When it comes to purpose marketing, there is a simple rule: Don’t just talk about your brand. Talk about what you are doing to make a difference or change behaviour. Myself and Ad Age kicked off a new podcast that tackles some purpose nonsense and helps bring a bit of guidance and perspective. The first of the series focused around Earth Day ads that came out. Check out the article and podcast (taken directly from Ad Age) below:

As part of a new monthly series added to Ad Age’s weekly Marketer’s Brief podcast, Kolster will break down recent purpose-fueled ads and campaigns, highlighting hits and misses while offering advice on how brands can do better.

Our first episode runs in the wake of Earth Day, when numerous brands unleashed environmental campaigns. Below, a few that caught Kolster’s eye, for better or worse.

Changing behaviour

It’s one thing to encourage travelers to engage in environmentally responsible behavior, but it’s another thing to reward them for it. “Ol’au Palau” is the latest campaign from the Palau Legacy Project, a volunteer group that advocates for behavior that protects the environment of the western Pacific island nation. Since late 2017, the country has required that visitors take the “Palau Pledge” to tread lightly on the island habitat. The new campaign, from Host/Havas, allows visitors to earn points for environmentally friendly behavior that can be cashed in for one-of-a-kind experiences, such as a diving excursion.

“We’ve seen the damaging sides of tourism and this campaign does this clever trick where they reward people for the right environmental behaviors,” Kolster said. “That is what Earth Day is about … changing our behaviors, getting out there exploring nature in a different way.”

Taking on greenwashing

Greenwashing is a phrase that has gained popularity as more companies engage in environmentalism marketing without much substance behind it. The group wherefrom.org takes on the posers with a new ad that calls bullshit on brands making hollow gestures. The spot, which sounds like a pop anthem, directs viewers to a site, stopthewash.com, where the group claims it has copyrighted under U.K. law some 100 green “slogans” and pledges to sue any company that uses one.

“There is just so much purpose nonsense out there,” Kolster said. This ad “talks to a lot of the cynicism that a lot of us are feeling in this space. I think we love that brands are standing up and solving some of society’s challenges, but I think it’s just authenticity that is the issue so often.”

Brand narcissism

Kolster is not a fan of a BMW spot called “The Future Finds Us” that the luxury auto brand debuted on YouTube on Earth Day, pushing its iX electric vehicle. It includes overly serious dialogue with lines like “Time, an endless cycle of cause and effect,” and ends with a scene showing a BMW balanced vertically on its fender in a mountainous/desert landscape as the voiceover talks about balancing progress with beauty.

“This is sort of the classic example of what I call the narcissist. It’s like, ‘let’s love Mother Earth’—but really love my brand,” Kolster said. “I am not buying the spiel. It just seems a bit contrived. It’s Earth Day, is this the best you can do?”

Check out the podcast here:



© 2020 Thomas Kolster. All Rights Reserved.

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