The Purpose Pivot: Brands Beyond Profit

Alex Pasini

Alex Pasini

Ana Salles

Ana Salles

Ahmet Akın

Ahmet Akın

5 mins

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We have entered an era that focuses on purpose.

Through the influence of globalization and the current trend towards social awareness, consumers and companies are continuously drawn to question our personal and collective impacts.

Within the last 10 years, the drive towards purposeful branding has become an obvious and inevitable trend. Increasingly, brands are scrutinized for the deeper “why” behind them, while consumers crave meaning, depth, and impact in their purchasing power. The days for empty consumption and empty profit are seemingly replaced by conscientiousness—consumers are calling for credibility, tangible impact, and actionable purpose within the brands that they support.

In the 7th edition of our Creative Sparks series, we explored the struggles and opportunities that come alongside purposeful branding. We asked if all brands should be purposeful, and if so, how might a brand become purposeful. Joined by Neol Creative Leaders Alex, Ahmet, and Ana, as well as guest speaker Louis-Philippe Trépanier (LP), we discussed the different forms of purpose, our need for credibility and authenticity, and how large our purpose ought to be.

Our host, Alex Pasini, is a creatively-driven senior strategy executive, who excels in leading multicultural, multidisciplinary teams in collaborative business spaces. Creative Leader Ana Salles is a multifaceted creative who pushes for change through her passion for storytelling and creativity. Ahmet Akın thrives on co-creation and systems thinking, and seeks to work with teams to create sustainable change in businesses, communities, and countries. 

Our guest speaker is Louis-Philippe Trépanier (LP) is an innovative branding strategist and creative leader with award-winning achievements in purpose-driven branding.

What are Purposeful Brands?

A purposeful brand is one that has a central mission that fuels its productivity, rather than merely a desire for profit. The goal of a purpose-driven brand is to fulfill its mission, generally a problem-solving mission that will incite positive change in the world or the brand’s industry. 

Purpose driven branding helps differentiate your brand from others by building an authentic and credible identity. With effective storytelling, purposeful branding incites customer loyalty and adds long-term value to the brand. But not every purpose is created equal.

In our gathering, our guest speaker LP shared three levels of purposeful branding:

 

  1. Purpose Natives: Born from a strong founder vision, this brand’s DNA is infused with purpose from the first developments of the company and were created with an intentional mission in mind. It began from a passionate spark and was formed around that purpose.
  1. Purpose Converts: Big corporations who want to be better corporate citizens. They invest in long term purpose driven initiatives that gradually shift their branding from profit and product, to passion and purpose. They choose to consistently communicate their new mission and find creative ways to build credibility.
  1. Purpose Opportunists: These are brands that try to take advantage of the “purpose” trend, latching onto social issues and trying to infuse false missions in order to gain a following and make a profit. These brands don’t necessarily have a logical connection to their new “mission” and undermine their own credibility and authenticity.

Looking at these types of purposeful brands, our creative leaders began to explore the question: 

Can (and should) every brand be purposeful?

Our speakers unanimously disagreed, but with nuances. We discussed the possibility that brands can be purposeful without having to be a “purpose-driven” brand. Ahmet commented that “maybe we shouldn't see [purposefulness] as a certification…maybe we just need to have purposeful acts.” “Something as simple as…doing good and doing well.” Alex shared.

Companies “shouldn’t need to be [purpose-driven],” LP added, but rather, “brands should focus on doing their jobs well and bringing value to the consumer and then think about solving larger societal issues.” 

The challenge with building a purposeful brand is credibility and authenticity. Often in the effort to use purpose branding as a tool for success, companies claim to care, but leave people questioning whether it is merely a marketing strategy or if it is authentic passion. Instead of trying to infuse meaning as a marketing tool, “brands should focus on what they are actually doing.” Ana agreed.

https://www.nike.com/sustainability

Ahmet references a campaign by Nike as a good example of purposeful branding. Rather than a grandiose claim to be saving the world or a false push towards perfection, Nike remains realistic and authentic: “a journey towards zero carbon and zero waste to help protect the future of sport.”

The successful trait of this campaign is its niche realism. Nike is taking active steps towards changes that are specifically connected to their market (sports industry), all while maintaining the transparency that it is a journey, rather than a perfect application.

Purpose does not just come from solving broad societal challenges, but can also come from knowing your niche.

“What a brand can do is it can help to protect the future of something,” Ahmet shared. Being purposeful does not necessarily require a groundbreaking purpose-infused DNA that changes the entire world, but rather a mission that centers on unique purposeful acts. 

What traits do purpose-driven brands that are credible have?

Act transparently: They own up to their actions–both bad and good–and communicate about them openly. 

Are open about their imperfections: They don’t pretend or claim to be perfect, instead they show that they are trying.

Have authenticity: They are actively doing what they say they will and openly talking about it.

Are consistent: They don’t repeatedly change missions drastically, but instead demonstrate commitment towards a specific and well-defined goal.

Claim a niche that aligns with their company: They stay realistic about how much impact they can make and stick to topics that fit their company’s trajectory.

Prioritize purposeful actions: Each facet of their brand (communications, production, design, etc.) is directed towards their niche mission actively. As LP shared, “purpose-driven companies don’t just communicate, [they] act.”

Through our Creative Sparks gathering The Purpose Pivot, we had the chance to dig into effective branding that is authentic, inspired, and mission-minded. We talked about maintaining credibility, authenticity, and passion while taking purposeful action towards good.

A huge thank you to our creative leaders Alex, Ana, Ahmet, and guest speaker Louis-Philippe Trépanier. With their inspiration and proven expertise we were challenged to look analytically and efficiently at the value of purpose-driven branding and what traits a successful brand might have. If you want to learn more from creative leaders and share your own skills within an inspired community, join Neol today!

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