Purpose brands: standing for something

In subjects like Business in Society, we think about what the truth is and the interrelationships between – and the future of – concepts such as CSR and social marketing. The eternal debate about the virtue of sales gains from CSR. Until once again managers find an alternative route to avoid arguing about organisations with a soul (it’s marketing that has a soul!). Let’s give the consumer a more credible value: brands have a soul; brands are becoming purpose-oriented.

When many companies have to fight to turn a profit while competing in price, new leaders emerge, such as Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, the guest speaker at the recent ESADE Alumni Annual Conference. When digital media generate real-time conversations about companies’ activities and new ways for consumers to access information, consumers expect transparency, authenticity and higher standards of ethical conduct.

Philips has its own index to measure the number of lives the company improves each year, calculated using an algorithm that looks at demand for products directly related to health and how many people those products have affected. Today, Philips is a purpose brand: this KPI explains who they are as a company, their courage to stand for something. This is the only benefit they bring to the world, beyond the proposal of Milton Friedman. And like Philips, there are also the companies ranked by Radley Yeldar, for example.

These are brands that, without being perfect, bring out the enthusiasm in consumers and the talent of the millennial generation that they want to attract. Brands that offer to become part of the solution. When we talk about brands in the non-profit sector, we talk about advocacy or relief brands. But profit-oriented companies are starting to talk about creating movement brands.

Do they work? Take a look at the three following purposes. If you can identify the brands that have these purposes, you’ll know it works.

  • To empower creative exploration and self-expression.
  • To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world (everybody is an athlete).
  • To help women reconsider and redefine what beauty is.

Want more? Attend the ESADE Alumni conference on purpose brands in early 2017.

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