Reading time: 3 mins

Defending corporate guff slogans: an open letter to The Telegraph

7 May 2020

Written by Simon Rogerson

Last week Ben Marlow, chief city commentator for The Telegraph, wrote about Marks & Spencer’s new slogan. While criticising the phrase M&S had chosen, Ben described company taglines like “A Brighter Future” as “corporate guff” and “suitably meaningless” (although he admitted that these kind of taglines are “upbeat at least”).

At Octopus, we had to smile. The strapline we use across our business is “A Brighter Way”, tantalisingly close to Ben’s “corporate guff”.  For us, though, “A Brighter Way” is more than just words. If it is corporate guff, it’s guff we wouldn’t be without. And it certainly isn’t meaningless. Because “A Brighter Way” is a neat, shorthand explanation of everything that makes Octopus, well, Octopus.

Tying everything together

At a very basic level, “A Brighter Way” gives Octopus consistency. We first introduced it in Summer 2017. Octopus Group had just been created to sit across our increasing number of investment businesses and our new baby (at the time), Octopus Energy. Even though we have a mix of B2B and B2C businesses sitting in our group, working in unrelated sectors, it’s essential they all look, feel and behave like the same Octopus. “A Brighter Way” was born as a brand message to tie everything in the Octopus Group together. It reminds everyone in Octopus that we’re ultimately all part of the same company. And it reassures our customers that, no matter which of the Octopus tentacles they deal with, they will find the same beliefs, values and level of service.

Purpose

A company without a purpose is pointless, and “A Brighter Way” represents the Octopus purpose. It’s the reason we get out of bed in the morning. Christophe and I started Octopus because we wanted to leave the world better than we found it. This means tackling big problems like climate change and mistrust in the financial sector, as well as working towards something better for the environment, better places to live and better places to work. The solutions we’re looking for are smarter, edgier and more forward-thinking than others; they’re also hopeful and positive. Optimism is at the core of what we do – optimism that there is another way to do things. Our relentless pursuit of something better, something “brighter” (if you will), drives us. 

Values

“A Brighter Way” also points to the values we hold dear at Octopus. We believe that companies have a responsibility to do more than just make a profit. Businesses have the influence, skills, resources, people, and money to make really great things happen in the world – not just for themselves, but for everyone. This belief is why we’ve applied to become a B Corp; why our foundation, Octopus Giving, is so important to us; and why we recognise and reward our people not just for what they do, but also how they do it. This new, “brighter” approach to doing business is ingrained in everything we do: our strategy and decision making, our hiring decisions, our charitable giving, and so on. And it allows us to attract the best people to work at Octopus to help us make real progress towards these goals. 

Accountability

Perhaps most importantly, “A Brighter Way” is a promise of our intentions to our customers. It’s a declaration about what they can expect when they interact with Octopus, and an invitation to pull us up if they see something different. 

The industries we work in are notorious for not giving customers a great experience. There’s no excuse for this and we want to change it, through everything I’ve already written about already and more. By publicly committing to finding a brighter way, we’re holding ourselves accountable to living and breathing these behaviours. If for whatever reason we fall short, our customers will rightly hold us to account. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Corporate guff?

It’s unsurprising that most corporate slogans are written off as meaningless guff. Customers simply don’t trust what businesses are saying. For many companies, the taglines they choose bear little resemblance to how they actually do business; all too often there’s a mismatch between what businesses say about themselves and their actions, clearly visible to the public as technology forces increased transparency.

At Octopus, we work hard to prove that our words and actions are aligned. So call our slogan corporate guff if you will, but meaningless? I don’t think so. For others it may be but for Octopus, “A Brighter Way” is at the heart of what we do and why we do it, every single day.

Related articles

12 Jun 2020

The diary of a COVID-19 CEO – Part II

As we move into month three of the lockdown, I want to share with you some thoughts about what’s been working, what hasn’t, and what I’ve been worrying about since my last update
Share