Branding Roundtable recently caught up with Mick McCabe, Leo Burnett USA's Chief Strategy Officer, and asked him to share his insights and opinions about purpose-driven branding.

Branding Roundtable: How do you define purpose relative to brands and the companies that own them?

Mick McCabe: Purpose is very close to our hearts, as Leo Burnett was an early pioneer on the purpose front. It represents one of the core principles that mark our HumanKind process, behavior and creative ideas as we work with all of our clients. We define it as why a brand exists. What its real motive is. What it’s trying to do in the world. And when you commit to that, it’s a powerful platform for brands, regardless of category or competitive situation.

BR: Is purpose a corporate-level driver/necessity or can it be implemented purely brand by brand?

MM: It’s most powerful when a company has a big human purpose that is given texture and dimension in the world through its individual brands. For instance, Nintendo as a company has a purpose that embraces the transformative, powerful good that can come when we play. And its consoles like Wii U and 3DS and games like Mario, Pokemon and Zelda all in different ways allow people to access that purpose and for it to be real, alive and thriving in the world. They all serve the big purpose but do it in their own charismatic, idiosyncratic, fun way.

BR: From a brand-positioning standpoint, do you see this as a task of corporations and/or their brands adopting new purpose or uncovering an existing, inherent purpose?

MM: From experience, I have found it more useful to look inside the brand to find a purpose. Brands are treasure troves, but you often have to look and dig a little to find the purpose and soul that can, over time, get a little foggy. Importantly, though, the placing of a brand’s purpose in the context of the times makes it magnetic. Allstate has had the Good Hands at the center of its brand for more than 50 years, but its longevity is because lots of smart people over the years have added to the meaning of it and given it new life as the culture has changed. So the character of Mayhem is a thoroughly timeless idea that gets his resonance from the here and now of people texting and driving and people applying makeup on the way to work.

BR: What do you see as the essential elements of a purpose-driven brand?

MM: Human truth. A purpose that allows people to access the great heights of the human condition and the possibility of us at our best is irresistible. And tension. The best tensions have friction, conflict and an enemy that a brand is trying to help right on behalf of people. Without it, I have purpose to wilt a little.

BR: What are the benefits of purpose-driven branding?

MM: To galvanize an organization and all of its constituents around a common mission and belief. People want to join, commune and connect, but they do so most passionately when they have something in common and when they share something. All religions, powerful organizations, clubs and brands know the uniting power of purpose. NASA could be about going to the moon. But more powerfully its purpose is to reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind. It feels very different.

BR: What have been, and what will be, the main obstacles of implementing and executing purpose-driven brands?

MM: Getting agreement is usually hard because how do you get thousands of people to rally around a single thought? That’s why the good ones are so powerful. Additionally, often purpose seems to smell of nonprofit in the commercial world. That’s the mistake. Purpose is actually an economic engine because it provides focus for an organization, it makes decision making more productive and it draws customers and talented people to a brand when they have a purpose that matters

BR: Is purpose-centered business a truly global strategy or more applicable in the West or developed economies?

MM: I think people are people, last time I checked. Human beings want and need purpose whether in India or in Ireland. Organizations want and need unity and focus whether in UAE or the USA. That is undeniable.

Cannes is in our rearview mirror, but juror insights are evergreen. Here are some musings from Alisa Wolfson, SVP, Group Design Director in Chicago, who served as a design juror this past June.

Can you tell us a little about how the jury worked and how it differed from judging at other shows?

There were more than 2,600 pieces (of work) and they ranged across all mediums — from small-form logos to large-scale branding systems. And the process was very interesting; I’d never done this sort of thing before. I’m used to seeing everything as a whole, or what we call the “lasagna style,” where it’s page after page flipping through a book.

But here they broke us up into four teams of five people, each from different regions and with different design perspectives. And they changed the teams daily so you were never really with the same people.

This did two things: one is that it gave you a very specific thing to think about. Instead of looking at design en masse, you got to concentrate on specific categories that perhaps one had more expertise in. For instance, the first day I judged sound design, and I think I was slated to judge it during the first round because of my experience in sound and media. So I think they were strategically getting people involved in the kind of projects that they could best judge.

The other thing that happened — for me, at least — was that I didn’t see a lot of my own work. There was only one time that I saw something we entered, so to come up with the shortlist was actually quite mysterious, because I didn’t see a lot of the work that we entered until I was done with my stuff and got to meander around and see things in other groups.

