Today, financials, market share and sales volumes are not the only and ultimate determinant of a brand’s long-term success. The bottom line is no longer the bottom line. Purpose is. Writes, Asif Hoosen, Head of Marketing, Product and PR at Audi South Africa.
But don’t get me wrong… Commercial success is key to business growth and sustainable development. Brand success will be determined by how a brand’s purpose, its values and character resonates with that of its customers. One cannot survive without the other.
However, that is easier said than done, because brand purpose is so much more than just some well-chosen words on an advertising message or a press release.
By contrast, the sense of purpose felt by individuals and advocacy movements is instinctive, it is lived, and it forms part of our cultural and social DNA. As South Africans, our personal values drive the way we go about our lives, how we communicate and – yes – the brands we allow to be part of our lives.
We are all consumers in one way or another. When we invest in brands through our purchases, we grow their brand equity and power. We become an extension of them and them of us.Only organisations whose purpose and brand values aligns with ours are deserving of that power.
A recent Accenture Strategy survey of nearly 30 000 consumers around the world found that 62 percent of customers want companies to take a stand on current issues.This is a fundamental, distinguishing characteristic of contemporary society: we want brands to stand for something and we want to encourage them to try to make a difference wherever possible.
The days of bland, non-existent brand values, and companies standing on the side lines of social discourse, hedging their bets and hoping to appeal to both sides on polarising social issues… those days are over. Brands need to know what they stand for and should be confident enough to allow that sentiment to form part of everything that they do, including their marketing communications.
That cannot be the result of market research – it comes from self-knowledge. A brand’s purpose has to stem organically from its people, its products, its way of doing business, the relationships it has with its stakeholders and the partnerships that it chooses to formalise with others. In our attempt to describe the power of brand purpose, I would like to share our brand’s experience. We are by no means perfect but we have acknowledged what needs to be done and are moving forward with purpose (so to speak).
At Audi, our purpose is to drive progress – a direct translation of our Vorsprung brand claim. We aim to drive progress and advancement not just in terms of technology that is offered within our vehicles but to encourage, personal growth and personal freedom. This is not just a business strategy, it makes our business more fulfilling for ourselves. In the words of the Kantar Purpose 2020 report, “employees want to do more than sell cars. And today customers want to do more than buy cars.”
As individuals, we are all part of society. We thus share the concerns of our times, and we hold strong opinions on the kinds of changes needed to achieve social and personaldevelopment. In our opinion, as a business, it is extremely rewarding to stand up, elevate and promote those who are fulfilling and achieving their own personal progress and ultimately creating a culture of advancement for other South Africans.
We believe in championing progress, standing for diversity, empowerment and equality and we’ve been deliberate in our efforts to ensure that the partnerships that we keep and the way that we position our product and marketing campaigns are focused on attributes of progression.
As a brand we’ve aligned ourselves with key individuals like South Africa’s sweetheart, Nomzamo Mbatha, and our very own Olympic champion athlete, Wayde van Niekerk, who epitomise our Vorsprung values of bravery, advancing beyond the ordinary and realizing personal progress.
These beliefs drive our purpose. They informed our decision in 2017 to partner with the dynamic and pioneering Thando Hopa as the face of our #untaggable campaign and then in 2018, to turn the automotive marketing playbook on its head and to make Nomzamo Mbatha the face of our Q model range retail campaign. “What would you tell your younger self?” she asked viewers in a campaign that rolled out across social and digital platforms.
We set out to create a locally relevant brand story that flipped the script of a traditional retail campaign in a way that would resonate with the progressive values of new youthful, aspirational market. As mentioned, diversity is part of our brand purpose, and the Q model retail campaign was a chance to drive that purpose in South Africa – with an inspiriting and relatable message and a female face front and centre. This campaign has led the achievement of a few accolades within the marketing fraternity, the most notable of which is an Apex Award for marketing effectiveness and relevance.
Utilising a platform to encourage meaningful, empowering and progressive discussions amongst South Africans is something that Audi is quite passionate about. On a few occasions we’ve partnered with other stakeholders to enable our opportunity for dialogue regarding important social topics. The 2018 Marie Claire Power Summit is one significant exampleof this, followed by Audi’s involvement in the Radio 702 Imbokodo (translated: “you strike a women, you strike a rock”) and the 2019 Beauty Revolution (focused on inner beauty). All of these brand affiliations, allowed Audi to drive important conversations around diversity, empowerment and progress amongst South Africans and created a trademark for our brand, known as “Power Talks” Progressed by Audi.
These were not just marketing opportunities with the sole purpose of selling cars but they were all crucial conversations for Audi to be involved in. The decisions came easily for us, because each of these initiatives resonated so strongly with our purpose – the reason we exist.
It’s interesting that while we no longer solely concentrate on the bottom line as ultimate determinant of success, our new path of simply standing up for what we believe in and building our brand character with purpose, has ultimately contributed to our commercial success.
The Audi Q model retail campaign, for instance, not only received positive awareness and media coverage, it generated sales for the brand and stretched the automotive conversation beyond mobility. The entire Audi Q range of SUV’s benefited with exposure. The Audi Q5 was also the bestseller over the campaign period and certain models, like the Audi Q3 outsold its main competitor during this time.
The true success of the campaign stemmed not from a calculated “brand positioning” approach, but from an authentic understanding of our brand purpose, and our values of diversity, progress, and personal freedom,translated in a locally relevant way.
We’ve come to realise that our purpose is not to onlyoffer mobility… but it is… in both the literal and figurative sense. To do that, as a brand, we need to be brave enough to weigh in on the meaningful conversations that will impact and bring about meaningful change, where it is so necessary.
Yes, this is an example of purpose-driven marketing. And yes, it’s effective. And yes, we need to continue along this path. As Audi in South Africa, we believe that we have a bigger responsibility to drive progress, in every sense, in the context of South Africa. We must be brave and stand up for what we and South Africans believe in, as our success is intrinsically linked to the success of South Africans and South Africa as a nation.