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Why your purpose should have more purpose

Photo of Dan Marsh

Dan Marsh 15 October 2021


Brand purpose has been a part of the marketing lexicon for many years now. We have pleasingly reached a point where we can separate those organisations guilty of cynically applying it as a marketing ploy, from those who fundamentally adapt their organisational strategies and operations to deliver on meaningful commitments.


It's important also to distinguish the type of corporate purpose mandated by the Financial Reporting Council and brand purpose. The former is essential for maintaining standards of good corporate governance, and whereas this may overlap or inform the latter, brand purpose could be considered a much broader application. Essentially, translating how brands market or position themselves and the wider impact they aim to have, beyond the commercial.  


But it has long been a question of exactly how much impact brand purpose has on customers and other stakeholders. Do they even care what brands they buy from stand for? Does it influence their choices in the way we would like to believe? Does aligning with a brand's values affect who they choose to work with or work for?


This week, the IPA produced a landmark study shedding a little light in the dark, winding tunnel of purpose. Launched by marketing effectiveness guru, Peter Field, this research reveals a link between well-executed brand purpose campaigns and brand performance metrics. Some of the headlines of the research include:


  • 50% of strong purpose cases achieved large customer acquisition effects compared to 30% of non-purpose cases
  • 41% of strong purpose cases drove a very large market share compared to 26% of non-purpose cases
  • Strong purposes cases yielded very strong brand effects across metrics associated with brand appeal: trust, commitment and fame


In short, brand purpose can be more than just powerful words on a page. Of course, it still requires a genuine commitment from across your business to live up to, but if that exists then telling the story becomes much easier. 


The operative words in this should be re-emphasised – ‘strong purpose’, or when purpose communications are ‘executed well’, which has been pointed at in prominent quarters as a flaw in the research methodology. 


But such criticism seemingly misinterprets how the findings are presented. Rather than heralding purpose as a sure-fire way to attract customers and grow brands, it suggests we should not be so quick to dismiss brand purpose as a marketing gimmick aiming to paint commercial objectives as secondary to a business’ broader existential meaning. 


In other words - if you’re promoting your purpose, ensure it's well-defined, demonstrable and resonant in the first place. There are, inevitably, plenty of attempts that fall short of this and, in turn, the IPA study suggests such poorly executed purpose campaigns are, in fact, inferior to non-purpose counterparts.  


This news has been greeted with much rejoicing at RY towers. We’ve long been advocates of the potential power of a well-defined and thoroughly implemented purpose. This new research supplements that with evidence that communicating it can have a meaningful impact on your brand and communications… when well-executed, of course (which you have to argue is true of any communication, purpose-based or otherwise).


Through our expertise across brand, marketing campaigns, diversity and inclusion, employee engagement and sustainability, we have helped clients define the building blocks of their purpose and position it as a centrepiece of their business and brand strategy. There are too many examples of our work to list here, but some standouts include:


  • One of the world’s largest privately-owned cybersecurity companies, Kaspersky has set out to save the world by protecting what matters most to people. RY has developed several campaigns to help bring this purpose to life – from demonstrating to people just how valuable their data is in showing the vital importance of protecting their connection.
  • As a global leader in paper and packaging, Mondi plays a key role in all stages of the value chain. Its purpose to be ‘sustainable by design’ was critical to demonstrate amid growing interest from key audiences – so we developed award-winning integrated and sustainable development reports to show how Mondi is leading the way in best practice, and actively responding with what’s relevant to its stakeholders along the way.
  • A leading global healthcare company, GSK’s purpose is to help people Do More, Feel Better, and Live Longer. We’ve demonstrated how GSK is delivering upon this across hundreds of brand, employee communications and digital projects over the past 9 years, marrying the brand’s scientific expertise with its incredible impact on real people.
  • The International Labour Organization exists to advance social justice through better working lives for all people. We strengthened its brand foundations to create a bold and modern identity that reflected this, bringing to life its underlying principle of fostering three-sided dialogue to improve the world of work.


So, if this new research has convinced you that your purpose needs reinvigorating, or that you can be doing more to activate it in your communications, then get in touch with us for a chat. Or you could download a copy of our Fit For Purpose report from 2018.


We’re certain we can help give some real purpose to your brand purpose.