Introduction

Brand purpose has, over time, evolved from being an egalitarian concept that brand custodians would play little attention to, to becoming one of the cornerstones of brand strategy. The pay-offs of integrating purpose into brand strategy have started becoming visible in recent years. However, the jury still appears to be out on what makes for effective, engaging, purpose-driven brands. As brands grapple with choosing what purpose to own and how to do so, it is becoming increasingly apparent that we need to look for ways to "activate" a brand's purpose and make a brand truly meaningful in people's lives. However, it is a tall order and the risks of going awry are high. Gillette's toxic masculinity campaign is the latest in a list of purpose-driven campaigns that are increasingly polarising, and not necessarily paying the intended dividends in profit or affinity.

Through much of our work on brands in the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries - Levant, North Africa, Turkey and South East Asia - we have been trying to understand how we can possibly develop a new model for brand purpose. The attempts have centered around leveraging learnings from studies across categories and if and/or how brands' purpose conversations are making a difference to consumers. For the most part, consumers continue to engage with brands that have created some form of emotional connection or the other, over and above clear product and value payoffs. At the same time, there are some brands across regions, which appear to be resonating very strongly. Why is it that some brands get it "right" while some others struggle with getting people to connect with their stated purpose?