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In his latest column for More About Advertising, MullenLowe London's Laurence Green discusses how Swedish brands are leading the way when it comes to brand purpose.

“There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

Hmmm. Oscar Wilde’s colourful declaration was tested to destruction last week by Standard Life Aberdeen’s re-brand as, er, abrdn. (Even spellcheck doesn’t like it. That doesn’t bode well.)

Has the new brand been talked about? Hell, yeah. But immediate sentiment is unfavourable, and it would be understandable if the asset managers from Edinburgh now crave their previous anonymity.

For other brand owners and creative practitioners, however, the principle still holds: that fame is worthwhile, even if its pursuit invites downside risk.

For various reasons, advertising alone these days is rarely talked about, and the prevailing assumption is that brand actions rather than words are more likely to drive talkability in the new era of ‘do’ rather than ‘say’.

That distinction, however, looks increasingly forced. Great brands do what they say and say what they do after all. And the very best reach for the creative multiplier too.

This month, Sweden shows the way…

Oatly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but look beyond the surface froth and the Superbowl spot and you’ll see that the fruits of its ‘Department of Mind Control’ have driven commercially consequential saliency, and pricing power too.

That competitive advantage has now been described as ‘crucial’ in nothing less than Oatly’s IPO prospectus. It’s an open-and-shut case for the creative contribution to brand value, and the value of being talked about.

Progressive Swedish bed-fellows Volvo remain intent on making the world a better place too. Their proud all-electric pledge now comes framed in a commercial that’s lovingly shot by Ivan Zacharias. It takes us to the Arctic Circle for its rug pull, casually cementing Volvo’s safety credentials along the way.

And so to H&M. The fast fashion sector has as long a road to travel as automotive to arrive on the right side of the climate conversation. Meanwhile, however, the One/Second/Suit is here: free 24-hour suit hire to help interviewees make the right first impression. It’s culturally relevant, socially good and – in the hands of Mark Romanek – uncommonly cool.

When brand purpose is worn lightly, it gets talked about too.

Laurence Green, Executive Partner, MullenLowe London 

This article was originally published on More About Advertising