Demystifying Brand Purpose

March 17, 2021

By Matthew Schwartz

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The notion of “brand purpose” was creeping toward the top of the marketing agenda well before the pandemic upended the business world.

But amid multiple crises wrought by the deadly virus, brand purpose has taken on a sense of urgency, with few CMOs immune from tackling the issue — and helping to define it.

To pull back the camera, brand purpose — in very broad terms — is what the company is doing to benefit society, expand opportunity among all groups, and protect the planet. It’s what the company stands for and how to demonstrate the company wants to do more than make money.

Home is where the heart is, and any successful brand purpose must start from within. Sure, employees need to be on board with the brand purpose. But the company also needs to cultivate (and promote) talent that will embody the organization’s values.

Frank Cooper III, senior managing director and global CMO at Blackrock, will discuss how brands combine a purpose-driven culture with talented employees at the 2021 ANA B2B Marketing Conference.

Cooper, former CMO at BuzzFeed, will sit down with the ANA for a fireside chat on March 25th, the second day of the two-day virtual conference. Cooper will share his insights on developing brand purpose and, more specifically, why growth can only be sustained by talent that is capable, skilled, and diverse.

However, as Cooper will explain, it’s crucial that companies ensure that all employees have an opportunity to be heard and voice their concerns. It’s sure to be an illuminating discussion, and provide attendees with a much better understanding of brand purpose moving forward.

For some background on the various facets swirling around brand purpose, read these articles from ANA Newsstand:

  • Carhartt Wears Its Brand Purpose Well. Industry-famous bib overalls, check. Manufacturing rugged products for manual laborers. check. A legacy that dates back to the 19th century, check. But Carhartt, which sells outwear, beanies, et. al., was having a tough time finding its brand purpose. “We needed to capture the essence of what the family has always pursued, which is the building of a better world,” Tony Ambroza, chief brand officer, told the ANA. With a little reverse engineering — and recalling some sagely advice from company founder Hamilton Carhartt — the organization was able to crystallize its brand purpose.
  • Get Smarter on Measuring Purpose. With apologies to business management guru Peter Drucker, if you can’t measure every part of your business, you can’t manage it. Brand purpose is no different. RepTrak, in collaboration with the movement marketing company StrawberryFrog, has a plan to crack the code. The process involves merging purpose to supportive behaviors, such as the likelihood to purchase from a company, invest in it, or work for the organization, and the connection between human behavior relative to brand reputation. The formula involves key questions marketers must ask themselves to foster purpose, and the underlying drivers of what it means to be purposeful.
  • Striving to Be Useful. Encouraging brand purpose doesn't come easy. How do companies harness what are often personal and individualized attributes — the ability to sympathize with people, pursuing goals that are much bigger than one’s self, taking concrete action to benefit people you may not know — into a unifying, companywide goal? Jonathan Reckford, CEO for Habitat for Humanity International, talks about the growing nexus between personal fulfillment and work and whether there is a “middle ground” where corporate America and nonprofits can meet to benefit more people.

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