CANNES: Diageo, the alcoholic drinks company, believes that purpose-driven marketing remains a powerful form of communications, despite some emerging criticisms of this strategy.

Syl Saller, Chief Marketing Officer at Diageo, discussed this subject during a keynote session at the 2017 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

And certain industry-watchers, she conceded, now argue brand purpose has gone too far – a view often heard in reaction to ads like a PepsiCo spot where model Kendall Jenner takes part in a protest, and hands a police officer a can of soda.

“We see a lot of press around fizzy drinks getting involved with protests, and people having meaningful conversations over a beer, or people talking about deep family issues at McDonald’s,” said Saller. (For more details, read WARC's exclusive report: Has purpose ‘peaked’? Diageo's formula for building brand purpose.)

Given the apparent saturation of brands following this path, Saller suggested to the Cannes Lions attendees, “It is easy to wonder: Have we reached peak purpose?”

What is required, the Diageo marketer asserted, is looking at this discipline with numerous core considerations – including clarity, credibility, context and consistency – at the forefront of strategic thinking.

And even with the best of intentions, Saller continued, the success ratio may only be 50/50. But persevering to find the right message can deliver significant payoffs.

“Why does purpose matter? We think it matters because brands can contribute more than their functional benefits to people. It matters because, in this era of transparency, everybody knows what we as brands or businesses say and do. It is obvious, it is clear, it is going to be tweeted out in two seconds or less,” she said.

“And, ultimately, it matters because starting from people’s needs – real needs – and a brand’s higher purpose leads to better creative work, which sells more.”

By achieving those goals, Saller proposed, purpose-driven marketing can ensure it retains a meaningful role in shaping the future of branding, business, and beyond. “Far from being overblown, purpose has yet to reach its potential,” she said.

Data sourced from WARC