Like most terms which inspire heated discussion, ‘brand purpose’ is a slippery thing to pin down. Is it something similar to the old ‘mission statement’? Is it a way for CEOs of huge corporations to assert their right to a say in world affairs? Is it a marketing tactic? A string of talked-about campaigns? A way of appeasing millennials? An essential component of 21st century brand strategy? Is it ‘virtue signalling’? Is it all of them at once?
Brand purpose may not be easily definable, but it doesn’t seem to be a fad either. In September, The Financial Times – not a newspaper much associated with ad-world flightiness – dropped its paywall for a day to announce that it is “Time For A Reset” for capitalism, and that “business must make a profit but should serve a purpose too”. The idea, however vague, isn’t going away.
But if the core purpose of purpose is a little obscured, there’s been more agreement on its tactical manifestation – a selection of campaigns where brands have made pledges, taken stands and tapped into big cultural divisions and topical causes.