As brand purpose enters the mainstream, the 2018 ANA Masters of Marketing witnessed its influence on brands as diverse as Ancestry, Clorox, and FedEx. MediaLink’s Jason Schulweis was there to hear them.

“Brand advertising has to connect to its purpose…consumers expect brands to have a higher purpose.” – Rajesh Subramaniam, EVP and CMO, FedEx Corporation.

 “We have to know what our brands stand for beyond making money. If we don’t know what we stand for, why would a consumer stand by us?” – Eric Reynolds, CMO at The Clorox Company.

It is no longer enough for a brand to create great products – brands have to stand for something and make clear what that North Star is. Nearly every session, speaker and presentation clearly and succinctly expressed the respective brand’s purpose.

Did you know that every one of the 425,000 FedEx employees must be able to recite the “Purple Promise” of “I will make every FedEx experience outstanding?” Many leaders at FedEx, CMO Raj Subramaniam stated, have spent time on the front lines living and breathing the brand’s purpose. In his session titled “Great Brands Don’t Happen by Accident,” he not only talked about the ways in which his company is showcasing how the FedEx network is being used to improve peoples’ lives, but challenged the audience to “think deep and introspectively about how your brand purpose manifests itself externally.”

In another session, “The Next Evolution of Brand Purpose; Inspiring Movements,” Vineet Mehra, EVP and Global CMO of Ancestry, began to connect the dots on how purpose leads to real business outcomes, laying out how Ancestry’s purpose became operationalized into a movement that became a category of its own. Mehra described that this process is dependent on consumers breathing life and their own voice into your brand purpose…and it is up to the brand to enable this “movement” by empowering the consumer journey and continually inviting participation.

Many brands, like Wells Fargo, have fundamentally changed their marketing strategies as they focus on more inclusive business practices to create advertising that is diverse and speaks to all of its consumers. Sahagún believes that the industry is at a critical inflection point to “break the inertia” where multicultural marketing decisions must be made as early as possible, at the business strategy stage of planning.

Many brands are also adopting the belief that you can do well by doing good. Just ask Amanda Brinkman, Chief Brand and Communications Officer of Deluxe Corporation, who decided that instead of spending a ton of money on a rebranding campaign for her company, she sprung into action. Deluxe launched the Small Business Revolution – Main Street show, directly working with and showcasing small businesses, giving them much needed makeovers (and working with companies like Hulu to produce and distribute the captured content). Now the industry sees Deluxe as a company that understands small business, because Brinkman and team showed it instead of just saying it.

Implications for marketers:

You have to be more than your products, and you have to stand for something bigger. Marketers have to take this to heart and lead – internally and externally. To live and breathe brand purpose, you need to consider if your marketing department is set -up to enable this. It might mean modernizing your digital capabilities and collaboration models; aligning your organizational structure to liberate content strategies, or even reimagining internal culture all together.

Brand transformation will be key, but so will consistent messaging. Focus on making sure you have a clear and powerful brand purpose statement. Next, take a long look at it and ask yourself if it is truly your “North Star” and reflected in everything you and your employees do or make. Lastly, make sure i t’s actually resonating in market. After all, consumers today are acutely aware of brand beliefs and will reward you if you’re true to yours.

For more on what leading CMOs shared at ANA Masters of Marketing 2018, read WARC's series of reports here