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Melissa Potts

Published on

May 14, 2018


There has been a lot of talk about the importance of brand purpose.

We’ve seen effective brands with strong purpose reaping great rewards. The shoe company, Toms, is a great example. However, on the other side we see brands like Pepsi fail spectacularly. Their ad with Kendall Jenner, which tried to portray Pepsi as the face of world peace was taken down within a few hours.

With these spectacular wins and fails, brand purpose has inevitably brought around some debate. Is it an important factor in marketing strategy or a fluffy fad that consumers can see right through? So, let’s take a look and see who’s in, who’s out and whether purpose is actually benefitting anybody.

The Believers

Most conversation around brand purpose is from those working in marketing, advertising or PR. So, it makes sense that in recent years, the judges of the PR Cannes Lions have chosen campaigns which showcase a brand’s purpose. The top trends from last year’s Cannes winners were, purpose that leads to action, brand values and offline content that went viral.  Given that the PR Lions are awarded based on results, particularly earned coverage, this demonstrates that there must be something to purpose which encourages action.

So, if marketers are behind purpose, so are the brands. So, which brands lead the way with purpose? Havas media group have created a meaningful brand index which measures brand strength.

Top of the 2017 chart were:

1. Google

2. PayPal

3. WhatsApp

4. YouTube

5. Samsung

With the top industries being:

1. Travel and Tourism

2. Retail

3. Food

Looking into why each brand was rated highly, there are some common factors, good personal benefits and useful products being the most common. This echoes the findings from Havas, which states that the correlation between brand performance and investment in personal wellbeing is 71%.


The Critics

One of the biggest purpose pitfalls for brands seems to be when they make big claims about their purpose but can’t quite measure up to it. It’s agreed that some purposes should be more of a guiding star than an actual goal, however people need to believe that you’re, at least, trying to walk the walk.

When brands go beyond their respected remits of purpose, it’s not believable and it gives the perception that a brand is trying to cash-in on meaningfulness. Making them appear money-grabbing and therefore, untrustworthy. The Kendall Jenner, Pepsi fiasco being the most notable example.

A purpose really does have to be all-encompassing. It requires research and in-depth understanding of values, roles, voice and aspirations with this purpose driving all business decisions. Otherwise, your purpose becomes a fluffy category descriptor.

Many arguments against purpose conclude that brand purpose is intrinsically tied to the quality or usefulness of a product. Brands that have a good product will be successful and people will therefore believe their brand purpose. However, if a brand has a poor or irrelevant product, no brand purpose will elevate them.



Purpose as purely a marketing tool is set to fail. Anything that remains unintegrated will be ineffective. To get the most from purpose it needs to be all-encompassing and embedded into all business decisions. When brands do it right, it’s a great driving force for internal operations and for building brand loyalty. Coke inspires moments of happiness and optimism, but it doesn’t go as far as to say it settles political and social unrest – take note Pepsi.

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