Insider Insights #4: Brand Purpose

Born + Raised’s very own Mark Vincent talks us through the power of brand purpose and how a focus can help you to appeal to a growing segment of consumers.


[00:00:07] So, yeah, I’m going to be talking about brand purpose, which I think is quite a relevant topic, at this point in time with everything that’s going on with Covid-19 and things like Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter. There’s a lot of pressure on brands to comment on these activities and movements. And I think brand purpose is a really useful tool for brands in sharing their opinion and actually having some kind of impact on the world. So, I also think it’s a little controversial as well, I’ve read quite a lot about people who are quite sceptical about brand purpose, saying that actually they don’t think it has any impact on profit and also from the consumer point of view, that actually it’s not very authentic – brands using purpose just to make money – they don’t really care about those causes. So I’m going to kind of address a few of those comments as we go through. So I’m going to start with talking through what brand purpose is and why it’s important and then run through some examples where brands have activated their purpose really well, and then also some examples of where brands have slightly missed the mark, and what we can learn from that. And then finally, I’m going to talk through how you can bring purpose to life. So, starting off with the big question, ‘what is brand purpose?’, so, quite simply, it’s just the reason your brand exists aside from making money.

[00:01:41] So it’s something that sits at the core of your brand that can inform everything from your mission and vision for you to your personality and tone of voice, and purpose simply means your focus or your motivation. So what is it that motivates you as an organisation and as individuals to do the work that you do aside from making a profit. And a lot of brands will align themselves with social issues and environmental issues. But actually, your purpose doesn’t have to be something that’s incredibly worthy. It just needs to resonate with your audience, so whatever your audience care about and you can influence the brand, that’s where your purpose sits. And in order to kind of demonstrate how purpose can be useful and how you can find your purpose we use an exercise called the ‘golden circle’. This was brought about by a guy called Simon Sinek. And his very was that most organisations communicate from the outside of the circle inwards. So they talk about what they do and how they do it. So, for example, they might say, you know, we’re a law firm, we win cases because we have the best lawyers. And that kind of message is quite generic and not particularly differentiating. Whereas organisations that talk about their ‘why’ purpose first can really set themselves apart.

[00:03:14] And he uses the example of Apple as a brand who started off making computers but diversified into and be MP3 players and smartphones have been incredibly successful with that. Whatever they make, their brand sells their product. And when you compare them to, say, someone like Microsoft who also launched an MP3 player which wasn’t particularly successful and certainly don’t have anywhere near the kind of market share that the iPhone does in the smartphone market, it kind of looks as what’s the difference between these organisations? And he theorises that Apple always start with ‘why’, so when they’re talking about their products, they don’t talk about what they do and how they do that. They talk about why they created them, and their ‘why’ is to challenge the status quo is to push the limits of technology and think outside the box. And leading with that message really resonates with people that like that brand. And the idea is when you talk about what and how that’s quite rational argument, which sits in the rational part of our mind, whereas when you talk about why that’s a very emotional connection which connects with the emotional part of our minds, which is a much more powerful tool for creating brand loyalty. And there’s also, it’s worth addressing the different types of purpose, and at the beginning, I kind of talked about people who are a bit sceptical about whether brands actually deliver a purpose.

[00:04:53] And for me, it’s not down to the concept of brand purpose, it’s down to the application. So on this scale, the right hand side, there are brands that are born with a purpose. So, I’m thinking about brands like Innocent and Patagonia who had a purpose as their starting point and have lived that purpose. There are then brands who convert and adopt a purpose after some time, they weren’t necessarily born with it, but they can still be quite authentic if they bring that to life. But I think the issue is with topical purpose, where brands don’t really have purpose at their core, but then perhaps decide to comment on something that’s going on, a social issue or an environmental issue, and they don’t have the purpose to back it up, they’ve not kind of lived and breathed that purpose, and that’s when this kind of inauthenticity cuts though. And there’s lots of examples of brands who have tried to adopt a purpose, but perhaps, you know, aren’t paying their tax or aren’t providing good working conditions or minimum wage and that purpose just completely falls apart. It’s not an integral part of that business. And for me, that’s where a lot of the scepticism around brand purpose comes from. It’s not the actual concept, it’s how you apply it.

