Brand Purpose With a Purpose


If challenge really means opportunity, then there has never been such an exciting time for brands.

As a result of cultural and societal changes combined with technology and the power of social media, brands and brand owners are under the spotlight like never before.

Power has increasingly consolidated in the hands of consumers; expectations of what they want from their brands has changed and they have the means to both express their beliefs on a mass scale and to come together around the issues and causes that they feel passionately about.

Over the past few years research has charted the change in consumers’ attitudes towards brands and how they should behave. They expect and demand that brands behave ethically, responsibly, sustainably and be transparent – and there is nowhere to hide for the brands that don’t. They want to associate with brands that reflect their own beliefs and values. Recent research from Accenture showed that 62% of respondents would be attracted to a brand that has ‘ethical values and demonstrated authenticity in everything it does’; 52% to a brand that ‘stands for something bigger than just the products and services it sells, which aligns with my personal values’. At the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity last week Alan Jope, Unilever’s CEO, pointed to similar research findings from Edelman’s Earned Brand 2018 report and Kantar’s Purpose-Led Growth Study.

The new reality is that whilst price, quality and brand experience are all important, brand owners now have to look at their business through a societal lens and consider their impact on peoples’ lives and the world they live in beyond product delivery.

Which brings us to ‘brand purpose’, the contentious buzz phrase of the moment. Businesses and their brands have been rapidly aligning behind purpose-led positioning both in response to changing consumer attitudes and behaviours and as a way of establishing competitive advantage and differentiation. However, as Alan Jope also suggested, many brands are seemingly jumping on the purpose bandwagon and failing to establish a clear, relevant, credible link between what the brand does and what it says. One can see his point; who thought that Starbucks was there to ‘inspire the human spirit’.

Purpose is essentially positioning; it defines what the brand stands for and the positive impact it wants to have and, to be credible and relevant, has to be linked to what the product does. Forging that link between the product and the brand has always been central to Echo’s way of thinking. We talk about ‘taut’ brands, where brand and product unite as one to create brands that have the potency to establish long term consumer connections and deliver the optimum user experience. For us ‘brand purpose’ should be a tight summary of a brand’s origins and underlying story, the present and where it is going in the future.

 There is an increasing body of evidence that suggests that when brand purpose is aligned in this way it has the power to drive growth and profitability. Kantar Millward Brown BrandZ has shown that brands perceived to have a high positive impact on peoples’ lives have grown brand value 2.5 times more than brands with low perceived impact. Unilever’s Sustainable Living Brands are growing 50% faster than its other brands and delivering more than 60% of the company’s growth.

So, from our perspective this all points to huge opportunities for brands going forward. Opportunities for marketing, R&D, innovation, supply chain and design to not only respond to the changing consumer landscape, but to actively engage in promoting and supporting behaviour change. It's a fact of life that most of us are hardwired to the short term; as consumers we don’t always ‘walk the talk’.

However, at Echo we believe that innovation and design can help people to live up to their beliefs on issues such as wellness and sustainability. There is a symbiotic relationship in play here. Consumers are demanding more from brands and brand owners. They in return can help consumers fulfil their desire to live responsibly which in turn will strengthen the relationship that the consumer has with the brand, driving advocacy and affinity.

 Exciting times indeed!