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Purpose brand marketing

Are Purpose Led Brands the Future of Business?

We explore the power of purpose and the positive impact its having on brands, on the employee experience and the corporate leaders who are driving decisions. The momentum behind these efforts is a key pathway to rebuild trust with consumers.


Episode 015 TOPICS:

  • The power of purpose

  • Brands that are redefining purpose and rebuilding trust 

  • Creating your personal purpose statement

  • 5 steps to turn purpose into action

Across the Pond- Marketing Transformed.

15 - Are Purpose Led Brands the Future of Business?

The Modern Brand



Close your eyes and imagine a future where brands and companies operate with a true sole purpose. Think of it in terms of what the brand is doing for the community, for culture, for society as well as for the consumer, but most importantly for community and society. That may sound a little over the top, but this pursuit of raising the bar and improving people’s lives as well as selling a product is super fundamental for brands; and as leaders of brands, we’ve got to shoot for that mission as marketers and leaders go into 2020. 

Think of a reality where everyone (organisations, people, businesses) thrive and grow, attracting people to work with them who are inspired, we reward the personal and professional and financial missions of the organisation. A reality where social impact is tangibly experienced, beyond the slogans, beyond the manifestos; where we’re addressing injustices, we’re championing equitable causes, we’re solving environmental issues, we’re delivering economic gain. These are all vitally important for employees, for stakeholders and customers alike. So, it’s less about just doing purpose, its about purpose with ambition, with motivation and with activation.


Sounds a noble cause, definitely.


Well, if you’re not interested in doing that- good luck, because consumers and customers are looking for more than just product and price- they’re looking for the stories, and a more compelling and interesting reason to buy and be involved than just being on a shelf or just being there. It’s not enough to capture people’s imaginations anymore, so for me this is something that we have to live into and have to live up to. 


 I just hope it’s not another gimmick Sam. It's that point about capturing the imagination, and that’s part of the role of marketeers, but is that just another way to cut through, or do these turns really mean it?



So, do they really mean it? Is it really valuable? Well, let’s look into it: we can see that it may not sound so far fetched because there’s some data as to actually why this philosophy and these principles could happen- and should happen. 

Brands that are purpose filled are growing fast and there’s a lot of data to support that. Goldman Sachs released some survey results that companies that are leading environmental, social and good governance policies have a twenty five percent higher stock value than brands that don’t do that. 

We’ve seen Unilever as a corporation transform their peers over the years, they have brands like Ben and Jerry’s, which are thriving in the market environment. We’ve seen things like Quaker claim that they’re going to fix or kill products that don’t fit their purpose. Another example- Dannon which is dairy yoghurt brands and products, in the last few years they’ve actually become a B-Corp organisation. B-Corp  organisations are corporations and businesses that meet the standards of well verified social and environmental performance. They’re about public transparency and legal accountability but it’s about balancing profit and balancing purpose; they have to do both, and they’ve got a mission. I think they’ve achieved already thirty percent of their businesses meet that standard, but they’ve got a mission to raise that bar and do more. 

Staying woke


There’s another reason driving this: the word ‘woke’, which has come from the black community. An expression meaning ‘stay woke’, coming from an awareness of social and racial injustices, we need to stay aware of these issues and that’s what it means. It’s become a mainstream word and expect to see it more and more.

I feel the sentiment is traveling, maybe not that expression, that word. The idea that woke as  business strategy. A bloke called Scott Galloway came up with that claim for this year and the next couple of years, and he’s a digital thought leader, he’s an entrepreneur, he’s started up quite a few businesses especially in the digital space. But there’s a lot of demographic data and culture shifts are just driving this philosophy and the demographic and culture shifts are in the US and manifesting in other countries, so a lot of wealth creation comes from urban dwellers with college degrees.  i.e. a bit more progressive in their approaches, more multicultural in the households, seventy percent of high school valedictorians are females- and more high powered females making decisions. Same sex male couples make on average sixty thousand dollars more per year than straight couples and college graduates make one million dollars more than non-graduates over a life time, so all of those drivers are actually driving the economic, the cultural and the social shifts that are making this more important.