[00:06:10] So why is brand purpose important? So, there’s a number of reasons why having a purpose can be really beneficial. So the first one is building a long term brand is incredibly important. So the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising came up with this model that suggests actually 60 percent of your marketing budget should go towards long term brand building. And 40 percent towards short term self-activation. And the reason behind this is actually when you have that long-term brand building in place and you increase advocacy and loyalty, therefore people are more likely to pay more money for your products. And actually, the cost for acquisition for that short-term sales activation is much lower. So actually, investing in that long-term brand has a lot of short term and long term benefits. And brand purpose is a great way to develop your brand and to build it over a long period of time, which I will demonstrate how later on when we talk through some of the examples. And it essentially allows you to align your values to those of your consumers. And that’s what really builds that kind of strong advocacy. And it’s also a great internal tool as well so it allows you to align your values internally. So Elon Musk said that putting in long hours for a corporation is hard, but putting in long hours for a cause is easy. And having a strong brand purpose that runs throughout your entire business is a great motivator for everyone in that business, it gives everyone something to get behind. It gives people reason to work aside from just getting a pay cheque.

[00:07:59] And having brand purpose as well is a great way to appeal to the growing group of socially conscious consumers. So 71 percent of millennials prefer brands that drive social-environmental change. So this is a massive segment of the market which is growing more and more. And again, aligning your values through a purpose is a great way to appeal to socially consistent consumers. And to back that up with an example, Unilever have 28 sustainable living brands, which are brands that take action to support positive change for people and the planet, and these brands grew 60 percent faster than the rest of that business in 2018 and actually delivered 75 percent of Unilever’s overall growth. So we can see that purpose really does drive growth in a brand. And then finally, having a strong purpose gives you something to say, it gives you a springboard for campaigns. So looking at two ads here in response to the Covid-19 lock down, the one on the left from Heinz has a real commitment, so they’re talking about their commitment to provide free breakfasts for schoolchildren who need them the most. And there are a lot adverts that we’ve seen recently around the response to Covid-19 that perhaps referenced the situation and don’t really commit to something. But we can see here from from Heinz’s purpose they talk about commitment to growing a better world and an ambition to end hunger. So you can see how that purpose has given them something to say that’s relevant to the situation.

[00:09:44] Whereas the McCain ad, whilst they have this theme of family, they don’t really commit to much. They talk about the importance of staying together and kind of getting through this together, which we’ve heard quite a lot. And you can see and by the scores below, these brands were ranked by consumers on long term return, short term sounds, brand memorability, and love for the brands behind and Heinz have massively outperformed the McCain ad, and I think the reason for that is because they have a purpose. They have something to say in response to this. And again, that really resonates with consumers. So I’m going to talk through an example now of a really strong brand purpose campaign and how it came about. And then we’re gonna have a look at a slightly weaker brand purpose campaign and just kind of look at some of the differences between those. So, the first example is from Nike. And they have a very strong purpose built into their brand, which is to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world – if you have a body, you are an athlete. And they have three core areas here, inspiration, innovation and inclusivity. So you can immediately see from a lot of their marketing they really focus on this inspiration and inclusivity angle.

[00:11:20] And that has given them a platform to do a really powerful campaign which they launched in 2016. So the background to this was around the Black Lives Matter movement. The NFL player Colin Kaepernick started taking a knee during the American national anthem, which was a hugely divisive protest. A lot of people backed him. A lot of people didn’t. Because Nike had that purpose, they were immediately able to respond to this with an incredibly strong campaign. And, they actually saw a 31 percent lift themselves the week following this campaign. They gained about 170000 new social media followers over a series of days and their share price hit a record high. And this is an example of having very strong values and communicating those in a way that aligns with your consumers. But when you do that, you alienate people as well and this campaign was actually very strongly criticised by Donald Trump, which turned out actually to be quite an endorsement in some people’s eyes. But the point here is when you kind of pin your badge to something that will be people who disagree with that. But because Nike’s purpose is historic and ingrained in all of their marketing, those people that disagree with this campaign aren’t Nike’s core audience, so therefore, they are strengthening their advocacy with people who are likely to buy their products and whilst there were talks of boycotting Nike’s products, those were those were generally from people who wouldn’t consider buying its products anyway.

