Brand Purpose
Telling Your Why
By Camilla Allen · 04.01.2019

All businesses want to stand out and make some money on the way. One way to do this is to find the company’s why and stand up for something; indeed, statistics show that purpose-led companies outperform stock markets. But once a company has found its brand purpose, how does it go about telling it to its customers in an authentic way?

Telling an ethical story is fast becoming the norm because customers want to know that the businesses they deal with or the products they buy do the right thing. This can mean adopting an ecological or social conscience, and doing something significant to demonstrate it.

Nowadays fewer people want to buy coffee produced by slave labour, wear jeans made in sweatshops or use gadgets that needlessly pollute the environment. It’s why a brand like Ecover has quietly produced biodegradable detergents for decades but has only recently talked up its ethical credentials with the #letsliveclean campaign.

It’s also why Maltesers chose to tap into equality and disability issues in its advertising, winning awards for doing so, despite having no explicit link to these respective communities or issues. And it’s why Pepsi attempted to tap into social unrest and the Black Lives Matter movement with model Kendall Jenner in 2017 – although in this case the attempt failed miserably.

How can some brands so brilliantly capture a movement, a concern or a principle and slot it neatly into their marketing like the final piece in a jigsaw, yet others can try to do the same and yet end up in the proverbial stocks?

Pepsi Commercial Starring Kendal Jenner

Kendal Jenner apologising for the Pepsi Commercial

Think incredibly hard about it

Most brands do consider embedding a sense of purpose into their work, but balk when they understand the implications. Stuart Lewin, Founder and Creative Director at BTL Brands specialises  in managing new, usually high-end companies like Swedish amplifier manufacturer Engström & Engström and cashmere apparel store Milk. Lewin manages the process of developing the brand, including its purpose. He says there often comes a point when the brand has to decide whether it’s really worth bringing purpose into the running of its business.

We try to explain that there are so many start-ups that it’s difficult to make a difference. It may well come down to eco footprint and sustainability,” he says. “We have that conversation every time.

Joel Gardner is Director at Theobald Fox, a creative agency representing brands including SpaceNK, Transport for London and the Tate. He recommends putting extra thought into what you plan to do, and really look at yourself rather than the customer to get that purpose nailed down.

Many brands worry too much about their audiences and what they want, instead of what their brand can actually offer their audience. But sometimes it’s better to look internally. What can you offer to your potential customers? That more clearly defines a brand. And what that means is staying true to that core offering and being consistent with it.

Make your stance clear but don’t put people off

Muddled messaging means consumer confusion. Mike Buonaiuto is Executive Director at social-change communications agency Shape History says, “Think of the wider perspective – why? What is the power businesses can hold in making political change? Why are others not doing that?”

It’s an excellent question. Those brands that stand for something both stand up and stand out. However, nobody likes to be lectured or made to feel bad about their behaviour. Here lies another lesson for a brand with a purpose. You can overdo it and subtle can be powerful. Taxi-hailing company Lyft recently offered people free rides to the March For Our Lives anti-gun protests across the US, which made a clear, effective stance, and introduced them to a new, younger audience.

Read more about nailing down your brand’s core values. TRUE 212 chats to thought leaders who reveal the ways in which you can find your why before you can go about marketing that to customers.

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