up as they go along, following trends and the whims of consumers or markets - they have a point of view that gives them direction and focus. We describe this essential characteristic of iconic brands as 'purity of purpose'. They know what they are about so they can spend all their time thinking of original, brilliant and inspiring ways of expressing this singular purpose, not redoing their brand image for the hundredth time.

Coca Cola is still the best example because it’s so simple. The product and the brand are about refreshment. The ways in which we need to be refreshed change radically from generation to generation as does Coke's expression of refreshment: from rather stiff looking ladies in tennis whites trying to avoid an unsightly flush, to the anxiety inducing challenge of multi-culturalism made to look refreshingly harmonious and easy in the 1970s, to our recessionary blues being lifted by a promise of happiness and uplift, and now, to todays refreshingly un-melting ice cap.

This central purpose is also expressed through design, and again, Coke is a great example. It sticks to its core equities but instead of simply repeating them it re-expresses them in changing new contexts - just as it does with the brand idea. It thinks hard and is radically creative in its constant reinvention of the same idea both visually and conceptually. When we receive a brief or are introduced to a new brand, I always look to see what the point of it is. Is there, somewhere buried in the reams of pillars and POD and consumer insights, an actual idea? And is it strong enough to last forever and to mean something intense and personal to everyone, no matter who they are or where they live? How big can this brand be?

We are lucky because there are lots of brands out there with real purity of purpose, and for them our role is clear: think hard and deep, understand what's happening in culture and then provide total creative brilliance. For those with a muddled sense of purpose our role is equally clear - define it. Easy eh?



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