Given London

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Find your way to building a better brand

An exciting tool from Given that reveals the universal opportunity for brands to make positive purpose a core part of their marketing efforts, and better leverage work they are already doing to
act more responsibly. 

Is brand purpose a niche idea?


Over the last ten years, the world of marketing has changed dramatically. Increased transparency powered by social media and changing consumer attitudes has exposed inauthentic communications, reducing the impact of marketing investment, and eroding trust in brands. At the same time, almost every major business has an expanding sustainability programme, changing the way business is done.  

But frustratingly few brands are capitalising on these changes. Integrating sustainability initiatives into marketing is still seen as a tactical or niche idea that only makes sense for certain brands. The reality is that many businesses are struggling to connect their sustainability efforts to what their brands stand for. All too often, a fantastic opportunity is going to waste.


Currently, ‘nice’ brands like Innocent, Dove or The Body Shop are most likely to integrate marketing and sustainability. But do you really have to be ‘nice’ to create positive change? We don’t think so, in fact, we call this one-track approach the ‘sustainability story-rut’. Why do so many sustainability stories focus on gentle care, harmonious collaboration and wellbeing? All of those things are important, but how much of human motivation and how many brands does this narrow focus exclude? If you’re the brand manager for Lynx or Absolut or HugoBoss should you just stick to conventional marketing approaches, or adopt a ‘nice’ strategy that undermines the brand you’ve built?

But what other motivating stories could there be? To find out, you need to start with a clear understanding of what we find motivating. Anyone from the world of marketing or sustainability will be well aware of the huge gap between what people rationally say they are going to do and the often irrational, emotional and instinctual motivators of real behaviour. So what does science have to say about emotion and motivation?

Here comes the science bit...


We started by investigating the biological basis of human motivation. In his book ‘Affective Neuroscience’ Jaak Paanksepp outlines how the body creates emotional states and what goes on inside us when we’re experiencing emotion. He identifies the four most important environmental conditions that were persistent during brain evolution: 

1. Familial and social bonding 
2. Staying safe and avoiding bodily destruction 
3. Overcoming restrictions to freedom of movement
4. Rewarding curiosity and goal-directed achievement 

In fact, these evolutionary conditions were so persistent that biological responses to those conditions have been encoded as what he calls ‘emotional operating systems’ within the brain. 


At least four main primal emotional systems mature soon after birth; these four most-studied neurochemical systems each feature the following sets of feeling ranges and associated behaviour sequences: 


Feeling range: exploration and play to boredom and passivity 
Evolutionary role: designed to reward curiosity, survival abilities related to goal-directed achievement and generate excitement about achieving the desired target (e.g. sex, food, stimulation, etc.).
Key neurochemical: dopamine


Feeling range: status and power to frustration, anger and attack
Evolutionary role: designed to overcome restrictions on freedom of action. 
Key neurochemicals: testosterone, vasopressin


Feeling range: safety and security to anxiety and fear Evolutionary role: designed to minimize the probability of bodily destruction
Key neurochemicals: serotonin, cortisol


Feeling range: bonding and connection to separation distress and panic 
Evolutionary role: designed to facilitate familial and social bonding. 
Key neurochemicals: oxytocin, arginine-vasotocin


As humans, we have the capacity to experience a huge range of emotions and feelings. Despite this, a common school of thought claims that in order to achieve a responsible business revolution, we must limit ourselves to a narrow slice of this spectrum, opting only for what's collaborative, harmonious and nice. While collaboration and harmony are of course vital parts of our emotional spectrums, the remainder of our capacity - the more bold, assertive sides - should not be ignored. In fact, it's impossible, because as humans we're simply wired that way. Every aspect of our emotional characters has a useful, positive side, and numerous studies have shown that positive messaging is the most effective in the long run.

Given has used this understanding to not only map out the four main emotional systems but also to divide the overall map of motivation into twelve sub-sections of motivation to bring to life the range of constructive feelings across each system. 

