Oct 22, 2019

The importance of Brand Purpose

Brand purpose is at the forefront of industry discussion, so why are brands still missing the mark and losing sight of their purpose?

  • In the search for brand purpose, there have been instances where some companies have fallen short, as seen with Pepsi and Gillette but there have also been some companies that have excelled like Nike, The Body Shop, and Patagonia.
  • But when did brands begin to lose sight of their purpose? When there was too much focus on clients or when they attempt to reach too many demographics?
  • Brand purpose should aim to deliver a genuine social or environmental impact by looking at their assets and capabilities, to make a positive contribution to the world.

“A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself.” David Ogilivy.

The desire for brands to have a purpose goes beyond adopting social values just because they are currently in trend or appeal to a new demographic. The issue surrounding brand purpose is the pressure that is associated with it - a brand’s purpose is the reason it exists and its role in the world. Purpose needs to be re-framed, as not all businesses are built like Patagonia or The Body Shop, whose inception was centred on the social values they promote years down the line. Nevertheless, all businesses have the opportunity to try and do more and be better, if done so authentically, audiences will respond to this no matter how big or small the change is. In essence, purpose is the idea that brands are trying to make a unique and positive contribution to the world that will complement their product or service.

Brand purpose should be thought of as an opportunity as well as a responsibility. For a business to be responsible it must, of course pay, its taxes and treat their employees fairly and ethically to name a couple. While these are basic responsibilities, if a brand cannot continually deliver this, then they do not have a hope in telling their consumers and competitors how much they care about the world. However, if these responsibilities are second nature to a business, and they have created new and improved ways of promoting positive impact in line with their product or service, then why not start a conversation and include more people in the change?

When was purpose forgotten?

The Internet began to take on a more recognisable form in 1990 however, it was the turn of the millennium where advertising truly embraced the Internet and the diversity of specialist agencies. This time also saw media detach itself from creative agencies, meaning that clients had an array of agencies competing for marketing budget as opposed to one agency partner.

These fragmented agencies were competing for their place and share of the spend, instead of focusing on driving growth and sales, which results in pitches that targeted the most recent, trendiest capabilities and features instead of delivering value. As a result, larger agencies attempted to build a diverse in-house offering, however, this failed so they were left buying specialist skills.

What happened here was, they lost sight of their purpose. This had a knock-on effect, meaning that their offering was reduced to simply capabilities and features. However, now that marketers are looking to discover their brand purpose to build and deliver growth, agencies are rediscovering the purpose of advertising. The range of services available is just the means to deliver the growth that clients need and want.

What businesses need to remember is that purpose is not just why a brand exists, it also encompasses how that brand behaves. To be credible in this market, this needs to be integrated into the way brands operate and form part of the consumer experience. While words may first interest an audience, brand purpose is more about the actions that follow those words.