So the interesting thing about that is, knowing what did make the shortlist from those groups, you kind of got a sense of what the collective standards were for each of those different teams. And then once those things were shortlisted, we, as a group, spent two days talking about them and making sure our shortlist was sound. And then we went through and started to award prizes.

And then everybody at the end was able to nominate a piece — and this is what I loved about this most of all — from the shortlist (or not, even) that they could bring back and resurrect that they’d remembered from their earlier reviews.

There was one campaign called “Cleft to Smile” from India. It’s a beautiful logo, and we all loved it, but it just didn’t make it through to the shortlist because it might have been too hard to understand from just looking at the board. But someone raised her hand and wanted to bring that one back in, and it wound up — and I’m actually getting chills — coming from not making the shortlist to winning Gold. At that point, people are standing up and clapping — it was really cool to understand the impact that we have on other people’s ideas and lives.

You’re making somebody’s career and you’re validating their ideas and talent, but you’re also collectively resetting what people are inspired by out in the world, which is more of a responsibility than a right, actually.

And we all felt that. We all felt tremendously responsible for a measured set of awards that represented not only the kind of work that we respected and loved, but the kind of work that we believe designers should be doing in the world.

The jury was geographically very diverse. Were you guys all on the same page?

There were variances. There were some struggles to understand, culturally, how certain pieces would be best translated, not from a language standpoint, but how impactful they would be.

For instance, a Japanese poster is something that people in America and the Western world absolutely covet — and we were very lucky to have a number of people qualified to validate whether that was indeed an object that we should be looking at, and whether it meant something culturally or not.

And then there were some differences. There were a couple of pieces that made the shortlist that personally I wasn’t drawn to aesthetically, but culturally meant so much to other people on the jury that after you kind of “become one” with your design jury family, you just have to take a step back and respect other people’s viewpoints and opinions and understand that this person has a lovely insight as to why this is good for them and their market.

Were there any themes or trends that emerged this year?

Everybody is craving work with purpose, although a better way of saying it might be work that’s intended for the world in a way that we’re not expecting.

What I mean is, oftentimes when we make things, they’re not memorable. Whether it’s a campaign or an act or a poster or a book, that artifact has really got to mean something, and I found that those things that actually took you to a different place for that idea had the most permanence in our minds.

It was the work that changed our way of thinking about a particular medium that was really the most influential.

For instance, there’s this piece for Nelson Mandela, and it’s this yellow poster that folds down into a booklet format. When you open it, it doesn’t fold out into a traditional book, it instead folds out into an eight-by-seven-foot poster. And the poster is printed only on one side in black, so you’ll be able to read it in the same way you would a book, but when it opens up you discover that it was actually designed to show you the exact size of Nelson Mandela’s cell that he was in for 27 years of his life.

I saw it out of the corner of my eye because it wasn’t in my judging category on the first day, but you see this big yellow book and you just want to go pick it up. When I first picked it up, I didn’t know what to do with it and I kind of walked away from it for a while. But when someone who was judging it opened it up and put it on the floor, everybody went up to it — it was like a magnet pulling us in, asking “What is this?”

And then we all got in it, and stood on it, and wanted to take pictures of it and then some people started laying down in it … this was the cell that this man was in for the better part of his life. Bringing the physical poster off the wall and to the floor was really special and just reinforced the power that design has.

This is the kind of work that resets your view on what you want to do with your space in the world. This was one that I was happy not just to be able to experience, but also reward and bring to other people.

HumanKind Q3 GPC Toronto

In August, the GPC gathered in Canada to judge work from around the network and awarded six 8-balls to work from Toronto to Tokyo.

The recent festival also marked a new era for Pencil Shavings, a compilation of the best work from the quarter’s GPC. Now in your favorite form, Pencil Shavings covers all your favorite GPC feedback in a web series. From scores to critique to general commentary from the host city, Pencil Shavings now brings the GPC to life in every office around the globe. Brush up on Burnett’s competitive advantage and check out the work and personalities this quarter in Toronto [LINK].



