Marketing with a purpose

Friday 13th, November 2015

If you had walked into a marketing discussion, say twenty years ago and spoken about providing a ‘purpose’ to your brand you’d have been met with derisive hoots all around.

The purpose of marketing was not to appeal to the higher senses; it was primarily to sell vast quantities of product. You could – and often did – talk grandiosely about your product, innovation, the latest technology and the millions that had been poured into research amongst other things.

But talking about ‘purpose’ was deeply suspicious and best reserved for organisations that embraced ‘causes’ – whether saving small children with disabilities, or saving refugees or providing clean drinking water.

And so, I was surprised to see this panel discussion at which the participants spoke of brands having a higher purpose. Coca-Cola and Facebook, very different brands in form and function spoke about how they had begun to convey a purpose that went beyond their core functionality.

Coke has now moved to emphasising its role in people’s lives in the form of special moments. Facebook spoke about its mission being to connect people in different and interesting ways, by providing them a forum to share their happy occasions and moments. There was talk about how the Internet empowered people’s lives everywhere and providing access to Syrian refugees in concert with the UN was mentioned as one of their initiatives.

I remember a time when the communication laid great stress on brand imagery. Developing and cultivating a positive brand image was very often seen as the be-all and end-all of a brand’s existence. Some brands got it right, most didn’t. Culturally too, there were differences. The Brits were probably the best at developing brand communication that often went way beyond a brand’s physical attributes.

Researching a bit further, I came across another study done a few years ago which was able to establish a correlation between brands having a higher purpose and delivering better returns. The Stengel 50, a list of fastest growing brands worldwide compiled by Jim Stengel and Millward Brown was able to establish this correlation.

Reach out to us in the comments about any brands you know of, or have worked with which exemplify such a higher purpose. We’d love to hear from you.

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