Green, greener, greenest: Advertising as a force for good

Communication / Marketing / News

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Douglas Holt was marketing professor at Harvard Business School and Oxford University. Now as CEO and founder of the Cultural Strategy Group, he helps clients like Cadillac, Coca-Cola, Jack Daniels, Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s to build their brands. He wrote the marcom bestseller How Brands Become Icons.

Green, greener, greenest seems to be the marketing communication credo these days. Not to mention ‘inclusive’, ‘transparent’ and in general, ‘social’. 

Yes, we are in the midst of a full-blown purpose frenzy. Advertisers and brands are scrambling to become purpose-driven. A purpose industry has bloomed with purpose conferences, purpose consultants, purpose podcasts and board meetings devoted to debating purpose. Yet, try to distinguish today’s ‘purpose’ from yesterday’s ‘corporate social responsibility’. It’s hard!

There is nothing new there according to you?

What’s different today is that CEOs are now convinced that they can build successful brands and help save the planet by committing to this purpose model. They want to believe the likes of Paul Polman (former Unilever CEO), who will tell them that all they need to do is find their ‘purpose’ and follow it with integrity and all will be good. All this on the basis of a stream of reports from the big consultancies and agencies which declare that consumers favor brands that are contributing to society and planet and, therefore they must embrace the purpose model, the only game in town. It's not