U.N. Foundation “#TheWorldNeedsMore” New York

Samsung, “S-Drive” Sydney



Procter & Gamble/Always, “#LikeAGirl” Toronto/Chicago/London

Procter & Gamble/Pampers, “Mom’s First Birthday” Tokyo


Promo & Activation

Salvation Army, “Gift Box” China/Hong Kong


Ambient Media

TSN, “Kings and Queens of the Court” Toronto

In 2013, the hiring rate of minorities in advertising was on track to be equally representative of the general population by 2079. That’s 66 years too long to wait for a more diverse workforce that brings unique thinking to the table. At the ADCOLOR Awards and Industry Conference in September, the premier diversity gathering for the U.S. ad industry, Leo Burnett joined industry leaders to launch “NO.2.66,” a new social movement to challenge the industry and spark a conversation about how to champion diversity hiring. A social movement for the advertising industry that challenges the way we think and act in regards to diversity of creative thought, it calls for dramatic change in how we recruit and hire ethnically diverse talent. Join the movement today at http://www.no2six6.com/ as we challenge the entire industry to creatively solve the issue of diversity in advertising.

McDonald’s opened its first restaurant in the U.K. back in 1974; 40 years later, this very American company is seen in the U.K. as being as British as fish and chips. In August, Leo Burnett UK launched a campaign to celebrate this anniversary and remind people that McDonald’s has been there in the background of many moments all through people’s lives. The campaign looks back at some of these timeless moments that are charming, funny, touching or poignant – such as a nervous first date, a camping trip SOS, a house-moving reward and passing a driving test.

“A Day in the Life”

The hamburger giant has been in the U.K. for 40 years and Leo Burnett has been beside them for 28. In a recent article, Campaign magazine counted down our top ten ads.

“Birds and the Bees”

“Clever Daddy”

“Estate Agent”

“Being Six”


“Just Passing By”

“We All Make the Games”


“Hunter Gatherer”

No matter which country you rooted for, we can all agree that the World Cup was fun for everyone. Leo Burnett teams around the world brought people together around the passion of the biggest global sporting event.

Allstate, “Mala Suerte”

Lapiz and Leo Burnett Interactive came together to shoot more than 293 bad-luck scenarios that fans could send in “near time” to rival teams and players. Every time #EnviaMalaSuerte was tweeted during the World Cup, cat food was dropped into two food bowls via a live stream. Just before the final game, Mala Suerte placed the bowls in front of the Argentinian and German flags. Then he released a black cat, his symbol of bad luck. The black cat ate out of the Argentinian bowl and cursed, as the final outcome would prove, the South American team. Mala Suerte became the No. 2 trending topic in the U.S. and earned 7.5 million impressions.

Brake, “#Don’tCrossTheLine”

More than 20 million U.K. residents watched the World Cup final, with a fair few enjoying a drink. A film created by Leo Burnett London used a familiar World Cup phenomenon – the referees’ white foam spray cans – to get across a message different from a free kick: Don’t cross the line. Don’t drink and drive.

McDonald’s, “Peel. Play. Olé, Olé.”

To promote McDonald's core products and its World Cup sponsorship, Arc helped launch the “Olé Olé” peel-and-win game. Lucky soccer fans could win trips to the matches in Rio de Janeiro.

Mozaic TV, “It’s Your Turn to Take the Field”

Capitalizing on the World Cup craze that swept the nation, Leo Burnett Qatar set out to promote Mozaic TV, a cable and satellite television network broadcasting the World Cup in Qatar. The mission was to showcase the experience of watching the games live. Putting an innovative twist on the standard Mozaic TV receiver package, Leo Burnett Qatar transformed the box into a do-it-yourself foosball field ready with the all the accessories needed, including the participating teams and the cheering fans. All participants had to do was pick their team, issue a challenge and take the field.

Leo Burnettinho

Leo Burnettinho was Lapiz's initiative to create excitement around the World Cup within Leo Burnett in Chicago. Lapiz is always bringing emerging cultures to the forefront, showcasing the influence that these cultures are having in the mainstream, and futbol is a great example of that. Lapiz changed out agency icons – showcasing mangoes alongside apples in the lobby and hanging a Brazilian flag on the building – hosted viewing parties, and developed a mobile site called soccertranslate.com that helped Americans understand the global game.

Always, “#LikeAGirl”

When did the phrase “like a girl” become so negative?

More than half of girls lose confidence during puberty – and a contributing factor to that drop is societal put-downs based solely on gender. Only 19 percent of women have a positive association with the expression “like a girl,” and P&G Always and Leo Burnett Chicago, London and Toronto, with the help of famous documentarian Lauren Greenfield, designed a stirring rallying cry to reverse this connotation and champion girls’ confidence in a new, empowering campaign: #LikeAGirl.

#LikeAGirl was created to raise awareness of the harmful impacts of the phrase “like a girl” – and show that doing something “like a girl” can mean something downright amazing. Since launching at the end of June, the #LikeAGirl video has received more than 48 million YouTube views and billions of online, social and earned media impressions. Furthermore, the campaign picked up a prestigious 8-ball at the most recent GPC.


