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There’s a new kid on the block making a lot of noise – say hello to Brand Purpose, said every ‘purpose-driven’ marketing campaign ever.

But if you take a pause and reflect, you’ll see that Purpose has always been the beating heart of the brand. Take a look at Nike, Dove, Body Shop…these brands live their purpose and hence always occupy a meaningful mind space with their consumers.

However, we seem to have got something mixed up here. Owing to the rise of ‘conscious consumerism’ we are being hit by a tsunami of ‘purpose-driven’ marketing campaigns. We have to admit that these campaigns seem quite convincing. We want to believe that the brands we trust are doing good, being good. But is that what purpose is? A marketing campaign carefully designed to sway customers into believing that you exist for doing good?

Before we go ahead and discuss 5 myths (amongst the many) about brand purpose, let’s take a moment and understand what brand purpose really is. Simply put, purpose is the reason why a brand exists. It is the essence that makes a brand relevant and necessary to their consumers. It sits front and center of the brand vision and dictates every decision a brand takes.

There is really no ambiguity when it comes to brand purpose. And yet, much like folklore, it has suddenly become susceptible to many myths.

Myth 1 – Purpose equals charity (or CSR, take your pick)

Repeat after us, “Purpose is NOT charity”.

While it can be easy to get lost in the labyrinth of purpose and charity, let us assure you these two are not the same. Charity is, quite frankly, a marketing initiative that a brand can leverage to showcase its purpose. It is a great way to improve brand equity and displays the brands’ altruistic side. And who does not love this? We all want to be associated with something ‘good’.

But purpose is higher than this. Purpose links back to the core values of the brand and answers the question ‘why you do what you are doing’. Purpose is also a business driver – it helps people realize how the brand aligns with their share of personal beliefs.

So, while Toyota might be setting up a hundred schools for the economically deprived and while it is a great initiative – this is not what Toyota’s purpose is.

Myth 2 – Price Trumps Purpose With the Customer

Who doesn’t love a good bargain? Did all hands shoot up in agreement? But when it comes to choosing between price and purpose, purpose always wins the game.

Don’t get us wrong – people still want to interact with a brand that sells quality products at fair prices. But as our social environment evolves, a brand no longer belongs singularly to the company that invests in it and monetizes it. Brands today are community property, belonging to the shareholders, the employees who work for it, and the customers who vouch for it.

According to the New Accenture Strategy research, the customers of today are looking to buy from brands that resonate with their personal values and beliefs. Given that we are moving into the era of radical transparency, customers want authenticity from their brands. And brands can only remain so if their actions come from their sense of purpose.

The price wars were yesterday’s battleground. Today it is all about purpose.

Myth 3 – Purpose is exclusive to B2C brands

How many of you think that purpose is exclusive to B2C brands? If you are a B2B brand and think that purpose does not matter, maybe it’s time to look at purpose from another angle.

The fact is, Purpose is extremely important to your customers. But it is vital to your employees. With the rising numbers of millennials joining the workforce, it is the purpose-driven companies that will survive. You see, your employees are your internal customers. And to create differentiated value for them, to keep them attracted and loyal to you, you have to be purpose-driven. Don’t take our word for it. Here is the data:

Along with this, purpose also matters for B2B brands because unless you have a strong sense of purpose, how will you create a differentiated experience for your customer? How will you transform your sales conversations? Won’t it be easy then to get trapped in entropy and chaos? Won’t all your initiatives be originating from aping what your competition is doing?

Chances are, as a B2B brand you do have a ‘purpose’. You perhaps need to articulate it clearly and ensure that all your organizational initiatives stem from it. Organizations like IBM, GE, Caterpillar, etc. have recognized this. Perhaps not coincidentally, they have withstood the test of time and have continued on their success trajectory.

Want to see a great example of how B2B companies use purpose to elevate their brand status? Check out this campaign by Caterpillar.

Myth 4 – Purpose and profitability are mutually exclusive

Do you think purpose and profit are mutually exclusive? That if you are driven by purpose then you cannot rake in the sales?

In reality, nothing could be further away from the truth. Purpose-driven companies are seen as organizations that stand for something bigger than what they typically sell. It is because of this that they achieve higher levels of commercial success since by doing so, they begin to mean a great deal more to their customers.

Unilever is a great example of a brand that leverages purpose as a core driver of growth. Driven by the purpose of Making Sustainable Living Commonplace’ to drive their business strategies. By doing so they have achieved a trusted status with their consumers and have created a community of loyal, engaged and valuable stakeholders. Growth has been a logical consequence of their focus.

Myth 5 – Customer beliefs influence brand purpose

It is clear that purpose can swing the pendulum in your favor. By being true to your purpose, you can create a strong community of loyal customers. But to design brand purpose on the basis of customer beliefs is a recipe for disaster.

It is true that by staying strong to your core purpose you could even be alienating a certain target audience. For example, when Nike released their advert featuring NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, they won many pats on their back. But they did, at the same time, see people burning Nike products as well. Many social media posts carried the hashtag #JustBurnIt, a play on Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan. But did this uproar impact Nike adversely? The answer is a resounding ‘NO”. They stayed the course because this was an authentic representation of what they truly believed in.

You cannot always do what makes others happy. This is as true of branding as it is of personal life. Brands thus need to look inwards, identify their own positive valance and define their purpose – their reason to exist. It is only then that they remain authentic and attract the right set of customers towards them. And it is these customers who remain loyal to the end and continue to contribute to the brand’s bottom line positively. That’s what Purpose is. And what it’s not!


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