Finding the way from motivation to substance

Brand substance wayfinder

So how can this map of emotive territories be applied to engaging people around sustainability and creating positive change for individuals, their communities and the world they live in?

The Brand Substance Wayfinder points to twelve brand substance strategies.
Click on any of the names of the brand substance strategies below the diagram to see case studies that bring that strategy to life.



Play with Purpose:

Given the seriousness of the social and environmental issues we face it may seem inappropriate to address these issues for brands that stand for fun, playfulness and humour. However, there are many examples of lighthearted, playful communication that very effectively addresses these issues. Activists have parodied the lobbying efforts of dirty energy businesses with their ‘Coal Cares’ website, while Rainforest Alliance hilariously parody stereotypes around environmental activism with their ‘Follow the frog’ campaign
Using gamification,  Fold It managed to decipher a crystal structure for an AIDS-causing virus in ten days that top scientists had spent 15 years struggling with. Virgin Media stayed true to their ‘make it fun’ brand-value even when addressing as serious an issue as child protection online; their Switched On Families Playbook helps parents to engage their children with development-appropriate content and tools in an engaging way. For example, an interactive game allows parents to compare their knowledge of digital with their children’s in a way that starts a conversation around the most important issues.


This strategy is about harnessing creativity, individuality and spontaneity to create positive change. Elon Musk embodies this strategy to the full in his ventures, from Space X to his Hyperloop train proposal. Apple has always been positioned in this space, perhaps best exemplified by its 1984 TV ad and its ‘think different’ line, but hasn’t always connected this to its social and environmental impact.
This has changed recently with Apple’s tongue-in-cheek print advertising that trumpets its pioneering approach and takes a gentle dig at rival Samsung with the copy line “There are some ideas we want every company to copy.”


The thrill of taking risks, demonstrating courage and having adventures are fundamental human drivers. As less and less of the world remains to be discovered, explorers like Mike Horn and David de Rothschild have increasingly recast themselves as eco-adventurers with their Pangea and Plastiki expeditions respectively.
The Patagonian Expedition Race isn’t just about having an ‘adventure at the end of the world’; it focuses on conservation and reforestation. Virgin Earth Challenge uses the metaphor of the space race to bring to life the challenge of finding ecologically sustainable ways of removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.


Humans will go to incredible lengths for peak experiences of freedom, victory and epic wins (just ask any football fan that sticks by their team despite an agonising defeat in the hope of a turnaround). As a brand, Nike is all about the drive to win and their Nike Better World platform brings this to life perfectly:
“Making athletes faster, stronger, better with less impact. That’s not sustainable. That’s unstoppable.” This strategy isn’t just for sports brands; Greenpeace stands for the victory of a values-led NGO over corporations and governments that damage the environment.  


This motivation area is centered on the need to achieve, to succeed and to have power in your sphere of influence and status amongst your peers. Its translation to a brand substance strategy makes it about achieving this power and status through meaningful acts of substance, rather than vacuous display. 
The BMW i8 and the Tesla Roadster may be luxury sports cars, but they also show the owner’s commitment to lower carbon motoring. Imagine if a brand such as Louis Vuitton truly adopted an approach of greater substance in line with their purchase of the Edun label which sources 85% of its materials from sub-saharan Africa.


Toughness, discipline and order may seem unappealing on first consideration, but just consider how people embrace incredibly disciplined diets such as the 5:2 fasting diet or the huge increase in triathlon and marathon participation in the last decade.  Extreme obstacle course events like Tough Mudder and Spartan Race have developed from almost nothing ten years ago to a $250m. industry today. This often ignored area of human motivation can be a powerful tool for communicating effectively with citizen segments that are traditionally ignored when it comes to brand-for-good initiatives.
Thug Kitchen articulate their approach as, “Everyone deserves to feel a part of our country’s push toward a healthier diet, not just people with disposable incomes who speak a certain way.” They use unforgettable messaging like ‘Spring is here - get yourself some goddamn asparagus. So what if it gives your pee extra funk. Who the f*ck you trying to impress with that?’ Toyota shares its disciplined approach to logistics with non-profits free of charge, helping them become more ordered and efficient.


