Purpose Driven Innovation and Driving Brand Love

In a Nutshell:

Marketing company, Barkley, conducted research on younger consumers prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, and an additional follow-up study in February 2021, to see what influences their purchasing decisions. The company found that millennial and gen Z consumers are increasingly influenced by brand values. To appeal to these purpose-driven consumers, Barkley recommended establishing a brand story that permeates throughout a brand's products, services, marketing, and operations. Companies looking to establish a brand purpose should audit themselves, and use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals — a collection of 17 global goals designed to achieve a more sustainable future — as a guide.

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Words of Wisdom:

"Modern consumers don't want to be a part of your brand journey. They don't wake up thinking about your brand. They wake up thinking about themselves. They don't want to be a part of your story. They want you to be a part of their story."
     — Jennifer Cawley SVP of purpose and sustainability at Barkley

Key Takeaways:

Barkley is a marketing company that helps brands find their brand purpose. In December 2020, right before the pandemic, the brand conducted a study to better understand millennial and gen Z consumers. The company also did a follow-up study in February 2021. What Barkley found was that consumers want to know what brands stand for, with two thirds of consumers saying their purchasing decisions are based on brand values. Barkley's research also found that the purpose action gap increased by 50 percent between the duration of the two studies, suggesting that people care more about values and are acting on them more than ever, particularly regarding social, environmental, and economic issues.

To take advantage of the expanding consciousness of consumers, Barkley suggested brands establish a strong brand purpose that inspires innovation, new systems, and operations that drive positive impact, and leads to more customer loyalty and sales. Brands can than invest that revenue back into their purpose, a cycle called the "purpose profit cycle."

Finding Brand Purpose

One of the key elements of successfully establishing a brand purpose is developing an authentic brand story. Marketers need to establish a brand story that demonstrates how their company positively impacts the world, meets consumer needs, and aligns with their worldview. Brand purpose, however, isn't the sole responsibility of marketers. It must be a collaborative effort across an entire organization, influencing products, services, marketing actions, content advertising, and public relations.

Action Steps:

Barkley suggested using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals — a collection of 17 global goals designed to achieve a more sustainable future — to find a brand purpose. To guide their brand purpose journey, companies should also ask themselves:

  • What are their core activities?
  • Where is the brand having a positive and negative impact?
  • Is there anything the company can bring to life in a bigger way?
  • Why was the brand founded?
  • What problems or challenges existed and can they be modernized for the future?
  • When was the brand at its best?
  • What was different then?
  • What are your greatest equities worth bringing to the future?
  • What should you sacrifice?
  • Are there any original tenets or historical documents that can lead to an evolved purpose?

For companies that have already established a brand purpose, Barkley suggested asking the following questions:

  • Does the organization fulfill a deep-seated need for customers?
  • Do teams have a deep understanding of how the brand's higher purpose translates into the tasks they do and the decisions they must make every day?
  • Do investments and research priorities reflect the company's purpose?
  • Does the company prioritize purpose over short-term profits?
  • Does the brand have a clear vision of how the world would look if it fulfilled its purpose?
  • Does the organization actively seek suppliers and other business partners who share a commitment to that purpose?
  • Is the company's purpose a reason why consumers choose the brand?
  • Do people and communities participate with the brand beyond purchasing?
  • Does the purpose inspire and drive innovation?
  • Does the purpose help recruit talent?

Q&A with Jennifer Cawley, SVP of Purpose and Sustainability at Barkley

Q. Some companies have a portfolio of brands. How does a brand manager or brand director help align the differences between a corporate purpose and individual brand purpose?

A. Several years ago when Dove was doing campaigns around self-image, women's self-empowerment, and self-esteem, while it was fantastic, they were getting criticized because other Unilever brands were having a masculine conversation that was completely counter to what we were talking about with women. You don't want to get caught by not having that holistic approach. Subsidiaries don't have to have the exact brand purpose as the parent brand, but each brand should at least be able to ladder up to that corporate vision.


"Purpose Driven Innovation and Driving Brand Love." Jennifer Cawley, SVP of Purpose and Sustainability at Barkley. 2021 ANA Brand Masters. 8/2/21.

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