Q&A: Brand Purpose

20 Jul 2015|Added Value

Brand purpose is increasingly becoming a hot topic, evident at Cannes Lions this year. And Unilever recently reported that ‘brands with purpose’ accounted for half its growth in 2014. But how important is brand purpose to drive differentiation for consumers?

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The consumer approach, Jonas Kuett

In my opinion, brands with purpose are a deciding factor at the moment of purchase. Of course, there might be graduations on the importance of the purpose in different markets but in general a clear purpose adds a benefit to the product and the brand, whether you are buying toilet paper, a car or other goods. The important factor is that the purpose is something that offers a real benefit for the consumer and other parties. It has to be something connected to the core of the product, showing that the brand is looking for a better way to exist in the world. It is not about ‘adding in’ purpose, it is about reinventing the product or service itself to build it on a purpose.

A good example is Intermarché with its ‘fruits et légumes moches’ campaign last year. They sold ugly fruits and vegetables 30% cheaper than the “normal” product. Consumers really liked it because they could buy cheaper products and it reduced the waste of food. Meanwhile the farmers were able to sellthe products they normally had to throw away and the company still achieved good revenue on the sold fruits and vegetables as the purchase was inexpensive. A clever idea – purpose created benefit for everybody. Another example is BMW’s production of the I3 and I8. They are innovative products with a purpose. Even though they might by seen as brand shapers, they underline the work BMW is investing to develop new solutions for existing and future needs of its customers. As purpose should always go hand in hand with innovation I would definitely say it creates brand loyalty. Innovative, purposeful brands closely reflect the Zeitgeist and therefore the needs of their target groups.


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The cultural perspective, Izzy Pugh

Having a clear brand purpose allows a brand to transcend its category and make an impact in wider culture. This is important in a world where mental as well as physical availability is the key to penetration and consumers are happy to screen out any brand that doesn’t have a clear and meaningful role to play in their life, above and beyond the product or service it sells. We see your brand purpose as a kind of cultural mission, identifying what your impact on the world is going to be. Will you contribute to culture in the way that Red Bull contributes to Extreme Sports? Will you try and change culture in the way that Dove has tried to evolve what beauty means over the past decade or will you set out to actually create culture like Google, Coke and Apple?

Brands that have done this, whether we like them or not, have defined our era and fundamentally changed how our world works. We are moving away from a period of mass consumption to an era of social and cultural engagement. Marketing organisations need to think about their cultural role first and their brand second. And creating ‘brands with purpose’ is the first step on this journey.



The brand viewpoint, Paul Cowper

For brands to transcend their categories is increasingly a necessity. With growth really difficult to locate in so many categories, your competitive edge is based more on people’s general willingness to engage with you than a real or perceived product superiority. In other words, relevance to life often amplifies or outplays category superiority. One of the key drivers of growth is a brand’s ability to be “digiready” – to establish and deliver a strategy that works in a world where digital is a fact of life, not a facet of life. Purpose should be the thing that drives all brand actions, the ultimate measure of which must be improvement in mental/emotional availability.

Does purpose drive choice at purchase? The answer must be yes, as it should embed pre-set or pre-conceived thoughts in the consumer’s mind about what choice they are really making, and why. If it doesn’t then either the purpose is wrong, it misses the mark on culture, or it hasn’t actually been activated. The point of a purpose is to put
it into practice. Finally, it doesn’t create absolute loyalty but it can create superior mental availability which might be one indication of loyalty. Identifying and activating a culturally-vibrant brand purpose will help give your brand the greater stand out that every brand needs.


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The ethical angle, Leslie Pascaud

When a brand has a clear and compelling purpose that is seamlessly integrated into its positioning it definitely has an influence at the moment of purchase. Part of buying a brand such as Warby Parker (sun) glasses is what it stands for –the frames look great and are reasonably priced but they are also something you want to be able to say you bought, because the brand has such a positive and purposeful vibe. The same holds true for many of the mission-based fashion brands that have purpose: Eileen Fischer, Stella McCartney- even H&M and Uniqlo in some regards.

The role of purpose is less evident for FMCG brands, particularly amongst very cost-conscious consumers. But we have seen the move away from these brands towards more independent/healthier/activist brands in virtually every category. The growing mainstream appeal of retail outlets like Whole Foods says a lot about what people really want – great product that delivers on their core benefit (taste/convenience/ efficacy), avoids all the bad stuff, and makes them feel good about their purchase. When people’s value systems are aligned with a brand’s purpose – they want to feel proud of their purchases and also to want to show others what they stand for -they are also more likely to forgive a brand when it makes a mistake.


Image credit: Intermarché

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