Amnesty International, “Help Get Them Home”

A list of prisoners of conscience – people arrested for peacefully expressing their views – appeared at London’s busy Waterloo tube stop, and thousands of passengers passing through the station were invited to “Help Get Them Home.” On a busy weekend, Waterloo station’s giant screens, which span six platforms, were given over to Amnesty International. Passengers could text to help secure the prisoners’ releases, with their texts displayed on the world’s biggest departure board.


Ronald McDonald House Charities, “Tree of Life”

Leo Burnett Sydney crafted a beautifully designed, moving metaphor of the charity’s mission to shelter families of sick children so they are closer to their kids during hospital visits. Accompanied by gorgeous sound design, the film brought to life what family symbolizes: comfort.


ComEd, “Icebox Derby”

Chicago’s new work for ComEd, a Chicago-based power company, was a race for the ages to drive young women to enter STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Girls from 13 to 18 years old teamed up with engineering mentors at ComEd to build electric race cars from recycled refrigerators. The participants debuted their creations at the Icebox Derby, where they raced to the finish line for ultimate bragging rights. Team Sonic Doom emerged victorious; each girl received a $1,000 scholarship as well as a six-day stay at the National Flight Academy’s campus and participation in its Ambition Program, which is focused on the exploration of STEM.


Coca-Cola, “Bio Cooler”

How do you cool down a town where the temperatures are extreme and electricity is nowhere to be found? That’s what Coca-Cola, in partnership with Leo Burnett Colombia, set out to discover. In a town such as Aipir, where there are certainly no fridges and a walk to get ice is an all-day commitment, the answer to the harsh conditions was not readily apparent. Enter the Bio Cooler, a refrigeration system that relies on non-electricity-based methods (think water evaporation and harnessing the heat from the sun to convert gas to liquids) to cool down whatever it contains. The best part? The hotter it gets outside, the better the Bio Cooler works.


Pampers, “Mom’s First Birthday”

A baby’s first birthday is also a mom’s first birthday. This video, created by Leo Burnett Tokyo/Beacon Communications, takes a moment to celebrate both baby’s and Mom’s first birthdays.


TD Canada Trust, “Automated Thanking Machines”

Sometimes you just want to say thank you. TD turned ATMs into Automated Thanking Machines to create some very special moments for customers across Canada.


Fiat 500 Cult, “Yacht”

The new Fiat 500 Cult is a little jewel – cooler than ever and accessible to everyone. The film focuses on its being both a "premium" and a "democratic" car. The first images of the car beckon the viewer to enjoy the small but great things in life, laying aside status symbols, to then reach a surprise finale that reveals the fresh and irreverent spirit of the 500 icon.


Centrum, “#StillGotIt”

Multivitamin brand Centrum took stereotypes about aging to the court for a little one-on-one. In this short film by Leo Burnett Chicago, eight athletic men from 46 to 63 years old took on a group half their age in a round of street ball. The games and the players were real, and Centrum took a chance on the outcome only to see that the “old men” won all four games.


Pirelli, “Christ’s Gaze”

Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro is one of the most photographed monuments in the world. The only thing better than posting a picture of Cristo Redentor is posting a photo of yourself taken from Cristo Redentor's perspective. Leo Burnett Tailor Made, for Italian tire manufacturer Pirelli, offered the statue's visitors a unique experience - the chance to see themselves through Christ’s eyes.

Cristo Redentor was struck by lightning and damaged in early 2014. Pirelli and Leo Burnett decided to step in. In addition to the necessary repairs, Pirelli and Burnett gave the monument an Instagram handle (@cristo.redentor) and a hashtag (#Christsgaze), and they installed cameras at the top of the statue, 38 meters up, to celebrate Pirelli's 85th anniversary in Brazil.


Ariel Science Plus, “Life and Dirt”

The science behind life and dirt, and how both are intertwined, is explored in this new spot from Leo Burnett/Beacon Communications. The ad shows a ball rolling through a Rube Goldberg machine, which transports objects from one location to another by overly complicated methods. From a splash of spaghetti sauce to a spill from a glass of our favorite wine, our clothes can’t get away from life’s unforeseen messes. But everyday messes are what make life so beautiful – and Ariel Science Plus’s innovative detergent is the solution to cleaning our clothes from life’s dirty wonders.


