Purpose and ethics may have moved to the top of many a company’s priority list, but Reach director of market insight and brand strategy, Andrew Tenzer, suggests brands are getting it wrong.
Speaking at Advertising Week Europe yesterday (18 May), Tenzer said he’s “concerned” at the rate of which “people are adopting social purpose marketing strategies, thinking it’s going to be effective for their brands”.
“The reality is, I think it’s not going to be that effective,” he added.
Commenting on the news inflation is the highest it’s been for 40 years, Tenzer said the idea “people are sitting at home thinking about what a brand thinks or believes on a certain issue is not true”.
He alluded to research from Reach, which shows brands taking a social political stand is “not a key influence in buying decisions”.
I’m not sure many people are going down the offy thinking I’m going to buy that brand of beer that donates money to seals.
Andrew Tenzer, Reach Plc
While focusing on purpose is not necessarily going to have a negative impact on a brand, Tenzer questions: “Is it the most effective way of selling?”
Now is a time where brands should be looking inward, he suggested, because “as an industry, we are one of the most elitist” in terms of professions in the UK.
Commenting on the privilege of those in marketing and advertising, Tenzer said this means “we see, think, experience and interpret the world differently to a lot of the audience we’re trying to connect with”. This opinion is backed by Marketing Week’s 2022 Career and Salary Survey, which found 42.1% of marketers come from a middle-class background.
While outward facing purpose doesn’t always hit the nail on the head, Tenzer argued internally purpose, diversity and inclusion, and sustainability initiatives are “incredibly important”.
The Reach marketing boss noted that for some brands, purpose is key to their business strategy. However, he pointed to a recent Carlsberg tie-up with the WWF as an example of brands missing the mark.
“I don’t know if anyone’s seen the beer brand’s [Carlsberg] campaigns, but it’s all about donating money for seals in the ocean. For me, I can’t quite see the connection,” said Tenzer.
“If we agree brands grow by building memory structures and category associations, I’m not sure many people are going down the offy thinking I’m going to buy that brand of beer that donates money to seals.”
He argued it’s a greenwashing approach and “isn’t the most effective way of growing memory structures and growing your brand”.
However, Tenzer was clear that in criticising purpose, as in Carlsberg’s case, he isn’t talking about grassroots initiatives: “I’m talking about when you see strategists writing in Campaign about how the advertising industry is going to save the world from climate change.”
When asked about the ethics of brands and agencies pulling out of Russia, Tenzer could see no “real moral ambiguity”, as cutting ties with Russia due to the war in Ukraine is the “right thing to do.”
Concluding, he referenced a “gap in moral foundations” between people working in marketing and advertising, and the general population.
“We have different unconscious moral foundations and that causes us to see the world differently,” Tenzer added.