Yum! Brands CMO on why brand purpose is not marketing

Ken Muench, who oversees global marketing for KFC and Pizza Hut, says marketers shouldn’t use purpose as a way of defining their brand or marketing it.

Yum! Brands CMO Ken Muench has slammed marketers’ use of brand purpose as an advertising tool, calling the practice “bullshit”.

While he believes brands should take steps to improve aspects of how they run their business and their impact on society, this shouldn’t be the basis of their marketing, he says.

“[Brand purpose] truly is a bunch of crap, because it’s disingenuous. You’re saying, ‘My purpose is to make the world a better place’. No, your purpose is to make money,” he tells Marketing Week.

Muench, who oversees global marketing for KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, says there’s a lot of “mumbo jumbo” and “garbage” in the marketing sector that could prove detrimental to marketers.

“What I rally against is training marketers to use ‘purpose’ as a way of defining and marketing your brand. It often leads to very fake communication that belittles any real effort companies are trying to [achieve].”

I want to meet somebody that says, ‘I am emotionally connected to my toaster’.

Ken Muench, Yum! Brands

That’s not to say businesses shouldn’t look to improve practices internally. In the book R.E.D Marketing, co-written with former Yum! Brands CEO Greg Creed, Muench explores issues around brand purpose. He believes companies “should have an internal purpose”, but argues this isn’t something that should define the brand or be part of its marketing strategy.

Muench points to Yum! investing $100m to fight inequality across the company and communities as something the business has been doing internally but that it doesn’t necessarily shout about.

“The difference is that’s not marketing,” states Muench. “That’s just trying to do some good in the world, both for our employees and the communities we operate in.”

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People don’t love brands

Muench also takes issue with “brand love” marketing strategies used to build an emotional connection with consumers and strengthen brand equity.

“Do you do love the brand of your toaster? I’m betting you don’t, but yeah, you bought it. Do you love the brand of anything you own? No, you probably don’t. Maybe you feel a special pride in something. But 99% of the stuff you buy, you don’t feel any brand love for,” he says.

He describes brands’ desire to build an emotional connection with consumers as “garbage”. “I want to meet somebody that says, ‘I am emotionally connected to my toaster’.”

He says that while emotionally-driven commercials might make people cry, more often than not they will not remember what brand it is for the next day.

“So it didn’t do anything. Purpose, emotional connection, brand love – those things, we’ve seen them cause problems for marketers.”