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Brand Purpose: Why brands must have a purpose beyond shareholder return

7th August 2017


Greater consumer appreciation of the impact of corporate behaviour has meant that increasingly brands are required to have a purpose beyond merely shareholders' returns, profits and customer satisfaction. At a recent event, jointly hosted by PRmoment and the good guys from Text 100 we discussed how brands can develop or change their purpose and the impact this has on their communications.

One of the firms that has led the way in this is Patagonia. This video (from 2014) gives a nice background on why and how Patagonia developed a brand synonymous with a cleaner, more ethical and environmental purpose. Two of Patagonia's senior executives, Vincent Stanley and Jill Duma, discuss the impact this had on the supply chain, the customer and their employees.

Patagonia has successfully built a brand synonymous with a lifestyle that many people aspire to: a more active, healthier, and greener one. More recent reputational crisis from the likes of United Airlines and Pepsi have highlighted the need for brands to have a purpose that is reflected in their behaviour and their communications.

Text 100’s Head of Corporate, Lexis Agency Toby Conlon outlined the advantages to companies of ensuring that they have a definitive purpose:

The advantage to companies of a recognised brand purpose:

Surprise surprise the most effective examples of a successful brand purpose are where the purpose follows as a natural extension of the company. “Stick on” brand purpose rarely works! Text 100's Conlon suggested the methods of realising an appropriate brand purpose for your organisation:

At the event we heard from Tania Littlehales, Head of Product PR at Marks and Spencer on how the change of CEO impacted the communications of M&S brand purpose. There was a change from prioritising blanket coverage to on message coverage. Clearly, as Tania pointed out it’s important to align your customer profile to your message and balance the likely sales impact to long term brand prosperity.

For example, Tania reckoned M&S will never sell hot pants again, in recognition of the M&S hotpants story a number of years back that received blanket coverage.

Interestingly Graham Biggs, Corporate Communications Director BMW UK, outlined how it is preparing for an age of automated driving by shifting the brand purpose of BMW towards repositioning BMW as a technology company and as provider of mobility. Biggs outlined BMW's stratgey of preparing for driverless electric cars for future generations and the impact this will have on BMW's brand values and brand purpose. 

David Williams, media relations director at Ladbrokes discussed the realities of the merger of Ladbrokes and Coral on the brand proposition of each. Whenever there is a merger, a central question for the new business is to decide whether to dual brand or to create a single brand proposition. Williams believed this decision required marketers to understand what your brand means to your target audience. If the brand proposition’s customer bases are similar, then a joint brand may work, but if they are targeting different sections of the market, it may make sense to retain a dual brand approach.

This event was produced in partnership with

Written by Ben Smith+, Founder, PRmoment.com



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