Purpose Starts Here | Marketing Maestros | Blogs | ANA

Purpose Starts Here

September 24, 2019

By Ken Beaulieu


The ANA Center for Brand Purpose recently released "Discovering Brand Purpose: A Playbook for Uncovering the 'Why' of Your Business," an insight-rich resource for maximizing your understanding of doing good business.

Based largely on in-depth interviews with marketing leaders from six global companies that have fully embraced the transformative aspects of purpose, the 56-page playbook delves deep into how an organization determines its purpose and role in society and ensures it serves as the guiding principle for every business decision.

Defining a brand's reason to exist beyond profit is not an exercise to take lightly, nor does purpose manifest itself in a half-hour team meeting over coffee and donuts. It requires serious introspection, discussion, and debate — often over several months or more — and must be driven by the C-suite. If a brand's purpose is not carefully defined, deeply rooted, and authentic, and if it does not hit home with employees and customers, it has about as much a chance to succeed as a new product launch without marketing.

"Your [purpose] can't be so broad that it can be owned by any brand," says Julie Chan, global consumer engagement lead at Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, who shares her wisdom in the purpose playbook. "Purpose must be relevant to the specific brand and be in line with brand characteristics and values that people believe the brand stands for."

Purpose is not poppycock either, as some cynics may have you believe. It's a proven business growth driver and brand differentiator. For example, in 2018, Unilever brands that took action to support positive change for people and the planet grew 69 percent faster than the rest of the business. They also delivered 75 percent of the company's growth. This is what led Unilever CEO Alan Jope to go on the offensive: "We will dispose of brands that we feel are not able to stand for something more important than just making your hair shiny, your skin soft, your clothes whiter, or your food tastier."

Now there's a CEO who truly gets what being purposeful is all about. And he's not alone. An association of CEOs from leading U.S. companies recently issued a statement declaring that shareholder value is less important than social good. It was a remarkable moment. And their hearts grew three sizes that day.

So whether your brand has a credible purpose that is doing a world of good, or you're just starting the long purpose journey, I encourage you to download the purpose playbook for a veritable bounty of inspirational lessons from companies like SAP, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Rockwool, SAP, Shell, and CSL Behring. Here are three gems to get you started:

  • Recognizing a brand's purpose in society determines its mission and values and how it aims to contribute to a better world instead of the other way around.
  • The past is a gold mine for defining a brand's true story and illuminating its future North Star. Bring together people who have been around the longest and shaped the brand journey. Whether they are internal or from an agency, it really doesn't matter. What does matter is connecting with the truth.
  • In the digital era, authenticity is everything. As technology usage grows, it becomes increasingly important that brands create customer experiences that are personal and prioritize the importance of human connections. Purpose is the driving force behind this.

"Focusing on purpose does deliver sustainable results," says Olga Osminkina-Jones, VP and general manager of innovation and global hydration portfolio at PepsiCo Beverages, who also participated in the playbook. "It may be a long haul, it may take time to truly build it authentically, but results do come."

You must be logged in to submit a comment.