NEW YORK: General Mills, the owner of American household favourites like Betty Crocker, Pillsbury and Cheerios, is embracing purpose-driven branding as it seeks to better serve consumers.

Mark Addicks, svp/cmo at General Mills, discussed this theme while speaking at the Advertising Age Digital Conference 2014.

"About a year ago, we sat down with all our brand teams and we pushed this idea of purpose," he said. (For more, including how Betty Crocker and Wheaties have pursued this idea, read Warc's exclusive report: General Mills and the benefits of brand "purpose".)

"We asked our teams to say: what is the belief that your brand shares and cares about passionately, and then what does the brand exist to do."

Many other companies - such as Unilever and Procter & Gamble - have adopted this strategy, and Addicks argued it is not a revolution as much as a reformulation of long-standing principles.

"This is basic brand fundamentals, but it's put in a new format – and a very meaningful one," he said.

General Mills worked with Joey Reiman, an adjunct professor at Emory University's Goizueta Business School and an expert author on the idea of brand purpose, in refining its approach.

Among the core questions its marketing teams sought to answer, and thus generate ideas for growth, were "What does the brand stand for?" and "Who does it seek to serve?"

Recent research conducted by EffectiveBrands and the ANA has outlined the positive impacts of purpose-driven marketing.

And, according to Addicks, even if this exercise is completed in a rudimentary way, it still has beneficial consequences. "A good brand purpose will improve marketing," he asserted.

Fully embracing this programme, however, promises to "transform" both the underpinnings and execution of campaigns – which is especially helpful in today's dynamic media ecosystem.

"I think there's a lot of fear – and I have it – of, 'Should we be first mover?', 'Have we tried this?' 'Have we tried that?'," said Addicks. But "without that purpose, without that anchor, I think your brands can be fundamentally lost," he concluded

Data sourced from Warc