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Rupen Desai: Why brands need to think more ‘human’

TAGUIG – In the 2018 adobo-Tambuli Asia Pacific Conference, with the theme “Data + Brands + Humanity #BeHuman”, Edelman’s Vice Chairman for APAC Rupen Desai answers the question, “Is data the new rocket fuel for brand purpose?”

Desai opens his talk with a striking fact that should alarm the current advertising industry, “74% of people today don’t care if your brand they use today just disappear. And we may feel very important when we make it, but nobody is actually going to watch them,” he remarked. This rings true especially the majority of consumers skip online video advertising as soon as the “Skip Ad” button pops-out.

So how can brands stay relevant amidst this challenge? Desai says it’s all about being and thinking more ‘human’. “We need to start thinking more as human beings. We’ve been feeding ourselves with self-importance for the last 50, 60, hundred plus years.  But maybe it’s that most consumers don’t care about brands.”


Another looming threat for the advertising industry is the change in how people think and consume media. He says that people now live in continuous partial attention because they play multiple concurrent roles at the same time. “The problem for us isn’t how media consumption has changed, it’s the wiring inside [our minds] has changed. The amount of information that is coming into our brains is now five, ten, fifteen, twenty thousand more species of stimuli and our brands are extremely finding out difficult to actually process it.”

Given this situation, Desai says that brands ergo should go back to their ‘Why’ – their purpose. “In this day and age, the only thing that has helped all brands is something called purpose,” he opined. Quoting Simon Sinek, Desai says, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Fortunately, brands are starting to marry data and purpose and leverage them. More and more brands are beginning to find their ‘Why?’. According to a study by Jim Stengel, brands with purpose grow 400% more than brands without purpose. Indeed, brands with purpose help them communicate with consumers better.

To answer the fundamental question, Desai revealed that indeed, data is undisputedly the necessary rocket fuel for brand purpose. It can create a genuine impact on a community, spur change, and make the world a better place. “If we get this right [marrying data and brand purpose], we can solve a lot more real problems that brands are claiming to solve but stop a bit short than they can.”


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