What’s the purpose of branding

In recent years the media has become overwhelmed (or is that underwhelmed) with purpose led campaigns.

In recent years the media has become overwhelmed (or is that underwhelmed) with purpose led campaigns. Brand Purpose is on trend; however, it sometimes seems that for some brands the real strategy has been to repurpose purpose simply for commercial gain – by focusing on being worthy and losing sight of their true values.

In simplistic terms, purpose means ‘the reason for which something exists’ and most businesses and brands are not set up solely as worthy causes, unless you are Oxfam, or similar cause led operations.

For example, Unilever with its portfolio of FMCG brands decided it was going to make sustainability its overriding purpose and made it a pivotal part of its consumer campaigns. Until an investor recently pointed out that ‘a company that has to define the purpose of Hellmann’s mayonnaise has clearly lost the plot’ He went on to say ‘The Hellmann’s brand has existed since 1913 so we would guess that by now consumers have figured out its purpose (spoiler alert – salads and sandwiches).’ Nothing like a money man to bring us back to earth.

In the case of beer, it’s been the passion of a significant part of the population for centuries and for the majority of brewers that has been translated into a vision to brew great beer that appeals to drinkers who appreciate their dedication and like their style (of beers). Success tends to be measured in hectolitres and commercial realities, however, that doesn’t preclude them from contributing to our wider society and wanting to help change the world for the better. It simply means being honest and realistic and not losing sight of the consumers who enjoy great beer and are engaged by your brand image. Although it could be argued that brewers such as Big Drop do go more on purpose, with less…

Whilst Coca Cola (the world’s biggest selling beverage) is something of an exception and there is an interesting tale that illustrates this. In the mid-80’s the brand was coming under pressure from Pepsi who was vying to steal its market leader crown. Pepsi was running blind taste tests against Coke across the USA and was coming out on top. So, in 1985 and after extensive research Coke decided to change its recipe – the recipe went back to 1886 when it was created by Dr John Pemberton and the clue to some of the original ‘secret’ ingredients is in the name ‘coke’ and ‘cola’… The New (reformulated) Coca Cola was launched with a massive marketing campaign. However, consumers across the States vehemently rejected New Coke, because to them the brand was more than simply a sugar cola, it was quintessentially American and had won the hearts and minds of the consumer. For the majority of Americans, even if the old Coke did not taste as good as the new formulation, the company was not to mess with their brand and the national pride it represented.

Sometimes you are more than what you think you are as a brand, even if you didn’t do it on purpose…