Woke washing and purpose pollution: Godrej PRmoment Adfactors 3030 winner Megha Chaturvedi shares her views

Many moons ago, in a conversation reminiscing about school days, a friend recited his school motto—Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. With his characteristic nonchalance, he went on saying that in this increasing realpolitik world, he strives to live by the motto of his alma mater. And that vision, is his most profound memory and connection to his school. That made me thank about brand purpose.

As companies are reeling in the ocean of enormous competition, purpose pollution has become a recurring sight. What brands sometimes forget is that consumers, especially millennials, are on a constant search for authenticity and truth. Hence, as communicators, it is almost non-negotiable for us to be on a watch-out that our brands are not just clamouring to be more sensitive, more #MeToo, etcetera, etcetera, to simply out-purpose the competition, gain some media real-estate and be in the consumer’s good books. The ingenuity and honesty with which communicators respond is what’s required to stay relevant in a world where brand purpose in highly valued and actions are looked at from an even finer lens.

What are then the key learnings for us as communicators to stay relevant to our consumers who will see right through our intentions, decide and act sooner than you think.

Answer the why?

Have clear understanding of why you do what you do—the cause, why does it fit the overall brand demeanour? Communicate from inside out. The brand purpose should not just be another woke-washing, me too agenda but should truly communicate and represent what you truly stand for and should represent a long-term view.

Ask questions: How and why people connect with your brand. Gather cultural insights: understand what will be important to consumers in the future. Reflect and arrive at the social issues that are both significant to your customer and pertinent to your brand.

Engage them: Purpose led- campaigns should shift the focus from me to we. This can’t happen in a vacuum and entails deferring from heavy reliance on traditional media and interacting with your audience via more interactive platforms such as social media, video, experiential and co-curated surveys.

One of my favourite brands Mahindra, for their CSR project Nanhi Kali— a project that aims to build awareness about the need for girl child education amongst general public, extensively employed social media to their advantage to create awareness about the Nanhi Kali project, as well as sensitise people.

Each beneficiary story, was shared on Mahindra Group’s Facebook page to increase conversations about girl-child education. Within the organisation, awareness was built through internal communication by leveraging various digital tools such as, Workplace by Facebook, internal newsletter (Echo), etc.

Proof of the pudding: The campaign #LadkiHaathSeNikalJayegi received 470 lakh+ views, with 5 lakh+ organic views. It also achieved strong engagement levels on Facebook with 225,000+ likes, 3,000 comments and 70,000+ shares.

Timely and honest conversations:

Frequency and transparency of communicating your brand purpose is the key. Brands that actively talk about their purpose are more attractive to consumers. These messages shouldn’t surface in and around a product launch or major upcoming announcement. Consistency is critical.

Consumer rewards strong leadership and outspokenness. Those traits need to cascade to every level and facet of an organization and should reflect in every external or internal communication. If leaders communicate the brand purpose more vociferously, it will be imbibed better in organisation’s culture and seem authentic.

Articulating using insights about to demonstrate the actions behind your purpose and values by telling a story that resonates with your consumers. Communicate the input and outcomes/ impact.

As a communicators, we need to be an advisor and not make brand purpose look gimmicky.

If brands hear what consumers have to say, stay with them though transparent and timely conversations, engage and include them, we will have a winning story.

Megha is a passionate storyteller, a hobbyist poet and is currently working with Adfactors PR in their corporate reputation practice. She was a part of the Godrej Prmoment Adfactors 30 under 30, 2019 cohort.