What Are You Saying?






How do we truly connect with large audiences? How can we cut through the white noise to build a relationship with someone who we may never personally meet? These are the questions businesses are asking as consumers look beyond the product for a purpose they can connect with.

A surface level statement receives a surface level commitment.

What does it take to truly connect with someone? To begin to understand and appreciate them? Simply put, you both need to get to know each other. It starts a little awkward at first but the deeper you go and the more that you share, the stronger the bond between you becomes. There’s always risk involved in relationships. What if they don’t like what you like? What if you come across weird? What if they hate you? We always have a choice…play it safe or be real. Playing it safe is giving people what we think they want, skimming the surface of our personality to avoid potential upset and conflict. Being real on the other hand can seem harder and make us nervous, but it’s essential. It gives people an honest representation of who we are, that invites them to do the same. Transparency and honesty sets the foundation required for any relationship to last.

So how then, do we form relationships with people we will never personally interact with? How do we communicate with integrity to a wider audience that invites others into who we are and what we care about? These are the questions on the mind of businesses as consumers are asking ‘what are you about?’. “Consumers increasingly want organisations to demonstrate a purpose beyond profit and prove a business commitment to making the world a better place” The exciting thing about this is consumers want to know more about why we do what we do. They want to get on board and to belong to something bigger than themselves, beyond the product being sold to them. When they buy, they want to know what they are buying into.

“Consumers increasingly want organisations to demonstrate a purpose beyond profit and prove a business commitment to making the world a better place”

It’s important then, for brands to ask the question ‘what am I communicating to people?’ This is more than words. I’m talking about the communication that builds relationships with customers, team and with those being introduced to the brand. Another way to ask this question is what is the core message that people are hearing from you? Is it clear? Does it make sense and most importantly…is it true? Remember that just like any relationship it has to be real. It has to be who you are not who you would like to be.

There’s a lot of words used in business like vision, mission, goals and values but you are essentially trying to communicate ‘Why does your company exist? Why do you get out of bed every morning? Why should anyone care?’ In 'Start with Why' Simon Sinek points out that leaders who understand their purpose inspire others to follow, and those that don't rely on manipulating through price, fear, and novelty. Brands that move too quickly past this process end up settling for vague statements that begin with ‘to be the fastest and best product within (insert sector or region)’ or ‘to give our customers a pleasing experience every day and every time’ or ‘to achieve global dominance within our market following our 5 key values that ……..” and so on. This leaves customers and employees confused about what the brand is truly trying to achieve, and they are left unable to get on board with something deeper than the surface level.

'We need to give humanity the benefit of the doubt. We know when something has substance and depth'

Surface level messaging and marketing focuses on a product or service that forces brands to rely on hype to keep people’s attention. There will always be a day however, when they will be outdone on price, speed, and level of service leaving them scrambling to get back into the limelight through expensive and ineffective advertisement campaigns or offering price reductions and jumping through hoops. At OneSixOne, we encountered this ourselves when we spoke to a potential client. We knew our why, but in our attempt to sell our services we used words like agility, scalability, and reliability. Whatever it took to win the client's trust. He quickly pointed out that every agency under the sun, could be faster and more reliable when you throw more money at them. We were using a surface level argument and he had heard it before many times. We lost before we had a chance to reach the part about our why, which is where people truly connect.

We need to give humanity the benefit of the doubt. We know when something has substance and depth, whether we can communicate what that is or not. There can be 100 songs on the radio, yet one that stops us in our tracks because the artist has written from personal experiences that connect with us. Or, when we are in awe of an actor, who when portraying a real-life figure has spent time studying the person to better understand their viewpoint that delivers a performance so captivating and real that it goes up for awards.

In business, it’s when brands have a clear message and an unwavering conviction in their commitment to it. A good example is in Fashion, an enormous industry that has seen huge changes due to environmental concerns. According to a UN Forum held in early 2018, ‘The global fast fashion industry – annually worth £3 trillion – is clearly “an environmental emergency,”’. Fast Fashion in its very definition is ‘inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends’. It’s a reactive industry desperate to appeal to the masses, and in doing so are causing major problems for generations to come. Let alone not having any original ideas. If fast fashion is becoming unpopular, who do we turn to? This is where brands like Patagonia shines bright. Their mission has always been clear, ‘we appreciate that all life on earth is under threat of extinction. We aim to use the resources we have – our business, our investments, our voice and our imaginations- to do something about it.’ Their campaigns have even gone as far as to actively encourage people to buy less of their apparel whilst they continue to pour money into innovating processes that create products that cost the environment less and last longer. Patagonia doesn't sell a product, they sell their why, and in doing so gain loyal and repeat customers who believe in what they do. The customers don’t just leave raving about the latest shirt they bought; they rave about the fact that they are helping make a difference in the world by wearing Patagonia products.

So how does any of this apply to what we do at OneSixOne running a multi-disciplinary creative agency? In short, everything. Successful branding, campaigns, articles, products and messaging have got to work together to say the same thing. Your purpose. Reinforcing and inspiring as many people as you can with the same message across the many platforms and mediums that it will be shared. It has to hold integrity to your purpose, not your products. Communicating purpose won’t guarantee a mass-market appeal. It won’t appeal to everyone; in fact, it can’t because not everyone will agree with you. But it does give people a chance to know you, cutting through the white noise to hear what you have to say and see if it resonates with them. It builds a brand-customer relationship that has a foundation in shared ideals and when people believe in something, they naturally want to share it with others.

‘Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room’

We love what we do at OneSixOne and the people we work with. We get to hear people talk passionately about their purpose, and then see it come to life through art working and design. You may be asking yourself then what it is that we care about at OneSixOne. Simple. To see purpose realised.

Words by Jared Saar

Photography from the 'Millennial Monk' Series by Stephanie Alcaino


  1. Roderick, Leonie. “Why Brand Purpose Requires More than Just a Snappy Slogan.” Marketing Week, 2016, undefined
  2. Sinek, Simon. Start with Why How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Portfolio/Penguin, 2011.
  3. Zarocostas, John "UN Forum Says Fashion Industry an Environmental Emergency", 2018.
  4. Powered by Oxford, Lexico. “Definition of Fast Fashion.” Lexico, 2019.
  5. Mission Statement, Patagonia. “Our Reason for Being.” Patagonia, 2019.
  6. Bezos, Jeff. “Jeff Bezos Quotes.” Goodreads, 2018.

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