"With great power comes great responsibility" - why brands must
put purpose at their heart
The news agenda over the last month
has been a fascinating place for brands. While headlines in
business or consumer affairs news tend to focus on a new product
launch or a boardroom scandal or stocks and shares etc., July saw a
raft of headlines focused solely on brand purpose From concerns
Amazon's dominance of retail to
Google's tax issues and the BBC's gender pay gap, the beliefs and
behaviours of major organisations have rarely been so clearly in
We'll all have our own opinions on
these issues but what really interests me is that we as a society,
not just us in the media, are talking about, judging and calling
for action on the back of such stories. The public isn't simply
caught up in the hype around such issues. More than ever before,
they genuinely care about them and you only need to glance at
Twitter to see that much of the population isn't very willing to
forgive and forget.
The idea of the public judging
organisations based on their beliefs or intentions isn't new, many
politicians and political parties have experienced the same over
the years. But 20 or 30 years ago, would the public have been so
outraged by the goings on within businesses? Likely not.
Admittedly, we didn't have social media twenty or thirty years ago
and the world was a very different place socially. But even with
that technological and social advancement, the reality is that the
public increasingly expect brands to have as "good" a purpose as
they do product.
What you stand for impacts
your bottom line
When some boards think of their
"purpose" they likely think of their business plan, or potentially
they may think "that's in the CSR bucket". What few will think of
is "purpose is key to my revenue". In short, making a company's
beliefs clear to their customer base is often dismissed as being
unimportant or a nice to have. The reality is that it's much, much
What the public think of a brand and
what it stands for is increasingly linked to revenue. In our recent
research into the subject, we found that 63% of respondents believe
brands have a responsibility to give back to society. More
specifically, 80% of consumers said that businesses must take steps
to minimise environmental impact.
Looking at the impact of a brand's
beliefs or behaviours, 40% of consumers said they had either
abandoned or rejected a brand because of poor corporate values.
Almost half (49%) of the 2000 respondents stated that they actually
are willing to pay more for a brand that supports a cause that is
important to them.
So there it is - a very clear picture
of a society which not only cares about a brand's beliefs but is
willing to show their opinions with their wallets.
And this isn't a trend brands can
ignore in the hope it goes away. As a nation it seems we are
becoming more and more socially-conscious as the percentage of
18-24 year-olds willing to pay more for a brand with good values
sits at 60% - 11% higher than the average. Similarly, while 35% of
all respondents have bought a brand product specifically because of
its chosen values or beliefs, this figure rises to 49% in those
aged 18 to 24.
Simply put, brand purpose is in the
headlines because it's something the public doesn't simply have a
mild interest in, it's something they are increasingly passionate
about. Smart brands will already be responding to this.
What is "good" and how do you
A big challenge for any brand wanting
to make a positive impact and stand for something good is to
actually decide what that is. This is where audience insights
become invaluable because some of the most powerful brand beliefs
are created when they combine what the board and employees think
with the thoughts and demands of its target audience.
There are various steps we recommend
every business takes to ensure that this purpose is fed through the
entire company and is therefore made clear to the public throughout
everything that brand does.
1. At the heart of the
matter: First and foremost, purpose cannot be an
afterthought. This isn't a marketing exercise. A brand's purpose
needs to genuinely sit at its core, updating on and referred to in
board meetings and across all internal communications. It should be
on the first page of a business plan - core to its future plans and
success. Even if a brand's purpose is as simple as "be honest and
open at all times", it matters and it should take pride of place in
any brand's strategy.
2. Stand for something
real: As with any vision or communication, clarity is
vital. When it comes to a brand's beliefs, vague promises to "save
the world" are unrealistic and therefore, to the public, it's
untrustworthy. Consumers aren't stupid - they don't expect a
retailer to save the planet, but they expect them to do their bit
and prove they care. As human beings, our beliefs are very specific
and a brand's purpose must follow the same rule.
3. Purpose is the
heartbeat: From here, organisations need to create a
business which truly exudes that purpose. Whether they are a new
business or a brand that's been around for a hundred years,
everything they do needs to match the purpose, beliefs and
behaviours they have committed to. This takes a lot of thought and
it requires the buy-in of everyone across the business to ensure
that all the good work being done in one area isn't undermined by a
team that doesn't agree with or doesn't even know about their
brand's purpose. This means constant communication and prompts that
remind employees of what the brand stands for.
These are just a few considerations -
a lot of time and effort is needed to make sure a brand has a
strong purpose which positively influences their reputation with
the public. But it's worth it! In the current social climate where
there is much public unease with politics, businesses need to be
leaders and they need to do it responsibly. They need to decide
what they stand for, instil this into all areas of the organisation
and ensure that the public can rely on them. Brands that do this
now will only grow as the even more purpose-led generations becomes
our country's earners.
By Josh Krichefski, CEO, UK