Righting the wrongs of the advertising industries’ murky past has been the raison d'être of the Millennial marketer.
JWT reports on its ‘Future 100’ for 2019 report that “Brands are evolving. They’re becoming civic leaders, advocates, even therapists. They’re driving dialogue change by reinventing how we address taboos in everyday life, tackling everything from sexual health to menopause to hair loss—and are empowering refreshing, open new dialogues.”
The German supermarket chain Lidl hosted a series of 2018 summer pop-ups in Ireland, encouraging young people to speak openly about mental health issues. In addition to open discussions, the programme included events designed to promote mental wellbeing, such as laughter yoga, meditation and sing- along socials.
Brands with purpose are the absolute thing right now.
David Hieatt, Founder of the Do Lectures and legit holy grail of branding has written a book on purpose-driven brands over those purely there for profit. We admire the change they are making he says and ultimately purpose brands grow loyal fans, become special and can charge a premium.
So far, so good.
There are even PR agencies that will only work with brands who have purpose. Compass Studio based down under in Australia, who have worked with some purpose heavyweights including Patagonia and Seabin Project added: “we really believe that cause or purpose-oriented strategies will always win.
“ In a landscape of so much choice and where you can get almost anything delivered to your door in an instant, it’s absolutely essential that brands establish themselves as meaningful or useful to a consumer’s life – evolving beyond just product marketing.”
Without doubt brands must elevate themselves from the flat and often self-serving pool that marketing and advertising have been swimming in. Brand purpose can be marketing gold dust and Patagonia is perhaps its best purveyor. Their commitment to the environment is stamped all over the brand being.
On Patagonia’s website its purpose is as prominent as its products. “We’re in business to save our home planet” is readily available to see and a true commitment to their cause since 1985 has seen a sturdy financial commitment to their cause ($89 million in cash to be exact).
This purpose without doubt helps to sell its clothing but it is real and it doesn’t feel alarming or disingenuous to consumers.
But done wrong the quest for brand purpose can be deadly.
Gillette’s entrance on to the purpose scene in 2019 has gone down like a lead balloon.
A brand that has been simply about removing male body hair for 100+ years is now apparently an advocate for social justice and gender equality. In a transparent attempt to wade in on the consumer’s thirst for purpose brands, it has decided to attach itself to one.
But it hasn’t worked. Because - well we don’t believe them.
As articulated so perfectly by Thomas Mitchellhill “People do not want to be instructed on morality by corporations that sell consumer goods. Advertising is not the realm of moral instruction. Gillette is a company that sells razors and and other shaving aids.”
Therein lies the question - have we reached peak purpose?
Or is the Gillette episode just exposing the eggshells that brands must tread between purpose - and morality?
When does a supermarket brand hosting mental health retreats become disengeuous? And when is it actually a brilliant get-together supporting the lives and minds of local communities.
For good brands that want to last there is an opportunity within the realms of purpose to help your brand go beyond sales and genuinely make an impact on the world around you.
Issues of loneliness, homelessness, climate change and equality and diversity challenges are pervasive and require our support.
Therefore the opportunity to integrate purpose into marketing is so vast that it must not be extinguished by the misguided - and perhaps lazy - attempts of the Gillette campaign.
The alternative to a lack of purpose is so much worse. Useless, throwaway concepts, products and schemes that add no value to man nor beast. It is good that we are moving away from the ‘infinity and beyond’ I’m better than you marketing tactics that for so long have been the norm. Therefore we must proceed with the purpose pursuit. But proceed with care. And creativity.
Invest time to attach yourself to a purpose that is something you wish to be talking about for the next 20 years. Something close to your heart. Something you do really think needs changing. Consider how you convert that, allow for the creation of accidental moments. (See Girls Girls Girls unplanned working mothers moment), experiment, take time, find your fit. Perfect your purpose.
And if your consumers love you for it, then well wouldn’t that be wonderful.