Connect Purpose
to Profit

Brand “purpose” was voted the “Word of the Year” by ANA brand marketers in 2018. While that might indicate a fad that comes and goes quickly, we’re seeing just the opposite. This year’s conference proved that purpose has become foundational for most marketers’ work. In fact, 90% of marketers said that brand purpose should guide company decision-making. The key now is how brands act on that purpose, not just via marketing, but in every part of its business activities.

We witnessed purpose locked in as a pillar of virtually every brand who presented this year. Several marketers sketched out the concerted effort they made, spending months to dig into and elevate their purpose. Many found it necessary, and rewarding, to go back in time to examine the motivation of their company’s founders. They simply asked themselves, what was the company built to do and why? Here are three other key learnings:

Proof Points

Purpose is Not Cause Marketing. Brands must be careful not to confuse cause marketing and purpose. Ally CMO Andrea Brimmer correctly stated, “It’s easy to write a check, but you need to be more involved than that.” Purpose needs to inform and be activated through the supply chain, with every employee and at every consumer touch point. We hear that today’s younger generations love brands with a purpose, but they are able to sniff out the ones who bolted on a CSR cause and tried to pass it off as purpose.

Back it Up with Tangible Proof. The days of talking are over. It’s about doing. For example, P&G’s Always has successfully aligned its brand with empowering young women and enhancing their education. Chipotle’s mission to “Cultivate a Better World,” via how its food is sourced and prepared has resonated with consumers and talent alike. The biggest cheer during Target CMO Rick Gomez's presentation came when he confirmed Target had increased its minimum wage to $15.

Purpose Doesn’t Have to Be Lofty. “We refill optimism” is the anchor of Dunkin’s brand refresh. This not-too-serious encapsulation of how Dunkin’ keeps America running on caffeine gives the brand plenty of room to play—especially amid the big news that it dropped Donuts from its name. Its consumers get it and carry Dunkin’s cups as a badge of honor. As long as your brand’s purpose is authentic and relevant, it will give the brand permission to be itself.

Purpose blah blah…If you haven’t got a purpose by now, get on to it. Go back and dig into the brand’s history and find one, it’s not hard. But then, get activating on that purpose.

Joseph Jaffe, Author of Built to Suck

Our View

Purpose isn’t a differentiator unless its differentiated. This should be understood and widely accepted. The challenge is to make sure your brands’ purpose is relevant, authentic and uniquely yours. At the same time don’t get tripped up by thinking doing good is brand purpose. HBR puts it best: “purpose is not just philanthropy; it is a source of competitive advantage.”

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