What is a purpose-led brand?

What is a purpose-led brand? Why having a strong brand purpose can grow brand trust and profit

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When you are looking to buy a service or a product from a business, are you basing your decision on price and/or the features and benefits? That would seem like some good reasons and completely logical, wouldn't it?

Today, however, many more people are making their buying decisions not just on pricing and features, but also where a brand stands on certain issues.

People are looking to support brands that align more closely with their own values, they are buying from purpose-led brands.

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Why does a brand need a purpose?

Purpose is the reason why a company or a brand exists. It is the underlying essence that makes a brand relevant and necessary to its customers. A brand with a strong purpose not only helps the overall good of society but also helps customers know what they stand for through purpose-driven brand actions.

A 2018 study by Accenture showed that 53% of consumers in the UK are buying from companies that reflect their values and beliefs. 55% of say that they are making their purchases based on a company’s ethical values and authenticity, while 37% said they completely stopped doing business with a company as a result of its actions.

Accenture Brand Study Statistics
Another interesting statistic from that research is that 64% of Gen Z and Millennials in the UK want companies to take a stand on social, cultural, environmental and political issues close to their hearts. Any brand sitting on the fence in these areas are likely to lose their custom.


Accenture Brand Study Statistic
I’m more than sure that now, in 2020, 2 years since that research was carried out, those numbers will be higher and will continue to grow into the future.

Unilever's Sustainable Living Brands

As a brand, you need to live and breathe your purpose. It is no good just paying lip service with a couple of nice videos and some words on a website. With today’s technology and information access, it has never been easier for consumers to find out if a brand is living and following its purpose, or if it is simply a glossy surface layer disguising a ‘purely for profit’ approach.

Unilever is a good example of this. They are a massive global corporation with over 1000 brands under their umbrella. Their reputation isn’t the best in a lot of areas, but they are starting to make changes.

In 2018, Unilever had 28 purpose-led brands, or what they call ‘sustainable living brands’, which is a very small number when you consider that as a percentage of the overall total of brands that they own.

Photo of some of Unilever's sustainable living brands

A selection of Unilever's Sustainable Living Brands

But here is the really interesting thing, in 2018, those 28 sustainable brands grew 69% faster than their other brands and delivered 75% of Unilever’s total overall growth for that year. 28 brands out of 1000 were responsible for 75% of total growth.

That’s amazing.

This clearly shows that consumers are aligning much more closely with sustainable living brands that take action on environmental and social issues, demonstrating their commitment to making a difference.

This clearly shows that consumers are aligning much more closely with sustainable living brands that take action on environmental and social issues, demonstrating their commitment to making a difference.

Unilever has also committed to ensuring that all of its plastic packaging is designed to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Showing that they are walking-the-walk and not just talking-the-talk.

Pixels Ink YouTube Channel Graphic

Purpose-led brand examples from Dove, Vaseline and Ben & Jerry's

Let's take a look at a few examples of Unilever's purpose-led, sustainable living brands and what they are doing through their brand purpose.

Dove Logo

Dove, probably the most well-known purpose-led brands have helped over 35 million young people with self-esteem education since 2005.

For more information check out the Dove Self-Esteem Project page.

Vaseline Logo

Vaseline, which has reached 4.7 million people across 61 countries on the frontline of poverty and disaster with skin healing programmes.

For more information check out the Vaseline Skin Healing Programme page.

Ben & Jerry's Logo

Ben & Jerry’s campaigns heavily for many social issues including racial justice and LGBT equality.

For more information check out the Ben & Jerry's values web page.

Do people spend more with purpose-led brands?

A consumer survey by Deloitte showed that nearly 80% of consumers would be willing to pay more for a product or service if it meant that the extra money was going to an environmental or socially responsible purpose or to pay higher wages to its employees. Of that 80%, 15% said they would pay over 25% more for a brand’s items.

Another benefit of leading with purpose is that you build a trusted status with not just your customers, but also your workforce and partners. This can be very beneficial if your brand decides to branch out into new products, services or industry sectors.

How to make your brand purpose-led?

  1. Define what your business or organisation stands for. Determine the larger role that you want your brand to play in your customer’s lives. Understand what moves the needle for your customers, what do they feel passionate about. Think about your employees and partners, what is it that makes them want to work with you, is there something special and different?

  2. You need to be authentic and clear. I mentioned before how easy it is for customers to find out information about a brand. If you are truly purpose-led, then every business decision will be driven by the principles of your purpose. Clever words and phrases are not enough, you need to take clear actions that people can see.

  3. Engage more meaningfully with your customers. Involve them in the brand. Listen to their feedback and input and let them help you to create new services and products. Building closer relationships with your customers can open up new paths and opportunities that you may not have seen before. As customers align much more closely to brands that they trust, they will want to see the brands be successful just as much as the brand owners and so will do more to help. Including as we have seen previously, pay a lot more for brand services in order to help brands achieve their purpose goals.

“Companies with a purpose last.
Brands with purpose grow.
People with purpose thrive.”

Leena Nair, CHRO-Unilever

Why customers want brands with purpose.

As you can see from the above, customers are looking for the money they spend with brands to be used for more than just driving profit. They want the brands they buy from to be doing some form of good with the money that they earn.

It is also clear that many more people are also looking for brands to take a stance on the things that mean a lot to them, such as social justice or environmental policies. This can be really daunting for many brand owners who do not want to alienate a percentage of potential customers.

The thing is, by not taking a stance, you are probably already losing customers judging by the results of the studies we looked at above.

Are you ready to make your brand a purpose-led brand? 

If this is something that you would like to do but are not sure where to start, book one of my Power Hour consultation calls and together we can look at ways of building your roadmap to a purpose-led future.


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