‘Purpose’ has been moving up the agenda for many a marketing department over the past few years as companies look to ‘do well by doing good’. But this year saw the beginnings of a backlash. Not around doing good necessarily, but around the misappropriation of the term ‘purpose’ when in actual fact it often comes down to positioning.
So, 2018 should be the year brands move away from doing purpose for purpose’s sake (particularly when it is simply a clumsy bolt-on) and instead focus on brand differentiation through better defined positioning.
Savvy brands are beginning to realise that purpose doesn’t have to be lofty or about pushing through a big societal change. A brand’s purpose should be rooted in the brand itself and what it stands for and what makes it different from competitors. And that, essentially, is positioning.
“Everyone is using purpose in a different way and not defining it. And a lot of people are defining it as just things that are worthy and good for society,” Diageo CMO Syl Saller told Marketing Week earlier this year. “Our definition is really simple; it’s why a brand exists.”
Baileys is a prime example. Through lines such as ‘Make Women Shine’ and ‘Be a Woman for Life, Not for Applause’ the brand wanted to empower women, but it was not a message female consumers resonated with or one they associated with Baileys.
“We really believe in empowering women but people didn’t want Baileys to help them shine,” added Saller. The brand’s insight suggested women actually wanted Baileys to be about enjoyment, so its purpose now is helping consumers in ‘The Pursuit of Pleasure’.
Elsewhere, Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson lambasted Heineken for its (generally well-received) ‘Open Your World’ campaign, which brings together people with differing views on feminism, climate change and transgender rights over a beer. Although he agrees with the issues raised in the ad, he argues that the idea is not wedded to Heineken, so any other brand could pull off the same campaign with equal legitimacy.
In order for purpose to work there must be a clear line between a brand, its reason for being and how that is communicated to consumers, which is a realisation that will dawn on more marketers in the coming months.