If you’re defining or refreshing your brand strategy, you might be feeling pressured to go down the purpose-driven route. Will this lead you to a dead end or a better tomorrow? Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.

  • Brand purpose emerged as a popular concept over a decade ago and shows no signs of flagging.
  • Among brainy marketing nerds, the idea is often viewed with suspicion. But despite this, it has persisted.
  • Especially in the CPG world where it’s led to some accusations of virtue signaling from consumers.
  • Terry Smith sums up the issue succinctly, pointing to this egregious example from Lux.
  • P&G’s Marc Pritchard acknowledges that the whole purpose thing may have gone too far.
  • Yet, there’s evidence that purpose can make a difference for both consumers and employees.
  • So what’s a marketing leader to do?
  • Let’s remember that, as Thomas Barta reminds us, our brand positioning should live at the intersection of our organization and our customer.
  • Out of all of the possible brand ideas that live in the middle of this venn diagram, some might speak to purpose. While others might come from any number of different angles unrelated to your “why?”.
  • It’s also important to remember that a purpose-focused brand idea doesn’t necessarily need to be grandiose. A humble purpose can still be compelling if it draws a line between you and your customers.
  • Regardless of how clear that line is, don’t rush to embrace purpose without considering some alternatives. It’s quite possible that your customers care about bigger issues like sustainability. But they likely also care about basic things like the quality of your product and the customer experience.
  • The question to ask yourself is: which matters more?
  • If you do decide to go the purpose route, make sure your purpose is backed by concrete action and not just a whole lot of advertising hot air. Falling short here is all too common. And the source of virtual signaling accusations like those faced by Lux.
  • Another thing to keep in mind: most of us don’t work in giant CPG firms where brand positioning is all about imbuing commodity products with a dash of meaning to help them stand out.
  • Outside of the CPG world, the art of brand development is generally a different animal. It goes deeper. And has the power to provide deeper value.
  • It’s not about making up a fictional narrative. It’s about finding and then amplifying something that’s already there—lurking out of sight somewhere near the centre of Barta’s venn diagram.
  • This special something is a point of authentic connection between your business and the audiences that allow it to exist.
  • Whether this something is a grand noble purpose, a more humble mission or something else entirely doesn’t really matter. It just needs to be true, compelling and distinctive.
Issue #166
Mar 5, 2023

Further Reading