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Good is the New Cool: An Interview with Afdhel Aziz

At Olapic, we are privileged to work with many of the world’s top brands. This year, in order to bring together industry leaders to better share ideas, trends, and strategies, we’ve launched our first Visual Marketing World Tour, hitting six global cities over the summer. During our US stops (New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco), we are excited to be joined by Afdhel Aziz, a speaker, writer, and award-winning marketer who has worked for brands such as Procter & Gamble, Heineken, Nokia and Absolut. Afdhel is the author of Good Is the New Cool: Market Like You Give a Damn, and Founder and Chief Creative Officer at Conspiracy of Love, a think-tank and idea incubator that helps Fortune 500 companies ‘make money AND do good by harnessing the power of culture and technology.’ Afdhel has a passion for building purpose-driven brands, and we caught up with him to ask a few questions about how marketing leaders can achieve both purpose and success in their efforts.

1. What are the top challenges facing today’s brands?

A recent study showed that consumers wouldn’t care if 74% of brands disappeared from the world. The biggest struggle for brands is to innovate and keep finding relevance. The most successful brands in the world are the ones who have a clear purpose – a higher reason to exist beyond making a profit – and are the ones who consistently drive everything that they do against the pursuit of that purpose, always adding value to the lives of the customers they serve.

2. For brands without a clear and aligned cause, what is the first step in becoming purpose-driven?

It’s important first of all to distinguish between ‘purpose’ and ‘cause’. A purpose could be something like ‘Enabling human progress’ (which is what Citibank has done). A cause can be a specific initiative or alliance with a non-profit that adds value to humanity. Companies first need to define what their purpose is, and then figure out how that translates to everything that they do – marketing, sales, new product development, employee engagement. One of the outputs of that purpose could also be cause-related.

At Conspiracy, we spend a lot of time working with brands who need to clearly define and articulate their purpose: this involves a multi-layered process, ranging from doing what we call an ‘archaeological dig’ back into the roots and heritage of the company, to find clues as to why it came into existence in the first place. We do extensive research and interviews with stakeholders from senior management to front-line teams; we talk to customers, partners, and other stakeholders. Based on all of this, we can distil it down to a powerful purpose which becomes the driving force behind the brand.

3. How can marketers balance the need to sell products with the desire to do “good” in their work?

I think it’s about moving away from the mindset of ‘giving back’ to see this as an opportunity to actually grow business and make even more money. This is not about Corporate Social Responsibility: this is about Corporate Social Opportunity. There is tremendous potential in solving the world’s problems. And the more money the brands make, the more good they can do; it sets up a virtuous cycle that can scale infinitely.

4. Can you share a few brands that are doing this well already?

Tesla does a great job bringing their purpose (‘to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy’) to life. Everything from their cars, to their solar roofs and power walls are designed against this one single-minded goal. They are the new Apple. Great design powered by great technology, which has the power to massively decrease our reliance on fossil fuels and usher in an era of abundance.

Adidas is another brand which has taken its purpose of ‘Through sport we have the power to change lives’ and applied it spectacularly to initiatives like the collaboration with Parley for the Oceans, to not only create shoes made from plastic ocean waste – but to commit to removing ALL plastic from their supply chain and operations in the coming years.

5. Which trends can we expect to drive marketing over the next few years?

I think that purpose will be the biggest driver of business, just like digital has and continues to be. Purpose has the potential to be as transformative to business as digital channels have been. Purpose will fuel everything from brand identity, to sales, to recruitment, to supply chain management. Because consumers want to buy things that are made sustainably, ethically, and that add societal values – and employees want to work for companies that create such things.

We’re looking forward to sharing Afdhel’s insights with our clients, partners, and colleagues over the next few weeks. Make sure to check out Afdhel’s book, and consider how you can start to make strides to creating a more purpose-driven brand identity.

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