Profiting from purpose
I am sceptical about brand purpose. Most brands that profess to having a part to play in the world are overstretching or failing to practice what they preach. We can all recount examples of brands with vacuous statements that amount to nothing but warm words or jar against questionable corporate practices elsewhere.
There are few exceptions but one I would hold up is Ben & Jerry’s. The ice cream brand last week challenged the government on its response to the increase in migrants looking to reach UK shores. The response from ministers was ill-thought out and odd, varyingly accusing the Unilever brand of “virtue signalling” and questioning its right to charge a premium price.
The former is unfair, the latter bizarre. Ben & Jerry’s has a track record of activism on migrants over many years and has earned the right to have its say. The brand also has the right approach to purpose. It’s three-pronged mission statement covers innovation, profit and society. It’s not hiding from the fact it is trying to sell ice cream profitably but also, as an aside, it’s trying to highlight and help the causes its founders and executives believe in.
There’s no contradiction if it pays its taxes and doesn’t do anything at odds with its mission. Call me naïve but I don’t think the tweet was intended to drive sales but that might well prove to be the outcome.