 People are going beyond the superficial benefits. If you think about it so many brands and companies have a founder story, which is the motivation or was the motivation for creating the company, and putting these products into the world and doing good for the world. If you think about the organic, good for you, better products, a lot of them were created due to food allergies or food intolerances or making nutrition better, that is the motivation for bringing these products into the world. One of the brands I am familiar with is Pepperidge Farm. That’s a US brand.


But how many of these brands say they’re good for you but actually aren’t? That’s the challenge isn’t it; I totally take your point about how a lot of them started out from good places like food allergies or food intolerances but let’s face it you can find a breakfast bar which is ‘good for you’ but so clearly isn’t when you look at the ingredients.  So again we face the same issue that we talked about last week, what can you trust? They all become wallpaper as everyone starts to say, ‘we’re all good for you, were all here for a good purpose’… I’m starting to sound like the cynical one this week,


Well I like this, this is a bit of … ‘Across the Pond Beef’ should we call it- a healthy discussion. 


Do they really care?


So, some of the brands I have worked on, and there has been this truth behind the fact that they are good for you, better for you, and one of the brands I have worked on, I was just telling the story there was a brand called Pepperidge Farm. A well known bakery brand in the US, perhaps less well known is the founder- a lady called Margaret Rudkin, created the bread based on her sons’ food intolerances to most commercially prepared food. So, in the 1930’s she created an all-natural ground stone-baked bread with the nutrients intact just to address her son’s food intolerances, and that was back in the nineteen thirties. So that was, pardon the pun, baked into her brand proposition right from the outset, and there’s another brand again in the US, it’s a nutrition barred brand called Go Macro, and they claim to have the cleanest ingredients, but another thing they do, they make their packaging more resourceful. Instead of just going on to recycle it, it’s actually a display case that is compostable. It’s an effortless way, you can plant your products, rather than just recycle the packaging they’ve gone beyond and thought how does this brand help the environment and how do they put that into practice on what you physically buy. 


I just like to see the rhetoric backed up with actions Sam, they’re great examples, I buy emotionally, and I do have issues and causes I care passionately about, but I do buy products that have a backstory. Something I can empathise with: Honesty and transparency is what drives me and therefore I want people and brands to be themselves and to represent that too. Likewise, the flipside of that is if you’re an entertainment brand and you're there for pure entertainment, be proud of that and don’t pretend to be something you’re not. I think there’s also a danger that everyone thinks that they must have a moral purpose when the moral purpose can be about bringing great entertainment.

 So, I’d rather people didn’t bother trying to define their purpose than do it as a tick box exercise, and say right we’ve done that now, we can move on to the next thing. But here’s the thing, this is one of the challenges I think a vast amount of private environmental research has been conducted by fossil fuel companies. So, what do you think of that? is that taking advantage are there PR reasons, is it to protect the future? Is it to protect the companies future?or is it because they care about the environment? To be honest, It’s likely to be a combination of all of these because lets face it, all companies are humans at the heart of it, but try to boil stuff down to one point of view I think is a challenge, I must admit.


Yeah I see that and as we look forward we clearly aren’t there yet. So, I can see some of the examples you gave there, they could be perceived as quite cynical or strategic or tactical just to get around it.  We aren’t there yet, but if we have to face reality, we know that the say-do ratio for a lot of companies, as you pointed out, are miles apart. There’s a lot of hot air about purpose, there’s a survey from the economist and they surveyed around 1400 executives from over 100 countries. They got to the top of the company but over 78 percent of responders felt companies served for superficial purpose without really investing in it.  When it comes to millennials and  Gen-Zs we’re most likely to believe that companies talk rather than act on social purpose. Simply put, the people in charge are doing a bad job, they’re fake about it. Do they really care about it? Do they really stand for something or is it just a convenient once a year, let’s hang the flag, let’s paint it with the rainbow colours, let’s do the thing called ‘Woke Washing’?


