Brand Purpose – so what? (It’s not about saving the planet)

Purpose. This has always been one of my favourite words. Or more importantly, favourite question: “what’s its purpose?”  Useful when leading marketing teams to get them to question why they’re creating another brochure. Or as a London brand consultant to get companies to really think about their value proposition or brand purpose – who they are and why they exist. It’s also great for getting customer-facing teams to map out their processes and identify the purpose of each touch point – for the client and for the business. For me, purpose is a word that clarifies whether something is really necessary. The ‘so what?’

Brand purpose is something that’s often discussed these days. And a bit of hobby horse of Mark Ritson (if you haven’t read his article on profit vs. purpose, it’s a fun read).

There are two important points here for me.

Firstly, I strongly believe that a company having clarity of purpose in their value proposition is vital. Even more importantly, that they use this, alongside commercial targets, to guide their decisions on which opportunities to take or deals to write. ‘Any deal will do’ companies rarely last. Choosing opportunities that match your brand purpose shows a consistency of values that employees chose to work for, and that customers respect. In my view, more senior executives should be targeted and remunerated on both drivers, equally.

Secondly, I don’t think brand purpose has to mean ‘altruistic’. There are some companies whose brand purpose fits very nicely with saving the world. If yours doesn’t, if you actually destroy an army of trees to make your product, then don’t try and connect with how you save the planet just to be purpose-led. As Denise Lee Yohn says; “great brands don’t follow trends”.

For me, the point of having brand purpose, is clarity. Be clear on who you are, why you exist, what you do really well, and why you’re different (your value proposition).

And then be brave enough to live by it.