According to research firm Accenture, "consumers in the United States are… assessing what a brand says, what it does and what it stands for. They support companies whose brand purpose aligns with their beliefs. And they reject those that don’t, with one in five walking away forever."
I realize this quote is not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison for every company, since it is mainly talking about consumer packaged goods, while other brands in other industries may be viewed in a different light.
However, I believe there are traits that should be inherent in ANY company in ANY industry, since consumers are indeed supporting companies whose brand purpose aligns with their beliefs — and rejecting those that don’t.
Walking the Walk
There are many examples of true purpose-driven brands, like Patagonia.
Last year the founder of the outdoor apparel and gear brand, Yvon Chouinard, donated $10 million the company saved via tax cuts to environmental groups.
The donation was added to Patagonia’s already existing "One Percent for the Planet" program: Since 1985, the company has pledged 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment.
Another example of a purpose-driven brand is Dove, whose advertising and marketing is themed to its company vision: “We believe beauty should be a source of confidence, and not anxiety. That’s why we are here to help women everywhere develop a positive relationship with the way they look, helping them raise their self-esteem and realize their full potential.”
The sports world is also rife with purpose-driven brands. For example, the Philadelphia Union soccer team has a charitable arm, The Union Foundation, that uses the power of soccer to build confidence and character in the youth of the greater Philadelphia area.
The team recently announced the implementation of boys’ and girls’ soccer teams at local high and middle schools. This is just one of many examples of the team giving back and being part of the local community.
I asked Tim McDermott, the Chief Business Officer for the Union, how much thought goes into making conscious decisions that are best for the brand — not just from a bottom-line, but a broader perspective
“We are, of course, conscious of our brand — but when it comes to the Union Foundation and community relations, the brand isn’t the determining factor,” he told me. “What matters is impact. And if we make the right impact in the community and with organizations that need us most, then the brand will benefit too: a kind of win-win, I suppose.”
Wrap It Up
In doing my due diligence for this particular post, I came across a great piece written in 2017 by Humphrey Couchman, "What’s the purpose of brand purpose? Everything you need to know." I highly recommend you read it, for it lays out the key tenets of being a purpose-driven brand.
However, I want to call out one specific line from the piece truly at the core of what separates a brand purporting to be purpose-driven from one that actually is.
In writing specifically about Dove, Couchman writes: “While the Dove brand purpose might not make the company more profitable directly, it does make them easier to relate to, which inspires greater company loyalty.”
Did you catch it? Did you pick up on the challenge so many brands face? “Brand purpose might not make the company more profitable directly.”
That's probably the single biggest hurdle to truly being purpose-driven: accepting that causes you champion or donations you make or will more than likely not yield a high ROI — at least initially.
But as Couchman astutely adds, these actions will inspire greater loyalty -- which in turn can only be positive for everyone.