[00:13:05] And then I think it’s interesting to look at the kind of flip-side of this. So we’ll have a look at another campaign that tried to address a similar situation and see where that went wrong. And this is a campaign by Pepsi. This ran about a year after the Nike campaign. And there are a lot of similarities here. And it was in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. And in this advert Kendall Jenner was featured with a can of Pepsi guy walking through this protest. She approached the police line, handed the Pepsi over, and the police officer took a sip and it kind of diffused the situation. And this received a massive, massive backlash. And it was actually pulled by Pepsi. Within 24 hours of launch and Pepsi apologised for the ad and said ‘we were trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding’, which is exactly the same message as Nike we’re trying to get across with theirs. So we’ve got two very similar messages being communicated by two massive brands. One was a massive success. One wasn’t. And I think the reason behind that was because Pepsi don’t have purpose as part of their brand. And because of that, they don’t really have anything to say about this.

[00:14:28] So whereas Nike were making a very strong comment based around that purpose of inspiration and inclusivity, Pepsi featured that product at the centre of this because they didn’t really have a message to replace that with. So Nike went with purpose focused, Pepsi went with a product focus. And I think there’s a number of decisions that were made around the creation of this that were misguided. And again, I think purpose is, to use a kind of strategy term, you’re kind of North Star, your guiding light. It kind of helps you make those decisions, you have something to guide you through that process. Whereas without purpose, you’re kind of scrambling for something. And when we look out there, to well, Nike’s purpose statement and Pepsi’s mission, where we can see so towards the bottom of Pepsi’s mission, they talk about opportunities for growth and enrichment in the communities in which we operate. Which does it really commit to much? It doesn’t really give them much to go there when it comes to forming messaging, whereas Nike have this springboard for a campaign. And I think that allows brands with purpose to make very strong statements that really resonate with consumers and respond to things like Covid-19 and Black Lives Matters and any other kind of social movements that actually consumers feel very strongly about. And then finally, we’re gonna have a look at how you bring purpose to life.

[00:16:02] So I spoke earlier about brand building and how purpose can help me do that. And I think this is a perfect example of how purpose can inspire a long-term brand building exercise. So the example I’m going to use is Dove. And Dove believes that beauty is not one dimensional. It’s not defined by your age, by your shape or your size of your body, your colour of your skin or your hair. It’s fitting like the best version of yourself, authentic, unique and real. And from this purpose at Dove launched their Campaign For Real Beauty, which launched in 2004. And this is being attributed with about 700 percent uplift in sales for Dove. So it’s been hugely successful commercially and it’s allowed Dove to build their brand, not talking about products, nor about what they do or how they do it, purely about why they exist. And they talk about this as the never finished idea. So never finished ideas are ideas so big that they work across every platform. And when people see them, they know there are more exciting chapters to come. And for me, this is the real value of purpose. It means you always have something to talk about because a purpose statement isn’t a goal that you can complete. It’s not a mission. It’s an ambition. And it can be something that you may never achieve, but it’s something that you’re always working towards.

[00:17:28] So it gives you almost infinite amounts of things to talk about. And we can see how that worked for Dove. So, they launched the Dove Self Esteem Projects, and the study found that over 50 percent of girls have low body confidence and that 8 in 10 won’t see their family or friends or even visit a doctor when they don’t feel confident in their looks. And that’s where Dove come in to teach young people around the world to help them build the confidence they need to reach their full potential. So this project was activated a number of ways, they produced activity guides and articles for parents to talk to their daughters about body confidence, they ran body confidence workshops around the world, they produced classroom activities for teachers are schools and youth groups, and they ran inspirational events featuring talks from prominent celebrities. So you can see how this kind of single purpose has allowed them to create a whole load of real-world and applications and actually things that will actually make a real difference in the world. And it’s also inspired their content. So they run the real beauty sketches which was a piece of video content that they created. And in this video, they’ve got an artist to sketch an image of a woman. And the one on the left is her description of herself and the one on the right is the stranger’s description of her.

