Written by Brynley Walbrook
No-one cares about your brand. No-one cares about your product beyond using it. And no-one cares about you. Let’s get that straight. The only way to make them care is to make it more than just a thing they buy and use. I’m told time and time again that a brand’s purpose is just to sell products. I’m not convinced. No CEO or founder worth their salt would ever position this as their modus operandi. To sell is never enough to stay relevant. If your sole reason for existing is to sell, you will fail. To sell alone lacks dynamism, forward-thinking and serves a purpose that no serious leader would ever have as the heart of their business.
All good leaders realise there is a deeper resonance beyond selling. Beyond selling is reacting. Reacting to an unmet need or want that culminates in the creation of a product worth selling. That is a true purpose, which can make a brand stay relevant and exist forever. Still not convinced? How about the note earlier this year from the world’s biggest investor, Larry Fink (CEO, BlackRock):
“Profits are in no way inconsistent with purpose… Purpose is not the sole pursuit of profits but the animating force for achieving them.”
For some reason, we’ve forgotten this lately. Even the drabbest among the marketing community and beyond have observed the demand for more. The demand for brand purpose. The demand for products and services to reflect consumer identity at least and enhance it at best. This identity is now underpinned by a desire for sustainable products and ethical messaging (hand in hand with quality), thanks to the visceral daily reminders that climate Armageddon is imminent.
But there’s beauty in this desperate madness. In fact, there’s never been a better time to be involved in brand building. We get to show the world a better way of doing business for the betterment of people, planet and profit. It pays to be good and being good helps you GROW. The rise of the conscious consumer means spending power has never been more political. Given the moral option of a good purchase vs an evil or unemotional purchase, even the most sadistic among us would struggle to invest in the gammon-led businesses of yesteryear.
Purpose is here and it’s here to stay. I understand Mr. Ritson and others may have something to say about this and I look forward to manning the barricades in its defence.
But this is different. I’m not talking about Kendall Jenner fronting a campaign. I’m not talking about great creative deflated by internal malpractice. I’m not even talking about great campaigning. I’m talking about the desperate necessity for injecting the energy and heart back into brands (inside and out). Filling the void between people and product with romance and honesty, together. It’s only a matter of time before the scales tip in our favour. And they will.
I heard a quote recently by the Canadian (of course) literary critic Northrop Frye, which captures what I’m trying to communicate in a much better way than I ever could. It goes as follows;
‘The world we desire is more real than the world we passively accept.’
Purpose positively means well and the desire for such a narrative is undoubtedly here, but in its current form it needs work… and so, that’s what we’ve been doing. At MullenLowe salt, we’ve been working out what a truly unbreakable purpose looks like and why it matters more than ever. If that matters to you, look out for our next post separating the good from the gutter in all things purpose.