The Case for Purpose Based Branding

Alan Jope – CEO at Unilever (consumer goods giant) recently declared “Brands without a purpose will have no long term future”. Could this apply to every brand – even yours?

Is ‘purpose’ the secret sauce of winning in an age of disruption? Is meaning the new money?

From my experience (now in my early 50s); by the time we reached 18 – the idea of purpose had been almost entirely educated out of us. Something has changed. The Greta Thunberg generation is demanding a reason to go to work; not just a place to work.

Consumers are also changing. A survey by Edelman, a public relations and marketing firm, found that two-thirds of respondents in eight countries including US, UK, China and India, make buying decisions based on a brand’s stance on social issues. More than 50% said they believed brands can do more to solve social ills than governments, which are often seen as dysfunctional.

This is an area where start-ups and upstarts may have the advantage over incumbents. Both purpose and authenticity are easier to confect for young brands unladen with historical baggage of polluting the environment, mistreating workers or mistreating animals. To quote Rose Marcario, CEO of the clothing brand Patagonia – “We use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis…..doing good work for the planet creates new markets and makes us more money.”.

For incumbents – purpose based messaging is no longer about raising sales but maintaining them. It’s about maintaining the social license to continue existing.

Brands need to get clear on their purpose. They need to know their “why”. They need to fall in love with a pain point – and then they have the opportunity to galvanise at scale. As someone with a long history of working in the farming sector; I am noting how the non-food animal protein sector –(e.g. Impossible Food Company and Perfect Day Foods) are implementing this strategy with considerable success.

A key question for brands is “are we meeting, exceeding or falling behind on our purpose?” Measure what matters so that you have the metrics to tell the story of your brand’s journey to a better future.

Businesses have a responsibility and an unprecedented opportunity to provide leadership through their brands. We know that the challenges the world faces cannot be solved with conventional thinking.

As a first step on leveraging your brand’s purpose – consider mapping it’s strengths against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals*.

You might want to discuss further? Contact me about your challenge in bringing your higher purpose to life through your brand.

Read More: Capitalism Vs the Environment

* The UN Sustainable Development Goals are the roadmap to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice.

Share this on...