The Purpose of Purpose

toms-shoes-one-for-oneOh, little precious darlings.

You’ve been doing purpose wrong all this time, haven’t you?

All because studies have shown brands with a purpose out-perform those without?

(Richard Shotton takes that down here.)

Is it because people – especially millennials, those special unpeople people – like brands ‘with a purpose’, especially a ‘saving the world’ style purpose?

(The same millennials that wear sweatshop Nike, and unethical Primark, and fly polluting Easyjet all over the world.)

People (millennials? Are millennials even people? Debate for next post) don’t like brands because they have ‘a purpose.’

As if any ‘purpose’ would do.


Yes, Tom’s shoes are helping clad the feet of poor children globally – and many customers buy it simply because of that wonderful story.

But they’re the exception, not the rule.


People just like that you’re talking about something more interesting than your own product the whole time.

There’s a reason there’s sections of the newspaper devoted to world news, and science, and food, and health, and arts.

And not a section called ‘Information About Products.’

(Unless you count the Classifieds? And maybe Dating. They have their place.)


Ben & Jerrys talked about climate change and social justice, through ‘Peace, Love & Ice Cream. (And their founders still get arrested at protests.)

This got them the fame, awareness and press coverage to sell great ice cream all over the world.


Unilever has thrown its weight behind a belief in purpose-driven brands – and it’s right to do so.

Because I’d rather be shocked that children play outside for less time than prisoners (than see another washing machine ad.)

Because I’d rather feel good that poor children are being saved from disease through hand-washing (than see animated germs on a soap bottle.)

Because I’d rather see women campaign to feel good about their bodies (than a lady moisturising her legs.)

Because it’s simply more interesting.


That’s why the Pepsi ad was shit – because it was still about Pepsi, and about Kendall Jenner, not actually about police brutality, or the protest movement.

(Their protest signs said “Join the conversation”, for chrissake. The last protest I was at had “Trump is a cunt” and “This pussy grabs back”.)
Pepsi was a purpose-themed advert – not a purpose-led advert.


It’s not having ‘a purpose’ that’s good for a brand.

It’s making your purpose what you start with, what you talk about, and what you do.

And it’s the fact that your purpose is rooted in culture, not in your product.


Start with what’s interesting (in culture).

Then link back to what’s right (for your brand).


That’s what Purpose does for you – gives you something better to talk about than your product.

(And that’s also where it can go wrong, by coming completely unmoored from what you’re selling.)


But as a general rule,


And half your battle (for attention) is already won.

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