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Powerful brand is all about a powerful human purpose: Carol Foley, Leo Burnett

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Powerful brand is all about a powerful human purpose: Carol Foley, Leo Burnett

Leo Burnett uses the HumanKind approach in order to understand the brand better and develop a deeper understanding with the consumers. Over the last several years, they have been incorporating this approach in all their brand campaigns across all the Leo Burnett offices. Recently, Carol Foley, Executive Vice-President, Director of the Human Lab, Leo Burnett Worldwide visited Mumbai to participate in a two day workshop to discuss the prospects of the HumanKind approach.

Describing what the ‘HumanKind’ approach is, Foley said, “HumanKind is a positioning that we put into place about 6-7 years ago and it was based on the notion that we should do things with a more human perspective. So HumanKind is a philosophy, where we stop talking about consumers and we start talking about people and their behaviour. Instead of thinking of a positioning for a brand, we think about a human purpose. So it is less of marketing jargon and much more human.”

She further added, “We make a shift from thinking about ads to thinking about acts. When we thought about- what are the approaches, we realised that it is great to talk about these things, but how do we bring data to help us spark ideas? So that was where we began to create the Human Kind tool kit to help us move in that direction and give us approaches which are very human centric.”

Here are some excerpts from an interview with Carol Foley, Executive Vice-President, Director of the Human Lab, Leo Burnett Worldwide.

Tell us about your market survey approach and how is it different from others?

May be we are doing it in a little different way. When we thought about the different types of human behaviour, we realised that it can change depending on the situation. Sometimes people think it is better to stay safe and secure, sometimes, they would want to be creative. Other times, they would want to be polite and follow the rules or conform to social standards.

We do lexicons of human behaviour, so we can understand all of it. And we use research to help us develop these lexicons. Now, when we go out to study people and their behaviour, we have something firm and foundational and quantitative to base it on. It is really about understanding people from the perspective of the heartbeat and what moves them in a very individual way.

Talking about the HumanKind toolkit, which markets have you taken it to?

We have taken it all around the world for Leo Burnett. This philosophy is in place in all our offices. The HumanKind toolkit- which is about people, purpose, participation and populism, is made available online across our offices. Plus there are training workshops, like the one in Mumbai, where we talk at length and engage in conversations with the planners who understand this tool.

How are brands benefitting from the HumanKind approach?

With the HumanKind approach, the connect with the brand is better; the purpose is more powerful, richer, deeper and not superficial. When clients deploy these tools, they can begin to understand where they need to create content and where they can have people to engage and participate more actively.

How would you define HumanKind Quotient as an effective measurement tool?

Clients are always trying to measure the strength of their brands. But we found out that there might be something about brand equity that is not being measured. A powerful brand is all about a powerful human purpose and it is not just the positioning. In this participatory era, brands not just talk and advertise but prefer to draw people into the conversation. But there is actually no measurement of the things. So we did a lot of work initially in the US and then around the globe, and built a measurement tool called the ‘HumanKind Quotient’.

This tool helps to plot brands under two axes (up and down), to show how strong is the purpose of your brand, and (left- right) to show how strong is your act creation around that purpose. Brands that deliver powerful purpose and effective act creation are called ‘HumanKind’ brands. Brands that have a lot of purpose, but may not have an act created effectively are ‘Dreamy Brands’. Brands that act great but have no purpose are ‘Noisy Brands’, and there are brands that don’t do either and we call them ‘Lazy Brands’. When your brand tries to move from being Lazy to HumanKind, it is more likely to be a share leader and have more number of people talking about it.

The HumanKind model was introduced in 2008, so what has been the progress since then?

It has been really powerful, we have seen that it has a real impact on how we think strategically and that has led to much better work. We feel when there is a strong purpose in place, there is much better work. We are more excited about it today, probably than in the beginning. When we were new, we were also spending a lot of time in research tool development because our management felt that it was very important as this wasn’t just a theory.

Can you cite few examples of innovative models which you have introduced?

In all the work we do, I think we try to infuse innovative analytics. A lot of things have been written about in the space of innovation like the book-‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ or ‘Eating the big fish’. We wanted to build a tool that will actually allow us to find Blue Ocean and particularly to quantify Blue Ocean with big sample data. We in fact built a tool that allows consumers to help us re-imagine new spaces where we can take brands.

Another example would be our tool called ‘Cultural Fuel’, where we take trends of what future is talking about. We expose them to people and we see how they are reacting to these things- have they even heard of it? Do they think it is interesting and likeable? Do they think it can impact their lives?

Also in the social listening space, something which all clients are interested in, we have introduced customised software which can analyse the sentiment of the posts. It is not about counting the posts, but understanding the tonality, sometimes which can be ironic or sarcastic as well. This tool is therefore, an insight into people’s conversation which we were not able to understand before.

According to you, how important is research for gaining effective business insights?

I would say it is more important than ever since everything is changing and moving so fast. There is a lot more data available today than there used to be few years ago. It is very important to leverage it to stay ahead of the change and lead it, rather than react to it. The biggest challenge here is to understand which data to pay attention to and which data to leverage, because there is too much of it now and it is not possible to look at everything. The key lies in how to filter through and arrive at the correct one. 

How would you describe the India experience, since this is your first visit to the country?

The enthusiasm, engagement, curiosity of the planners here has been quite un-paralleled. Since we didn’t get time to go around the place, but the Mumbai Leo Burnett office kind of mirrors what the culture is about. It is extremely energetic, fast paced and entrepreneurial. 


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