Brands: The Purpose of ‘Purpose’

I read a great article recently (see below) in ‘The Drum‘, a great resource for stories in the world of Marketing, in which it is argued that the notion of ‘purpose’ is now essential to brand development.

I won’t lie, there’s a bit of buzzword-heavy guff in it – the type that often gives Marketing its ‘fluffy’, superficial stereotype. Nevertheless, there’s an important point to be made here. Here’s my (less guff-ridden) translation:

In the beginning, brands were all about ‘identity’ (like, who owns this *branded* cattle?). Basically, a measure to guard against theft became a means to discern quality and provenance, when goods were mostly commodities. Brands offered logical reasons not to buy the cheapest.

With the advent of consumerism, greater choice and, in time, the construct of ‘lifestyle’, brands had to move beyond mere identity and gain a ‘personality’, to win the affections of more discerning buyers. They began to appeal less to logical faculties and more to emotional states.

Inevitably, consumerism leads to over-consumption. Inevitably, ‘lifestyle’ and demographic segments become ever-more fragmented. Thus, a recognition of the excesses of brands and a market, now a greater sea of identities has led to differentiation by responsibility. Brands now need a ‘purpose’.

Of course, cynics may suggest that this is all bandwagon-jumping and not ‘social responsibility’ at all. You have a point – there’s a profit motive. But what’s interesting/important is the fact it’s happening at all – a reflection of society more than it is of brands’ ‘purpose’.

After all, when was bandwagon-jumping ever not an intrinsic part of advertising/marketing? Every good salesperson reflects/amplifies qualities they see in their customer, like a fairytale mirror. Marketing doesn’t drive change, it reflects it and, occasionally, accelerates it.

‘A prerequisite for brands to have purpose’: M&C Saatchi on passions and diversity


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