[00:19:01] An the sketch artist hadn’t actually seen this woman. So you’re going purely on those two descriptions. And this piece of content showed how we tend to focus on the negative parts of our own appearance, whereas strangers will give a better picture of what we actually look like. And this was absolutely massive. It got about 15 million views in a week. And a lot of that came from organic sharing and social media as well as international media coverage. And the reason it got that level of kind of organic sharing is because it resonated so strongly with the target audience, which again comes back from having that purpose where your values are aligned with those of your audience. And then finally, they’ve activated it digitally, so the #NoLikeNeeded campaign. So social media plays an increasingly influential role in shaping our definition of beauty. And Dove is passionate about creating a world where beauty inspires confidence, not anxiety. So they found that actually young women were taking around 12 minutes to take a selfie because they wanted it to be the perfect selfie that would get the most number of likes on social media. And this was all about communicating the message that the only like that matters is your own. So this was a social campaign which actually spawned some events as well. So, again, you can see how purpose has built all of these…

[00:20:30] …activations across all these different channels, and they will come back from this one idea, which is this purpose statement. And this has given them you know like a decade of authentic content marketing campaigns that really impacted the real world and Dove commercially as a brand. So having a purpose gives you this kind of constant idea that you can keep on communicating around and it gives you something to build on. So just a few takeaways, then. Brands with purpose are growing incredibly quickly and within that is going to continue happening with younger consumers who are much more socially conscious. And it allows you to align your values with those of your customers, which allows you to connect emotionally rather than rationally. It gives you something to make your brand famous for, so it’s a very strong point of differentiation and it gives you a springboard to tackle different topics and ultimately make a difference in the world. So, I think kind of going back to my initial points around people’s scepticism around purpose. Hopefully it kind of gets across the point that it’s not actually purpose itself, it’s the application. If it is a core part of your brand and you use it correctly, then it can be incredibly powerful, both for your brand commercially and also in making a difference in the world. So thank you very much for listening. And yeah, if anyone’s got any questions I’d be happy to answer them.

[00:22:24] (Stephen) I’ll ask a question Mark. So when you had the the Nike and the Pepsi two statements side by side there. Obviously, the Pepsi one wasn’t up to much. But so one was more described as purpose, the other as a mission statement. So when a mission statement is done well. Can you clarify sort of the difference between the two purpose versus mission statement cause seems like the there’s some crossover.

[00:22:56] (Mark) Yes, there is definitely a lot of cross over with purpose, mission and vision, and I think they’re all kind of slightly different articulations of the same thing. But the idea is the purpose is the core. So once you have a purpose, it then allows you to define a mission and a vision and your mission is. So I guess, as I said, that the purpose is an ambition. It’s something that you’re probably never going to achieve, but it’s something that you’re focused on or motivated by. And then your mission is. What do I actually want to achieve to bring that to life? And then your vision is what would the world look like if we achieve that? So there’s a lot of crossover. And I think in that example as well, that mission statement was quite generic and Pepsi aren’t a brand that have a purpose and therefore don’t really have a mission. So I think in order to have an effective mission statement, you do probably need a purpose to build from.

[00:23:56] (Stephen) Yeah, that’s helpful. Yeah. It seems like the Pepsi one was nothing to do with, like, their mission even. It was more just like a little snapshot of their business strategy more than anything. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. That’s helpful. Thank you.

[00:24:12] (Grace) Does anyone else have any questions?

[00:24:16] (Steve) I’ve got one. Was just really around obviously purpose is, it’s a great tool and a great way of looking at your brand. So, are we kind of saying  your purpose can essentially be your main strand of your marketing. Can we build the whole brand campaign or just around purpose?