Woke Washing


Woke Washing an expression you’re hearing more and more, I talked about what Woke is and a lot of brands and organisations are trying to masquerade and not trying to see if they can get away with it.  But perhaps just phoning in, the stakes are high if you advertise it and don’t do it right.  So I wouldn’t advise actually doing that, and we’ve seen with the Pepsi situation a few months back, maybe a year ago when they had Kendall Jenner and it came off as superficial because they thought handing over a can of this soda was going to address racial tension.  You can’t flirt with a topic and make it superficial. The UK have Marks and Spencer’s which is a food and clothing retailer, and appliances and household furniture and various other things they do, anyway they launched a sandwich dedicated to the LGBTQ community and that didn’t go down too well.  In the US you have the NFL, who in October went mad for the breast cancer awareness, but when you think about it, the rest of the year they’re kind of doing a few things that are offending people's sensibilities. What about the eleven other months of the year? So, I agree with you, are the intentions really real, is there truth behind it, or is it just fake news.


Yes, that is something I think is an issue. But I’m also OK with people not standing for something, if you simply think that you’ve stumbled across an unmet consumer need and want to maximise your returns good for you, there’s a lot of people that have gone you know what there’s a business venture idea out there and they’ve gone for it, they’ve worked hard and they’ve made it work and then moved onto the next thing, they’re fuelled by passion, but it might not be the purpose there, so don’t get on the purpose band waggon for the sake of it. I think paying lip service is worse than not doing it in the first place, I think. 

But look Sam let’s look at it another way, how does this affect our future jobs and what needs to be put in place? We talked about doing the podcast back in the day because we shared what we wanted to get out of it, what our purpose was, we wanted to share practical advice, war stories, provocation we wanted to try and identify with people that we identified with.  Whether that was CMO’s, entrepreneurs, marketing executives and making them ways up through the ranks. So, if you think about the process that we went through, we shared viewpoints, we came up with a set of values. Individually, we came up with a shared set of values, we talked about our beliefs, we wrote it down and we referred back to it to keep us honest.  Whether you’re a marketing executive or a CEO those principles still apply really. What do you think? 


Yeah there’s certainly some self-reflection, going back and thinking more deeply about the why, that drives about what we are doing. The values that we bring and the intention of this show. So yes, we’ve done the work personally, and I’m proud of where we’ve got to with that and looking ahead to where it’s going to take us.


Yeah exactly, the reason for mentioning it is because when you think about the role that you want your brand or your product or your service to have on society and when you’re looking for the greater good, I think it starts from within. I think it's incredibly difficult unless you’re clear about what you stand for and individually what you want to achieve. It’s about what drives you and again it’s about those five whys, sort of where you go from asking a question and you interrogate it with why.  You try to get a bit deeper with another why and you keep going until you suddenly come up with something and interesting there’s some techniques and questions to help you.  I mean I remember my twenties and probably even early thirties as a career digital marketeer trying to work my way up. 

I wasn’t clear on what my purpose was or my values, so trying to relate it to your day job I knew what my personal values were  but not necessarily what I was trying to get across, so there are techniques and questions to help you establish that and there’s this fantastic coach called Trisha Malone. She helped tease them out for me a long time ago and in all honesty it's nothing short of life changing- the impact that it had because it’s started to make me think about life and work in a very different way. So, I thought we’d give a few of them a go Sam, just try and tease it out and see how we go. What do you think?

The Interview


So, you’re going to ask these deep life affirming complex questions on the show, we’re two thirds of the way through talking about purpose and bringing it to life you’re going to force us to talk about how we do it and our own lives and our own work. OK, so I guess I’ve got to say yes to that question.


OK Sam, so there’s seven or eight questions here, let’s not go through all of them, I think let’s pick a few that makes you think oh yeah that’s a meaty one how do I get involved with that. So, this was designed not to come out with what your actual purpose was, but the reflection to provide the bedrock of it. So, what is the legacy Sam that you wish to leave behind professionally?


Being part of the community and movement to raise the bar for the marketing community to help marketers be better at what they did today and tomorrow than they were yesterday.  For that to be a collective community effort, not just on an individual level but actually across the entire industry, the entire marketplace, across the entire world, so that for me would be a legacy, how about you Chris?


Well I’ll tell you what I’m going to mark that one and keep us going, otherwise I think we will be here a lot longer. But the next question that I think is interesting, is about understanding what aspects of your job do you most enjoy so how much of your time do you spend doing that. It's interesting that you hope there’s at least some part of your daily grind where you suddenly get that energy and that passion and that enthusiasm. For me that would be when I’m trying to coach other people and that could be anyone. But it’s rolling my sleeves up and helping empower the workforce by coaching them using some of my either questioning techniques or experience to help drive them further on, and I just get such a buzz out of that. 


