This post is by Marc Mathieu, Senior Vice-President Marketing at Unilever, and is part of the WFA's Project Reconnect.

Some brands have their purpose defined at birth, some have to discover it along the way. But increasingly all brands need a purpose to survive – and thrive – in today's highly competitive market.

When we launched Project Reconnect at the Global Marketer Conference in Sydney, the aim was to help identify best practices that are shaping the marketing of the future and reconnecting us with the people we are and the people we serve.

Today, the good companies – the ones that will survive and thrive through thick and thin – care about something, because the people we serve demand it. Without a true purpose, your brand is just a banner, just another part of the visual clutter.

If it wasn't born with one, brands must find their purpose along the way. On this journey, the good brands adopt many of the same qualities as good people. After all, in so many ways, brands are just like people. We treat them as friends, cohorts and allies.

You expect people – at least your friends – to be truthful with you. The same is true of brands. You expect your friends to be generous, and more than ever, brands need to be generous with their content and services, even their knowledge.

Brands also have to remember the importance of empathy, of caring about people's hopes and dreams, their fears and anxieties. They also need to be fun. No one wants a boring friend, and no one wants to buy a boring brand.

Brands too need to let others in. Just as we let our friends into the inner working of our lives, asking for advice and help, we can let people and partners keep us current and relevant. Together, with them, we can pioneer the future of marketing and create shared value strategies that benefit a world beyond the brand alone.

Fundamentally, the future of all our brands is people. If we, as brands, behave as we aspire to behave as people – truthful, generous, caring, fun, and supportive – we will be immeasurably stronger.

Project Reconnect is designed to translate this approach into detailed advice and best practice that goes beyond generalities and helps us apply friendly behaviour to the detail of our communications.

We want to hear your views. Tell us what you think @WFAReconnect

The above blog post is an adaptation of Marc Mathieu's blog for Marketing Week available here. Follow Marc on Twitter: @marcfmath

About Project Reconnect:

Launched in 2010 by the World Federation of Advertisers, Project Reconnect is an initiative that aims to develop a better understanding of what people want and expect from brands. We believe that the most successful brands in the future will be those that listen hardest to what people have to say and respond best to what people want.

We've already reached out to parents and adolescents, thought-leaders and policy-makers. Now we're engaging the marketing community to try and identify areas where marketer and the views and behaviours of the wide society may converge and diverge.

Most recently, we asked the brand marketing community what makes for great brand marketing, what the common traits of successful brand strategies are and what this all means for the marketer of the future.