Respect for tradition and quality are well-worn paths in marketing. Often a purely image-based approach to marketing can pay lip-service to these areas, while missing the huge opportunity for authentic engagement they represent. Levi Strauss frame up their sustainability strategy in terms of its ‘long history of caring’ and being ‘guided by the same values since its founding in 1863.
The Levi’s ‘Go Forth‘ campaign draws on their heritage in a compelling way using the ‘new frontier’ of regenerating the American rust-belt as the focus of a  $2m commitment to rejuvenate the town of Braddock with urban farms and community-building investment. The English brewer Adnams links its commitment to quality and its Southwold brewing heritage to initiatives such as a green energy plant and eco distribution centre. 

Happy, Healthy Lives: 

The wish to feel safe, vibrantly healthy and have a strong sense of wellbeing is highly motivating. A brand like Method Home with their tag-line of ‘detox your home’ highlights the harmful ingredients in many household cleaners as a reason to use their naturally-derived products. But they don’t stop at providing merely safe products, their use of packaging, colour and fragrance seeks to create a ‘clean happy’ experience. 
Creating a safe, secure world is at the heart of insurance provider RSA’s corporate strategy. Focusing on themes like improving road safety and helping people deal with extreme weather events is not just a great way to engage their customers, it’s also good for their business. 


In an always-on, ever more hectic world, the feeling of calmness, relaxation and being in harmony is increasingly sought after. In wider culture the concept of mindfulness now seems to be appearing everywhere. Aveda base their approach to beauty products in the Indian healing tradition of  Ayurveda to deliver products
like their Chakra Balancing Blends that are more about changing how you feel inside than how you look to the outside world. The Headspace brand helps users integrate mindfulness and meditation into modern life through their app and website.


Humans are highly social animals. Experiencing a sense of camaraderie and belonging to a group becomes more valued as urbanisation, greater mobility and modern life sees a weakening in family and community cohesion; in the UK single person households have increased from one in five in 1981 to one in three today. The motivation to belong to a tribe or movement was powerfully employed by Barrack Obama’s 2008 campaign - not just through his ‘yes we can’  rallying cry for a divided 
nation to come together to shape a better future, but also in his use of digital tools to connect activists across local communities in an unprecedented way. New forms of collaboration, sharing and community-building have been unleashed through digital technology, from journey sharing platforms like Carma and BlaBlaCar to AirBnB and Streetbank

Deeper Caring:

Brands who stand for being caring, nurturing and honourable usually find it natural to integrate creating positive change into their marketing activty. Innocent centers their marketing activity on their ‘tastes good does good’ campaign; Dove’s ‘campaign for real beauty’ has been hugely succesful, delivering the most-watched online brand video. 
That said, brands in the banking sector that should stand for being unquestionably trustworthy and honourable have seen a huge disconnect between their brand image marketing and the reality of recent banking scandals. The recently demerged TSB bankis attempting to build trust as a local, community bank; it will be interesting to see if this promise stays in the world of glossy brand image communication or if their marketing evolves to become about actually creating positive change in its communities.


The human mind has incredible potential to enjoy sensual pleasure, fantasise, dream and imagine. At first glance, this may seem to sit firmly in the world of brand image rather than substance and principle. But to create real, positive change, a new, better world has to be imagined and this vision needs to be appealing and pleasurable.
Brands like the film Avatar use an imaginary world to encourage people to think about how we exploit our real world, while initiatives like ‘The World We Made’ and ‘The 100 Acres Project’ paint a compelling picture of a positive, sustainable future. Fashion brand Kenzo have created a digital experience for their ‘no fish no nothing’ collection that immerses the user as if they were a fish in a beautiful and slightly whacky fantastical world, building empathy with their plight.

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