Yeah, I love the aspect there especially the part about questions and that for me certainly connects the two of us in terms of asking questions, asking the right questions and having time to be able to do that is critical to being able to actually drive a challenge forward. So, asking the right question and crafting that is something for me that I fully agree with. 

What scares you and the why behind that’s happening and how you might think about that and how you might roll around to find solutions or ask others even. Any other questions Chris?


OK Sam, so I’m not going to go through the others, I’m just going to let you understand what those questions are. There’s definitely one to think about what message do you send out to your employees, customers and shareholders by your actions, that’s quite a powerful one to try and think about it from different angles and look at the impact of your actions from different angles. What are the reasons you want to be successful? Again, success is driven by a number of different factors from people and I think it’s important to try to establish that. Who or what makes you angry? Again sometimes I think it’s a bit of an understated feeling in a way, that can get your passion going, so that one I think is a good one to explore. And have you done anything lately that you’ll remember forever?. So just a little sample there, we will probably come back to that in another episode, but I think that helps you get closer to your purpose. 

OK so, let’s talk about it. Greta is probably the most current example at the moment of an individual whose values, and purpose is resonating onto the world stage. Irrespective of your politics or your feelings, that has certainly worked well and sometimes that’s very much about how the message is conveyed. It can be just as important as the message.  Let’s face it she’s probably woman of the year Greta Thurnbug and has been talking about that common sense thing that has been failing to come through over the years and has found a way to do that. 

Also, I think what’s interesting If you look at it and she’s got three point four million followers on twitter, something like 1.8M on YouTube, they’re not absolutely huge numbers and yet the influence. The realm of influence is absolutely substantial, and again it comes back from being clear about your own personal values and your own personal purpose before you then look at that impact on society as well. 


Yeah that’s a great solution I think she’s doing some amazing work and role modelling as technically a child- so many adults can learn from. As we think about Greta and then we kind of bring it back to how you in a corporate environment can bring brand purpose, mission,purpose or whatever you want to call it into practice doing it yourself.  I think you can break it into a bunch of steps, let’s just keep it to the top four or five shall we say.

  1. I think the first step is to be clear on what you actually stand for as an organisation, as a corporation I think that is critical and fundamental, and 

  2. secondly, find an issue that does need to be solved. So, focus on something, bring your stakeholders CSR the social responsibility design marketing and digital community, bring everyone together but what actually is the issue that needs to be solved. 

  3. Thirdly, keep yourself honest and who’s going to hold you to account and challenge your efforts, so its all well and good coming up with a purpose, there’s a specialist agency you could tap in to, there’s a great one called We First, led by a guy called Simon Mainwaring, you can check out his site and agency for more information there. There’s another organisation called sustainable brands, they’ve been in this space for a number of years who have done a lot of work looking at societal and environmental impact. 

  4. Then fourthly, I would say identifying issues important to your consumers, the target your trying to reach. And you can use for example the UN list of sustainable goals, there’s like seventeen of them and find one that’s right for your brand, your company. If you’re a food brand there’s zero hunger goal, seems an actual fit, or the good health and wellbeing goal is another one that can fit. If you’re a publisher maybe quality, education and gender equality could be relevant to the work that you do. So those are the areas and focus areas that I’d say to do this well. 



Yeah, I’d add one more Sam, and 

   5. I think it’s OK to combine good causes with good commerce. We shouldn’t be ashamed we’re making money, if it’s actually adding benefit back into our society. We’re rapidly, just over time I think to be honest, so bring us home Sam. 


The Three Fundamentals This Week



The first one I’d say is

  1.  the world is changing, and there’s a lot of data to show that there’s demographic, economic and social drivers as well as corporate drivers of purpose and mission. We’re seeing that grow in society, culture and a corporate environment. 

  2. Secondly, I would say, a section you had there Chris that took us a bit deeper was- make it personal, what are your own personal values, what’s your own mission, what’s driving you and how well do you understand that and how can you bring that best self to work. 

  3. And thirdly, I’d say follow a disciplined and structured process. We went through four or five steps which you can use and apply to your brands or your organisation to bring this to life. 



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