Bring out your Brand Values and Bring out your Best

Investor Terry Smith made headlines this week by taking a critical stance on values marketing. Specifically in his crosshairs is Unilever’s Hellmann’s brand. Does mayonnaise need to have a higher societal purpose or does it exist just to be delicious?

Playbooks work, playbooks change

For decades, the way you market CPG was having a great slogan and a great jingle. Hellmann’s used this playbook and it worked to great effect. Similarly, there are playbooks for shelf space, logos, coupons, and eventually websites and mobile apps. Marketing doesn’t stand still.

Today’s consumers want purpose driven brands. Leading brands understand this and they are writing a new playbook on how to connect with consumers.

Before we can dive in, we need to set the table by defining a few terms. Values are the core pillars of a company. Causes are the external manifestations of those values. Purpose is the driving force for a company.

These definitions are important so we can understand where the debate truly lies. To say that a mayonnaise brand should just be delicious is still saying that a brand should have purpose and values – just not the ones that make headlines.

There is more than one type of brand value

At Vrity, we define purpose into three tiers. Business values are things such as affordability, quality, and customer service. Branding values are things such as joy, patriotism, health, or excitement. Change values are societal issues, such as environmentalism or equality.

Brands can have several values at once and play across all three tiers. Hellmann’s campaign against food waste is courting the change value of empathy, but that campaign stands on the foundation of business values of affordability and quality that the brand has already built for decades. Their slogan, “Bring out the Hellman’s, bring out the best,” is a message about the value of quality.

When people debate about brand purpose, the core of the debate are the change values, and those can only be built after there is a foundation of business values. Certainly it would not matter what causes Hellmann’s support if their mayo were $50 per jar or their product significantly lower quality than its competitors.

Attacking purpose marketing is attacking branding itself

Getting back to the original question, “Does mayonnaise need to have a higher societal purpose?” The answer is “no,” but also ask yourself, do they need an attractive label? Do they need a celebrity spokesperson?

So then, why does the brand do these things? Differentiation. In the grocery aisle, Hellmann’s has checked the box for affordability and quality – but so has Duke’s and Miracle Whip. Hellmann’s choice to fight food waste is to stake a claim on a new value. 

This strategy – like any other branding strategy – is not guaranteed to succeed. The brand must carefully measure and attribute the effectiveness of this campaign and continue to refine and optimize.

Ultimately, brands will gravitate to change values because they work. Our research found 82% of consumers want to buy from brands that are making the world a better place. Pundits can debate if that is logical or not, but it is clear that consumers are voting with their wallets. Vrity’s data found that when a consumer thinks a retailer values diversity and equality, they shop there 84% more often. When they think a retailer is good for the environment, they shop there 64% more often – as measured by verified in-store visits. 

It is getting hard to deny that consumers vote with their wallets. Pioneering brands understand this and are in a new gold rush to stake claim on the change values associated with their brand. By the time the laggard brands realize this, they will be playing from behind. 

The new playbook is being written in real time. Brands will continue to convince consumers of their affordability and quality, but forward-thinking brands are looking for new ways to connect with consumers, and today’s consumers are saying loud and clear that they want brands to do more to make the world a better place.