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A higher purpose


A higher purpose

Living and breathing commitment to a cause

Jane Bloomfield

Head of Marketing

Kantar Millward Brown


When it comes to purpose, brands need to find exactly the right focus, and then keep talking about it. A clear purpose acts like an anchor, grounding everything the brand says and does – something which is vitally important as brands increasingly seek to create ecosystems around their consumers. Purpose helps to give a brand the legitimacy and credibility to expand into new products, categories and markets.

The brands that live and breathe their purpose most successfully are growing their value faster than those that are less purposeful. If we divide the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2017 into thirds according to how they score on Brand Purpose, the top third increased their value 170 percent between 2006 and 2017, compared with 57 percent for the lowest-scoring third.

These brands have paid attention both to an issue and their own brands. Once they’ve established their purpose, they’ve remained true to it – expressing it through new and different stories and creative ideas that continually come “home” to the same messages. Hopping from one cause to another will leave consumers confused about what a brand stands for, or sceptical about its authenticity. You don’t have to go big – it doesn’t have to be about changing the whole world – but you do have to focus.

Dove has been committed to its “Real Beauty” campaign since 2013, making it a global pledge and ensuring that all its activity reflects its belief all women should have the confidence to be comfortable with themselves.

Consumers have to feel it in their gut that the purpose – and also the way it’s articulated – makes perfect sense for the brand, and comes truly from the heart. Brands need to be careful not to jump on the latest societal tension, but work to understand the audiences that matter most to them, and identify what will be most meaningful to those audiences.

Tesco’s investment in its “Little Helps to Healthier Living” campaign is in direct support of its marketing strategy to be more purpose-driven. Its aim is to help customers make healthier decisions when shopping, and has been brought to life in its advertising, the in-store experience, and community projects. Many of Tesco’s “Food Love Stories” have also been inspired by employees, as it has begun to take an inside-out marketing approach that ensures its purpose is also at the heart of its company culture.

Walking the talk is vital. The brand must behave, on a daily basis, in a way that embodies its purpose: Vodafone’s 10-year programme to promote inclusion and diversity across the business is a powerful example of commitment to the cause.

Everything the brand does must then reinforce the link between cause, purpose and brand, and make it tangible. This includes innovations – whether these are in products or services, or the way they’re delivered or communicated. The purpose must be recognisable and coherent in every advertising and marketing campaign, and at every point of interaction across the brand experience.

Being coherent and consistent doesn’t mean having to stick to the obvious, or being unimaginative. Waitrose’s “Live Wise” campaign, which focuses on reducing waste, carries a message of frugality that, arguably, does not overtly reflect its premium positioning. But this campaign actually aligns perfectly with Waitrose’s ethos to make the most of good things, and make the right choices for the environment. It also dovetails well with the launch of its “Little Less Than Perfect” range.

Keith Weed, CMO at Unilever, talks very passionately about purpose and how “doing good is good for business”. And with Unilever brands Lipton, Dove and Surf all leading brands in the UK, it’s clear the company’s focus on purpose is paying off.

The stakes are getting higher, however, and even Unilever won’t be immune to the challenges of operating in a culture where gaining and holding on to people’s attention is getting harder. No brand can afford to attach itself to a purpose that fails to convince or engage consumers.


There         are three questions that marketers should ask themselves about their purpose and any marketing communications developed to support it:


  • Does                                 it relate to the marketing objective?


  • Does                                 it fit with the brand?


  • Does                                 it address a societal need?