Building a Brand - You need a fundamental purpose, and… | ...Gasp!

Building a Brand

You need a fundamental purpose, and there’s no quick fix

The Blogfather gets inspired by some words from an advertising legend, and looks at what it takes to build a brand.

The problem with Pepsi was that they saw a topical political passion point and thought they would just bolt it on to a can of their cola.
Ideas. They change the world.

This is an underpinning mantra at Gasp HQ. It pervades through everything we do, from the funny sign in the Gents, to the proposal we just pinged off to a client. But with all the new fads and jargon flying around it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that everything starts with a good idea; some human spark of genius and intuition.

I got a timely reminder of this, when watching an interview with BBH co-founder Sir John Hegarty.

Sir John has set up an incubator business called The Garage that helps to support brands in the early stages of conception and growth. Talking to The Drum, he likens it to developing a creative concept:

"You start with a blank page and you have to have an idea. And then from that idea something that communicates the brand and its values or your audience - that will come from nothing. The incubator world is very much the same. People come in to you with ideas for businesses and what you are doing is helping them to not just build a business but to create a brand." It’s a hugely important point. Lots of people have the dream of running a quaint bookshop, say, but what they should be thinking is; ‘I want to create a brand concept that will compel people to abandon Amazon and blow Waterstones out of the local bricks and mortar water".

Good luck with that, by the way. Bloody Behemoths.

Ah, but giants can be toppled. And they can shoot themselves in the foot. You only have to look at the furore the recent Pepsi advert created, as it appropriated the Black Lives Matter movement. A brand has to be born out of an authentic, genuine purpose. I came across a new piece of jargon this week: Passion Points – be they ethical, cultural or political. Brands are affiliating themselves with these passion points in an attempt to strike a deeper chord with the consumer. The problem with Pepsi was that they saw a topical political passion point and thought they would just bolt it on to a can of their cola. The public rightly rejected it as unauthentic.

Also, Mike Dando, advertising and promotions EMEA manager at consumer electronics company Epson, makes the great point that the viability of aligning your brand with a purpose depends on the product you are marketing. The idea that a can of soft drink can bring a peaceful resolution to a political protest just doesn’t work.

Dove are often held up as the defining example of a brand cultivating a long-term, genuine brand purpose, with its ‘Real Beauty’ initiative being at the core of some great campaigns advocating the use of more realistic models in advertising.

"Each bottle evokes the shapes, sizes, curves and edges that combine to make every woman their very own limited edition." Hmm (really??!!)

However, even the best can get it wrong, as Dove have this week been on the wrong end of a volley in relation to their release of a range of body-wash bottles shaped like ‘one of a kind’ women’s bodies. It’s very gimmicky, patronising and completely lacks the empowering gravitas of past campaigns. A kind of mass personalisation gone wrong.

Dove’s statement speaks for itself:

"Each bottle evokes the shapes, sizes, curves and edges that combine to make every woman their very own limited edition."


It’s an idea that should not have got passed the brainstorm stage, like the Pepsi advert. The Pepsi ad was infamously born out of an in-house content creation team, the pretentiously titled ‘Creators League Studio’. The rise of the in-house agency has got a lot of coverage recently. If they grow organically over time they are more likely to be successful. In the case of Pepsi, it was set up in 2016. For what you gain in reducing costs and increasing efficiency, you run a real risk of losing sight of what the brand truly stands for, or how it needs to evolve.

So a different pair of eyes and a fresh point of view may have helped Dove and Pepsi avoid a whole load of bother.

At Gasp, we run brand workshops, with great success, to help with a vast array of brand challenges:

• Redefine and clarify your Vision, Mission and core Values
• Give your brand personality some new clobber and a refresh
• Create Differentiation. “Me too” is not memorable
• Reposition your brand and attract a new market
• Create compelling and consistent messaging
• Produce a strategic brand plan

We helped what is now a world-famous B2C brand grow from an initial meeting that contained the airing of some very different opinions, and you can have a read of that story here.

If you like the sound of spending some time with us to help shape your brand, then drop us a note or give us a tinkle. We’d love to have a chat.

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