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The rise of purpose-driven brands



Brand purpose is the ‘Why’ behind what brands do. It’s all the convictions that drive a company and creates the link between its brand, employees, and customers.


A brand’s purpose has nothing to do with the products or services offered, it’s about digging into what the brand stands for. Purpose-driven brands build connections with their customers rather than focus on the transactions.


The current social and political environment makes ‘purpose’ more than ever essential.

Brands are strongly impacted by the covid-19 crisis and on top of that their values are not enough, people are fed up with big promises, they expect brands to take a stand by aligning their mission to social causes that matter.


Customers no longer make decisions only based on the quality and price of products; they also appraise the actions, dialogue, and commitments of the brand.


For new brands born in the digital era, their business model is mostly based on the meaning and the reason for being, and right from the beginning, they commit to applying it to their DNA. That’s how they define themselves first.


Some would question if these social interests brands have is just a trend, or is it explained by real changes and transformation in the way people interact with the world?


Today, we see that customers are very sensitive to brands that are transparent, socially committed, and environmentally friendly. Brands can’t just ask to be trusted, it must earn that trust by spending time proving that it can be trusted. Brands must demonstrate that they act in a responsible way.


The fast-paced digital world added to the pressure customers put on brands and the expectations they have has clearly led ‘purpose’ to dictate both the events and actions taken by brands. Regardless of their size, they are forced to envision a new business model, customers need transparency and authenticity, their attachment to the brand will be based on a sense of reciprocity and shared values. An overwhelming majority of customers want the brands they consume to have a real impact on the causes they care about.


Simon Sinek


Commitment contributes to the differentiation brands are looking for too. For companies, it is the foundation of every experience, the underlying element that makes a brand relevant and necessary.


A brand purpose that fits well with the brand can therefore significantly increase the brand’s visibility within its community, as they actively defend the brands they embrace and oppose the others. These aspirations are an opportunity for companies to demonstrate their competitive agility.


Brands playing bigger role

It is crucial for companies to do things in order — first, starting from the inside by taking care of the employees and treat them right, second, by building real connections with customers and understand how to truly be useful to them, only then, wider-scale collective actions and social movements can be put in place. The no-bullshit filter is not an option anymore, it can no longer be based on words alone.


Yes to brand purpose but no to green or social washing

On the other hand, a brand also makes itself more vulnerable. There is a fine line between taking social responsibilities and promoting public debates, on the one hand, and the risk of intimidating customers and appearing to surf on a wave, on the other.

Comic from SlideShare.


For some brands, ‘purpose’ is still more a quest for communicating a positive image and claiming a commitment to a cause without actually translating it into reality. In their marketing, it looks more like a slogan or tagline.


Nowadays, customers have become more informed, and are in constant search of information. It is therefore difficult to adopt this type of marketing tactic because it can damage the credibility of the brand and negatively impact the brand image in the long term, leading to a bad buzz.

Beware, brands must go beyond the stage of mere communication, which is both insufficient and risky. Customers need actions but not just any actions. Actions that are consistent with the company’s being and vision of the world.


Also, the multiplication of commitments increases the danger of falling into purpose washing as there has been and still is green and social washing.


The level of demand is rising and if promises are not kept, the impact will be dramatic for brands. Companies that do not respect their customers’ convictions are paying and will continue to pay the price.


Where to start?


Bringing a brand purpose to life starts with taking care of employees, customers, suppliers, and then the world. For a company to embody its ‘purpose’ and be prepared for what’s to come it will need to reset, rethink its structure and change its attitude. A great start is to apply the 4 key pillars from the Care Principles which Isabel Verstraete explains in her book ‘Does your brand care?’: Collaboration, Agility, Reliability, and Empathy.


Brands that care for more than making a profit, can together help to build a better world.


Purpose-driven brands start from the inside and those with a deeply rooted purpose will have the power.

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