The debate over brand purpose is one that often elicits groans and eye-rolls. At the heart of this debate lies the question: Does a brand genuinely need a purpose beyond profit and product offerings? This idea has become particularly pertinent in an era where authenticity and values alignment are increasingly valued by consumers.
Brand purpose delves into the raison d'être of a brand, aiming to forge deeper connections with its audience by embodying values and ideals that resonate on a personal level. Brands such as Nike, Apple, and BMW have exemplified how a strong, well-articulated purpose can significantly enhance emotional engagement, embedding themselves into the lifestyles and identities of their consumers. Nike embodies perseverance and athletic excellence, Apple innovation and creativity, and BMW the joy of driving, each aligning their offerings with aspirational values that echo in the hearts of their audience.
However, the relevance of brand purpose is not confined to lifestyle or luxury sectors. Supermarkets have a unique position in consumers' lives, being integral to daily routines and an essential part of our lives. The potential for supermarkets to forge meaningful connections with their customers lies in how they align their brand purpose with the values and needs of their communities. For instance, a supermarket brand that prioritises sustainability, ethical sourcing, and community engagement can resonate deeply with consumers who share these concerns.
Yet, the discourse around brand purpose has been complicated by the rise of "fake purposes" and practices such as greenwashing, where brands superficially adopt social or environmental stances without substantive action. This has led to increased scrutiny and scepticism among consumers, highlighting the paramount importance of authenticity in a brand's commitment to its purpose. The challenge for brands lies not only in integrating purpose into their marketing narratives but also in embedding it deeply within their business practices and culture.
It's important to distinguish between brand purpose and brand positioning: Many organisations can easily articulate the value they offer to customers, yet find it challenging to convey the underlying purpose that motivates their actions. To start, let's clarify what a value proposition is to better comprehend its relation to, and differentiation from, an organisation's core purpose.
What Is a Value Proposition?
- Defines the tangible benefits provided to consumers.
- Encompasses every interaction from, including, and following purchase.
- Describes what an organisation does and how it accomplishes it.
What Is Brand Purpose?
- Explains WHY an organisation exists and the ideals it embodies.
- Lays the groundwork for the value proposition, brand strategy, as well as company culture, behaviours, and fundamental values.
- Serves as a guide for future decision-making, comprehensible at every level.
A brand purpose delineates the reason for an organisation's existence and should permeate every aspect of the business. A robust purpose statement lays the foundation for every decision a company will make, thus it must be straightforward enough to be grasped by all employees and internal stakeholders, while also being comprehensive enough to steer the company's aspirations for the future.
The Impact of Digitisation and Services as a Product
The digital transformation and the shift towards offering services as a product represent significant developments that further complicate this landscape. This evolution challenges traditional business models by blurring the lines between products and services. Organisations are now tasked with not only providing a tangible product but also delivering value through digital platforms and services that accompany or even replace physical offerings. This shift demands a reevaluation of the value proposition to include digital services that enhance customer experiences, requiring companies to integrate technology and service design into the core of their business strategy. As a result, the brand purpose must now also reflect an organisation's commitment to innovation, customer-centricity, and adaptability in a digitally driven market. This added layer of complexity necessitates a more dynamic approach to defining and living a brand's purpose, ensuring it resonates in a digital-first world where services and customer expectations are continually evolving
Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer of Procter & Gamble, has critiqued the industry's drift towards prioritising purpose at the expense of growth, advocating for a balance where growth and purpose mutually reinforce each other. This perspective underscores the necessity for brands to leverage purpose as a strategic and financial engine, rather than an end in itself.
The brand purpose debate is multifaceted, touching upon issues of authenticity, consumer trust, and the broader role of brands in society. Whether through the emotional storytelling of Nike or the innovation of Apple. A genuine and effectively communicated brand purpose can distinguish a brand in the marketplace. It has the potential to elevate a brand from merely providing goods or services to becoming an integral part of consumers' lives and identities. However, this requires a genuine commitment to purpose, steering clear of the pitfalls of greenwashing and ensuring actions reflect stated values. In an era marked by discerning and values-driven consumers, the significance of an authentic brand purpose has never been more critical.