The Futurist: A year of purpose

The new year of 2017 will be the year of the rooster. Since I just moved to Malaysia, I started to learn all about Chinese horoscopes and a quick search on Google told me that roosters are observant, hardworking, honest and loyal. Sounds humble.

But roosters are also confident and courageous, which makes them quite exciting. Back in June 2016, when I attended the Cannes Lions, I found that the winners had a couple of things in common: all were delivered with hard work, based on great observations, and overall, they were courageous and honest with a purpose. And not just any purpose, they had a sustainable or social purpose. Brands that have been doing this for a long time are well-known ones such as Chipotle and Chobani.

And it made sense. The next generation of global citizens are not necessarily worried about purchasing the best labels to show off, or buying a flashy car to show how successful they are.

No, they would rather leave a mark on the world, contribute to society and the environment. They want to create a better future. And, therefore, they are looking for brands that can help them with that. Brands that matter, brands with a real belief and a purpose.

Keith Weed, CMO of Unilever, also shared that investing marketing dollars into social causes was not just something Unilever does to improve the image of its brands. Rather, he explained, it makes sense to the company’s bottom line.

Brands with a sustainable essence and role, built on a belief with a purpose, are brands that grew 30% faster than the rest of Unilever’s portfolio. He stated that 54% of consumers would buy a product if it was socially and environmentally sustainable.

This insight was exactly what we found when we started working in New Zealand on the beer brand DB Export. We discovered that young Kiwis were not necessarily looking for a bigger house or a higher salary. They wanted to leave a mark on their beautiful country. But the diffi culty was in fi nding out how they could contribute as an individual and where to start.

The ideas you have over beers in the evening don’t always come to fruition the next day. We also found that it was part of the New Zealand DNA to not just talk about what you are “going to do”. It is more about appreciating the people experiences around what you do.

The good thing was the key elements of DB Export’s DNA were: inventiveness, philanthropy and clever-wittiness. The brand was founded by Morton Coutts, who inherited the brewery when he was 15 years old. With his inventiveness, he created a new and more sustainable brewing process, scanned the neighbour’s cat when he was an early teen and was also the man that created the first quality export New Zealand lager.

So how could DB Export help young Kiwis to turn “can do” into “done”? And, at the same time, help them contribute to a more sustainable New Zealand? We had to do something that was credible which enabled our consumers to leave a positive footprint, and at the same time, be authentic and related to our product.

After months of research we discovered that you can turn the leftovers of the brewing process, yeast slurry, into ethanol. And that this ethanol could be the basis of biofuel. The idea of biofuel made from beer waste was born. We partnered with New Zealand’s most sustainable petrol company Gull. And they loved the idea: so Brewtroleum was born. People could fuel up their car with biofuel made from leftovers from brewing DB Export.

Now people could drink beer and save the world! The campaign was a huge success and was repeated again. The love and loyalty for the brand grew and so did the sales numbers.

It really matters to stand for something as a brand, to be an honest brand, with a purpose. And not just say it, but do it. To make this campaign happen, we needed the courage and confidence to get the idea through. Biofuel made from beer waste is not the easiest or riskfree idea to sell.

So back to the rooster; the hardworking,honest, observing, confident and courageous Chinese horoscope sign. It stands for what it believes in and works hard to achieve its purpose in life. And those elements are the key elements to be successful as a brand in 2017 and the years after.

Brands that will be winning brands in 2017 are ones with a social or sustainable purpose. Brands with a belief that consumers can relate to, and brands that they trust because they are honest and contribute to what the next generation finds important. So start observing your consumers and the trends in the market.

And have the courage to believe in something as a brand, to sell it internally and make it come

to life. 2017 will be the year of the brands that do, not the year of brands that just say.

The writer is Maud Meijboom-van Wel, marketing director, Heineken Malaysia. To read more check out the print version of The Futurist.