Brand Purpose is not just a trend. It should reflect the DNA and go even beyond.

Brand Purpose is not just a trend. It should reflect the DNA and go even beyond.

Brand purpose could be a strong mean to increase uniqueness and loyalty

It’s not enough to simply have a strong brand. The role and position of a brand has changed dramatically over the last few years. A recognizable brand name, beautiful packaging and high investment in advertising are a dime a dozen. In order for a brand to rise above its cohort, it must have an explicit, crystalline purpose. A brand’s purpose, and an emotionally riveting one at that, is the cornerstone of modern branding.

When markets are saturated, a standout brand purpose is paramount

ice cream like it used to be made

But let’s take it back about fifteen years, when a brand with unique positioning had a substantial advantage, gaining share, awareness and sales rather easily. Take GROM for example. This Italian ice-cream brand launched their innovative shop “gelateria GROM“ in 2002 with the famous slogan “il gelato di una volta“ (“ice cream like it used to be made”). They built their brand on this specific and strong positioning. Notice their brand message: “GROM is 100% natural. Our gelato and its raw ingredients do not contain flavourings, colours, preservatives or emulsifiers of any kind. We´ve never used them. We never will.” (Grom) That’s about as strong as a brand position gets. However, unlike fifteen years ago, this type of brand messaging is not nearly as effective today because it is not as unique anymore. Natural ingredients and artisanal production are now run of the mill—it’s a corner of the commercial food market that is quite saturated with competitors. Simply being “natural” no longer cuts it. Now consumers are interested in the specifics of production, in the brand’s unique story. Consumers want to be emotionally involved. They want authenticity. They want purpose. Consumers want to know that the brand they are choosing is doing something positive and important. GROM is now attempting to strengthen its competitiveness with brand purpose, but is unfortunately not quite there yet, even with their recent launch in the retail channel. It may have failed to give any purpose to the brand.

Unique positioning doesn’t last, but brand purpose does

This trend, of unique positioning losing its shine over time, is by no means an issue exclusive to the consumer food industry. Barbie is another brand whose unique positioning has lost its luster and efficacy. In recent years, Barbie as a brand has been publicly ridiculed for its less than realistic representations of female bodies. In response to this ridicule, and its subsequent financial repercussions, Barbie’s mother company Mattel tried to rebrand Barbie as a brand that had a deeper sense of purpose. Barbie’s relaunch “Imagine the Possibilities” is a valiant attempt to reposition an iconic brand to the public. Has this relaunch message convinced consumers to reconsider Barbie as a brand? It’s not yet clear. Perhaps it is too early to tell. Or perhaps Barbie’s legacy as a brand and concept is beyond salvaging. Or maybe the brand purpose is simply not strong and broad enough. Brand purpose is far beyond functional or emotional benefits. It is connected with social responsibility.

Ben & Jerry’s has brand purpose down pact

Ben & Jerry’s, on the other hand, is a fantastic example of a brand that has their purpose brilliantly locked down. They are able to deliver over time not only a strong position in terms of social responsibility, but they’ve continually gone one step further by adding a brand purpose. They take a clear position: they do their best
to improve society. During the US election, for example, they asserted on their packaging: “Democracy is in your hands”. This made the brand much stronger in the mind of the consumers. Their clear brand position and sense of purpose is what leads to stronger loyalty and consumers who are aware of Ben & Jerry’s values are 2.5 times more loyal (Sustainable Brands, 2014)

Stats show brand purpose is here to stay

According to a Sevendots study (Sevendots research Brand Purpose 2017), it is mostly important that Brand Purpose respects the brand DNA (90%) and that is linked to the company’s culture and heritage (75%)**. According to another study from Edelmann, more than half of consumers say that “doing good should be part of a brand’s DNA (Edelmann Earned Brand 2016)”. Having these strong statements in mind, it is questionable in my opinion if Barbie or even GROM will be able to define a strong purpose to meet the expectations of the consumer today. A company that is going to adapt to the changing times will find a brand purpose that aligns with their overall philosophy and values and makes the brand unique. The purpose needs to be part of the DNA of the brand while also adding a deeper sense of a positive purpose. When a brand does that, there’s no stopping them.

Sustainable Brands, 2014
Sevendots research Brand Purpose, 2017
Edelmann Earned Brand, 2016


Author: Regina Brix