Delta, “HappiMess”

Chicago’s latest work for Delta Faucet embraced life’s messy moments – and when Delta innovations make getting clean just as beautiful as getting dirty, that’s a little thing we like to call “HappiMess.” It's about living every day to its messiest, allowing people to see the beauty in it and remembering that with messes come accomplishments, memories and fun.


Miller High Life, "I Am Rich"

The Arc team was tasked with creating a new campaign look and feel for the brand, one that would resonate with millennials and capture the authentic, genuine pursuit of the good life. Miller High Life recognizes that the good life isn’t about how much money is in your bank account or what car is in your driveway. It’s about living a life well made. Recognizing that the best things are often the simplest. Surrounding yourself with people as genuine and authentic as the beer in your hand. One beer stands as a testament that the good life, the High Life, is out there. All you have to do is pursue it.


The Clio Hall of Fame is a celebration of "the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes." It's a celebration of ideas that have redefined the business of creativity. And this year Leo Burnett has been recognized by the Clio Hall of Fame for four outstanding pieces of work:

Mercedes-Benz, "Skidmarks," Leo Burnett London
McDonald's, "Sundial," Leo Burnett Chicago?
Heinz, "Talking Labels," Leo Burnett Chicago?
World Wildlife Foundation, "Earth Hour," Leo Burnett Sydney

“To have four ideas inducted into the Clio Hall of Fame is a remarkable achievement and a testimony to the extraordinary talent we have residing in the Leo Burnett global company,” said Mark Tutssel, Global Chief Creative Officer. “Iconic work for iconic brands. I am extremely proud.”

But the story doesn’t end there.

As the second most awarded agency at the 2014 Clios show, the Leo Burnett network brought home a total of 71 awards: four Hall of Fame inductees, one Grand Clio, 11 Gold, 19 Silver and 36 Bronze. A total of 22 offices contributed to this outstanding network performance, with the Grand Clio in PR going to Toronto, Chicago and London for P&G Always "#LikeAGirl."


The Best of British Digital

In September at the BIMAs, a British award show dedicated to celebrating the country’s best digital advertising efforts, Holler (part of the greater Leo Burnett family) made quite the impression.

The agency earned three awards during the organization's 30th anniversary show – a special recognition award for both the "Amazing World of Gumball" created for the Cartoon Network and work on Jura Lost Island in the social media category. And before the evening was out, Holler walked away with the coveted Agency of the Year award.


Kinsale Sharks

In September, in the rugged fishing village of Kinsale, Ireland, the Shark International Creative Awards festival awarded the brilliant free thinkers and brave ideas this year in advertising, naming Leo Burnett Network of the Year. Ten offices across the network – Chicago, Milan, Paris, London, New York, Sao Paulo, Sydney, Toronto, Melbourne and Chicago’s Lapiz – contributed to the win of 67 Sharks: 17 gold, 29 silver and 21 bronze. Leo Burnett Paris earned the Agency of the Year designation while Leo Burnett Tailor Made earned the Free Thinker award for ABTO's “Bentley Burial.”


Manila Is Most-Awarded Agency at Tinta Awards

With an Ad of the Year, a Gold, three Silver and eight Bronze awards, Leo Burnett Manila emerged as the most-awarded agency at the United Print Media Group’s Tinta Awards, an annual effort to recognize creative excellence in print advertising. The agency was recognized for creative work for clients WWF and McDonald’s, while Black Pencil (a part of Leo Burnett Group) took home a Gold and an Ad of the Year for the “How Not to Instagram” campaign created for Preview magazine


Melbourne Sweeps Promotional, Experiential Show

Leo Burnett Melbourne recently received several top honors from the Communications Council’s Australasian Promotional Marketing Association (APMA). Accolades included the highly coveted Grand Prix for #SPCSunday, a people-powered social media campaign that leveraged user-generated content to raise awareness and funds for Australia's oldest and declining fruit processor, SPC Ardmona. Three Gold were also awarded for work on behalf of Peters Ice Cream, SPC Ardmona and 7-Eleven.


Top Promotional Honors for Arc London

The Institute of Promotional Marketing named Arc London its Agency of the Year. The agency also won the Grand Prix (together with Leo Burnett Change) for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s “Respect the Water” campaign.


Beacon Awarded Grand Prix for Digital Work

Tokyo-based Beacon Communications took home the top accolade at the 2014 CODE Awards that recognize excellence in digital marketing. The agency won for “Funfair in Your Mouth,” an interactive experience using virtual reality devices designed to get kids to eat their greens, created for Ebara.