Yesterday we went to Kantar Talks. BrandZ presented its annual report on the top 75 most valuable UK brands – with Vodafone in at number one – and outlining the key drivers that make for an impactful brand – salience, meaningful difference and relevance. These areas were measured against financial growth.

The topic for the day was not just financial, but Real Growth, and we heard perspectives from the FA, Aviva, Three, Dove, Vodafone, BrandZ, and Lionesses goalkeeper Karen Bardsley.

The setting was the BFI on London’s Southbank, home to the best of British film. So, we couldn’t help but reflect on the parallels between the insights from some of the talks and the makings of a gripping screenplay.

Business growth is like the evolution of a great drama – we’re looking for a happy ever after but there is always an enemy, so you have to take some risks along the way.

Identifying the enemy

“Purposeful communication is here to stay” commented RBS’s Corporate Communications Director. And he’s right – purpose is at the forefront of some of the best examples of work we see in the industry. But how has purpose evolved since we first started using this term?

Kantar’s report on the future of marketing to women – Hold Her Gaze – references some of the trends that are emerging as part of purposeful communications. One of these being “Uncover the untold”, an approach which is taken by films such as Hidden Figures, the story of three brilliant African American women that serve as the brains behind one of NASA’s greatest operations. A different and untold perspective of history was shown.

Stabilo was also a brand noted for using the strategy of ‘untold’ in its advertising, through ads created by DDB Dusseldorf that literally “highlight the remarkable” women who have been written out of the history books.

In this instance, history is the enemy that brands are taking a stand against.

Happy ever after

In our world, a happy ever after to a campaign can mean many things: we landed the media coverage we set out to, our content got people talking, we delivered over benchmark on reach and engagement rates. One of the interesting talking points which came up though was PR vs paid and how we measure ROI. After all, if there is still ambiguity about how we measure, are we ever going to be truly happy with the results?

Kantar revealed a new AI driven approach to measuring media in greater depth, set up by data which compared shared of spend with contribution to brand power. This reflected a share of spend of 14% on PR and 86% on paid media. Share of contribution to brand power was 19% from PR, 81% from paid media.

Now, we don’t have all the data behind this, but as meaningful difference continues to drive growth, how we measure the drivers and get the best ROI across all disciplines is going to be more important than ever to reach a conclusion we’re all happy with.

Taking risks

But how does a brand make a meaningful difference? Beauty brand Dove has taken the lead in an industry that was and still is ripe for change. It has set out the strategy of Real Beauty which others have adopted in their own way. When the campaign first launched in 2004 it was risky, but now the narrative has evolved and it’s riskier for a beauty brand NOT to be involved in the real beauty conversation in some form.

What Dove has done for the beauty industry should of course be celebrated, but it did get us thinking. If everyone goes to the same talks, hears from the same influencers, follows the same strategy, where is the room for difference? Rory Sutherland’s recent book, Alchemy dissects this thought in some detail. In a data-driven world of algorithms and personalisation, we are at risk of finding ourselves in an echo chamber when it comes to communications.

As the BrandZ report has shown, meaningful difference is critical for growth. Finding that difference could mean strategies that go against convention and give room to surprising creativity. This means as a brand you must take some risks – the greatest stories in history all had some jeopardy, and those that didn’t soon faded away.