[00:24:37] (Mark) Yeah, I think so. It can be something that sits right out there, the middle of your brand. I think like Innocent Smoothies is a brand that we talk about a lot and they have a line … I think it’s something like ‘tastes good, does good’, and that is basically the purpose that the brand was born with in that they wanted to make drinks that tasted good. But also they wanted them to do good to the world, which they wanted to be healthy for people, but be sustainably sourced. And I think everything that we like about Innocent’s personality, and their tone of voice kind of comes back to that purpose. It’s not always entirely obvious, but some of the kind of quirky campaigns that they do is kind of around spreading their joy and humour as well. So I think if it’s if it’s done correctly, then, yeah, it can be like the core thing that you always come back to. And whereas other brands might have purpose in there, in the mix, and it gives them something to talk about, but it maybe doesn’t define their entire brand.

[00:25:39] (Stephen) So I guess like the brands with the strongest sense of purpose, often don’t even try and flog you anything just because, like the natural sort of like end result of people that purpose is resonating with people is that people buy the product. So, yeah, there’s definitely like a strong value to be had in conveying your purpose and your purpose alone. Yeah.

[00:26:04] (Kirsty) The thing I was gonna ask you, obviously, looking at the statistics of like how Nike did compared to Pepsi, like looking at their brand purpose. Obviously a lot of brands or want to like, think, ‘oh, we need to add brand purpose’, and to to get that commercial gain. Do you think there’s a risk of obviously it not feeling authentic and like if everyone starts plowing on the brand purpose kinds of campaigns, like do you think it could kind of almost go the other way or like do you think it’s just a fine balance of making it feel authentic?

[00:26:44] (Mark) Yeah, definitely, I think is something that you need to do correctly in when I’m talking about the Covid-19 ads.

[00:26:53] I think that’s an example of a lot of brands suddenly thinking we need to say something, but not really having anything to say. So, I think when it comes to that authenticity is something that has to kind of be built into your entire brand and organisation and you’ve kind of got to live it as well. So it’s one thing kind of saying we’re a purpose led organisation. But again, there was the example from Starbucks where they started bringing out some purpose-led ads. But then people said, actually, you know, there are issues around. You don’t pay your staff enough money. And the impact you’re having on the environment and you’re not paying a tax and it all falls apart. So, yeah, it has to be something that you, like, fully commit to what you think. You can just kind of go, oh, we’ll, do some purpose led marketing and that will resonate. It’s got to be something that you of really ingrain in your business.

[00:27:48] (Kirsty) Mm hmm. Yeah. Makes sense.

[00:27:50] (Steve) Am I right in thinking now that it doesn’t necessarily always have to be the kind of ethical or social thing that you were talking about in your purpose? It could just be the reason that you exist as a as a brand or a business.

[00:28:05] (Mark) Yeah, exactly. I mean, yeah, there are lots of kind of sustainable environmental purposes. But, yeah, you’re kind of purpose is just something that you feel you can impact and your audience feels is important. So I think you can have purpose statements that are just like kind of it’s your focus or your motivation is what you think is important.

[00:28:31] It doesn’t necessarily have to be something really grand and like something that would change the world.

[00:28:39] (Stephen) I find it like slightly surprising, though, that, like Nike’s not exactly squeaky, squeaky clean, is it? So, like, definitely, you know, able to, like, say something really meaningful currently around that the Black Lives Matter movement. And rightly so. But then equally, you know, they definitely use sweatshops and things like that.

[00:29:00] In the past, then they’re not squeaky clean by any means. So it seems people can be quite fickle with it, too.

[00:29:05] (Mark) I think so. I think the Nike example was probably like one of the most powerful kind of messages you can send as a brand. It was really political and really.

[00:29:17] So if it may be a kind of the power of that distracted people from some of those, whereas like the Starbucks stuff I’ve seen where they just kind of have some quite weak, purposeful messages, people attack those straight away and said, yeah, you’re not paying your tax. So why are you claiming to be good at this? So I think, yeah, you’re right about Nike hitting. Maybe if that message wasn’t so like, yeah. Worldwide, people maybe would have on that as well.