Defining Brand Purpose

Ross Haxton

By Ross Haxton, Creative & Brand Services Director

Posted on

I was delighted to share the platform with Comms and Branding professionals from other purpose-driven brands on a webinar, hosted by Transform magazine. We were invited to discuss Brand Purpose in the 2020s.

A huge thanks to Naomi Jones, Communications Director at SUEZ, Rebecca Clear, Head of Media Relations at WWF International and Rose Liendl, Group Head of Brand at Drax Group.

During our whistlestop tour of the role and importance of Brand Purpose, we covered a lot of ground, from data and digital to the importance of employees and brand experience.

I’d like to share our Top Five tips on what makes for a successful Brand Purpose.

1. Authenticity

This claimed the number one spot with a strong consensus that authenticity is critical to strong brands. What you stand for must truly reflect your brand values, your mission and your brand vision.

Brands are no longer broadcasting, but rather engaging in two-way conversations with their stakeholders.

Finding your ‘why’ and putting this at the heart of your marketing strategy will help you to build emotional connection with your customers. Gone are the days of empty slogans and unsubstantiated, unrealistic brand promises.

With digital natives representing an increasing percentage of our target audiences, there is an increasing expectation. There is no escape from real two-way engagement, which often takes place in the public domain. Online forums, social media, our ‘always-on’ culture – all these factors create an inevitable transparency.

Brands must develop an authentic brand promise that accurately reflects what they stand for, or they risk being held publicly accountable.

The most powerful brand purpose will represent a long-term commitment rather than a short-term tactic: it will go beyond commercial aspirations to also create societal benefit.

The internet is littered with examples of companies who have been questioned and held to account because of their over stretched promises, only to have to very quickly apologise, stand down and change tack.

The moral of the story – keep it honest!

2. Employee Advocacy

Simon Barrow introduced us to the concept of the Employer Brand way back in 1990, but never has the alignment between internal and external audiences been more important.

There must be a strong match between your brand and your internal company culture. Your people are your brand. It is they who directly represent you with your customers, so your brand journey really starts with them.

Listen and engage with employees at every stage of your brand positioning and development work to create a truly authentic brand purpose.

Every employee is your brand ambassador, so invest in your internal culture and ensure that each and every employee has been inducted into your brand purpose goals.

Not only will this help your authenticity to shine through, but it will also help you to attract the right talent, to reduce churn, to keep everyone motivated and to make your business thrive.

Embed brand purpose into every aspect of your employee communications, use Workplace branding to convey your brand spirit and encourage specific behaviours through reward and appraisal systems.

3. Triple Bottom Line - People, Planet, Profit

There has been a significant shift in the way we talk about sustainability. It used to be all about mitigating risk, then came greenwashing. But as we’ve seen, transparency and authenticity will soon unveil this undesirable and questionable tactic. Better to be authentic.

Over 25 years ago, John Elkington coined the phrase, Triple Bottom Line (TBL), representing a sustainability framework that examines a company’s social, environment, and economic impact. Increasingly there is a sense that only a company that produces a TBL is taking account of the full cost of doing business.

As businesses in pursuit of commercial profit and cost efficiencies, it’s not always easy to adopt a sustainable approach. Consumers understand this conflict – so don’t pretend that you have all the answers.

Take your customers on your sustainability journey with you as you gradually put in place measures to reduce your environmental impact.

The pressure to change is coming from the bottom up, as much as from the top down. Increasingly brands are driving the environmental agenda more than governments, even individuals (think Greta Thunberg) can be more powerful or vocal than macro government policies.

Wherever you stand in terms of environmental progress, it is time to take a stand. Your customers are not looking for perfection, but steps in the right direction.

Sustainability has come of age, Covid has shown that the cost of ignoring it is greater than the cost of dealing with it.

4. Brand Experience

It is widely accepted that the Covid pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of businesses right across the world. The pace of change in the merger of online and offline is unprecedented.

This is all driven by customer centricity. Data allows us to understand precisely what our customers want; technology enables us to deliver it. With the advent of companies such as Uber, Amazon and Netflix, speed and responsiveness are the new norm.

Customers must sit at the heart of your brand purpose, allowing them to make that all-important emotional connection with you. Our growing passion for personalisation stands as testament to the importance of personal connection.

Make sure that your brand purpose is evident at every stage of your customer journey.

5. Data

Data is a significant driver in defining brand purpose – with so many statistics available, there is no longer any need to second guess what your customers want.

It’s not just about the hard statistics that we capture – our customers increasingly have a very public voice. Be it on forums or via social media, companies can use these qualitative insights to help them better understand what customers seek.

Artificial Intelligence, automation and robotics are helping businesses to improve awareness, engagement and loyalty.

Data should be at the heart of your brand strategy, helping you to define your purpose, your products and services and how you stay focussed on being relevant to your customers.

Why invest in your brand purpose?

According to Jim Stenghal Co. purpose-driven companies witness higher market share gains and grow on average three times faster than their competitors, all the while achieving higher employee and customer satisfaction.

Brand purpose is your biggest differentiator and brand drives choice. The question must surely be: can you afford to ignore it?

The most successful company is not the one with the most brains, but the most brains acting in concert.

Peter Drucker

Find out more

Your brand is one of  your most valuable assets. Clearly defining your brand purpose is key to driving business strategy internally and externally.

We’d be delighted to help with free advice to get you started.

Find out more about our work with clients such as Rive Gauche, Moscow Jewelry and DP World

Brand Purpose webinar slide packs



Naomi Jones

Communications Director, SUEZ







Rose Liendl

Group Head of Brand, Drax Group







Rebecca Clear

Head of Media Relations, WWF Intl







Ross Haxton

Brand Director, GLIMMA