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Ready For Action

5 Ways To Grow With 21st Century Brands


Pauline d’Albis-Desforges

Planning Partner, Head of Brand Excellence

Ogilvy Paris



Michael Edery

Planning Partner, Head of Personalized Experience

Ogilvy Paris




In Roman times, a glassmaker created what was possibly the first brand, stamping the words “Ennion Made Me” on his creations. In this BrandZ ranking, so many centuries later, we pay tribute to the enduring relevance of the powerful French brands that matter to consumers globally. Yet the role of brands in this world of fragmentation, consumer control, and content overload is being questioned. In fact, there is research showing that globally, consumers wouldn’t care if 74 percent of the brands they use disappeared.


So how can a brand be sure it’s in the 26 percent that people would miss if they disappeared, and make their way up the BrandZ rankings? Given augmented capabilities thanks to a now ever-present mobile, consumers are re-evaluating their relationships with brands: yes, they are willing to give personal information, and recommend brands, but they expect clear value in return. Our research shows that brands do matter when they act and when they help; when they become brands that do. People are telling us to stop making empty promises and start acting in new and different ways. We need to build brands that do – not just say – things that matter to their customers.


Here are five key ‘do’s’ to generate growth with brands that do:


1 See that brand-centric = consumer-centric, and vice versa. Brands only exist in people’s minds. When people meet brands, they form an impression of the useful role a brand can have in their lives, and of the credentials that make that role believable. In other words, the brands behavioural and relational currency. Where would Dove be without an intimate link with women, and a defined mission of helping them feel more beautiful, confident, and ultimately happy? Turning this thought into action led for instance to the creation of the first curly-haired emojis: a service helping women feel more positive about their curls, which drove business and brand equity for Dove.


2 Stay human. As brand builders, we need to stop talking about “consumers”, “patients”, or “moms” and talk instead about people. And we must start acting like human beings in search of deeper, more meaningful relationships. Paradoxically, data and technology are helping brands develop more empathy. Automation and AI, rather than replacing human connections, are providing a more seamless experience, giving us help in our language, and connecting us with another human when that’s what we need. The Swedish Number campaign – which invited people from all over the world to call a random Swedish citizen for a chat – is a brilliant, highly successful example of a brand facilitating a personal, real, rich interaction between human beings. Data also helps unveil insights, identify high-potential people, pinpoint the moments and ways to match messages with needs, and enable brands to optimize to stay relevant.  Yet empathy also means rediscovering the power of ethnography, face-to-face discovery, and understanding people via the fundamentals of sociology, psychology, and physiology. What’s more deeply human than how our body works?


3 Create value for real people. Interrogating human nature reveals how we think and act. Behavioural science confirms that the way to a person’s heart is through emotions, and the fast, automated, intuitive and highly influential side of the cognitive process. Understanding this means focusing creativity on the emotional hooks, interactions and actions most valuable to individuals. Things that people will recognize, desire, seek out, and make part of their lives. Things that might even inspire people to the point where they create culture, or help change the world. Take the “Tummy Fish” created for Nestlé’s United for Healthier Kids as a fun way to help families adopt healthier habits: a friendly virtual fish living in a kid’s stomach that reacts to how much water you drink compared to other not-so-fish-friendly liquids.


4 Organize dynamically around people’s lives. Brands need to be in always-on seduction mode. The notion of brand experience isn’t new, but modern marketing capabilities now give us the means to truly deliver on David Ogilvy’s promise that “every advertisement (or “every interaction” in 21st century language) should be thought of as a contribution to the complex symbol that is the brand image”. Every interaction, but also every audience, across every time horizon – today, next quarter, next year. What was once CRM now feeds the entire funnel. Philips Male Grooming is increasingly thinking of communication in terms of interactive, experiential scenarios. It started with a powerful film showcasing a celebrity stylist offering free haircuts to homeless men, and capturing their transformation. High-potential audiences who interacted with this powerful brand action were then moved through a sequence of constantly optimized targeted content, leading to promotions on Philips tools .


5 Embrace partnership. Changing from brands that “say” to brands that “do” means collaborating and integrating on a whole new level: breaking internal and external silos and bringing expert brains together around a shared vision. People everywhere are embracing what we now call the “sharing economy” to benefit from one another’s experiences. What’s needed is for the brand ecosystem to embrace it as well.


Making brands matter again simply means activating the power of effective human communication: empathy, one-to-one communication, seamless and relevant interaction, and helping each other (and the planet) through actions. The amazing technological progress we are living through, the advent of truly modern marketing, can only help smooth the path along the way to growth.y has it, then we can put this back in.