Simply claiming to exist for a better world is not credible for a Profit-first Brand. The brand purpose of a Profit-first Brand must be about what it is exceptionally good at as a brand and can therefore earn money with. The brand purpose connects these core competencies with the needs of the market and society.
This is why Rabobank was criticised for launching its new brand purpose to contribute – as a social bank – to the solution of the food problem in the world. As a result of the ‘Growing a better world together’ campaign, Rabobank was accused of overdoing their brand purpose. Apparently, it was not sufficiently clear that Rabobank’s ambition derives from its uniquely strong position in the global food and agricultural sector and that it makes an important contribution to improving global food and agricultural production and processing.
Following Philips’ strategic business decision to shift its focus from irons and shavers, TVs and light bulbs to medical devices, has also resulted in a new brand purpose. Philips’ new brand purpose clearly shows what they are good at (or want to be good at) and therefore want to make money with and how they also contribute to society: ‘At Philips, we strive to make the world healthier and more sustainable through innovation. Our goal is to improve the lives of 3 billion people a year by 2030.’ The strength of this brand purpose is not only the goal, but also the way in which Philips aims to achieve this goal (making innovative medical equipment) as part of the brand purpose. This makes it specific and credible.
The same goes for the brand purpose of IKEA, which is almost as old as the brand itself. IKEA not only says they want to create a better life for as many people as possible, they also make it clear that they do so by offering a wide range of interior products with beautiful design, good functionality and quality at prices so low that the majority of people can afford them.
Briefly, with Profit-first brands the positioning and promise of the brand and preferably also the supporting evidence must be part of – or directly and clearly linked to – the brand purpose. Like ING’s new brand purpose: ‘Empowering people to stay a step ahead in life and in business by making banking frictionless to the world’.
This purpose derives directly from ING’s Think Forward business strategy. By doing so, ING is saying that it wants to give people a head start by offering them an excellent user experience that is smart, easy and personal so that they can do their banking with minimum effort and maximum simplicity. A type of ‘lead through innovative banking technology’. With this very concrete brand promise, ING seems to position itself as the ‘Audi’ among banks. The social contribution is somewhat less concrete, but not too ambitious.
Crucial: strong added value proposition & brand positioning
Brand purpose already plays a huge role in the development of business and brand strategy. An inspiring brand purpose is ‘the concept that drives the business’. However, we must realise that for Profit-first Brands, in addition to a social commitment, the brand promise and positioning of the brand is still crucial. Not every Profit-first Brand can – and does not have to – position itself on the basis of a social contribution.
After all, despite the fact that the purpose prophets may be running a little too fast, we are rapidly moving towards making a social contribution for brands to a greater or lesser extent a hygiene factor. It is therefore very likely that it will no longer be a determining factor. And if, in the end, all Profit-first Brands contribute more to a better world, it will be important that brands are still able to position themselves well based on a clear distinguishing value, an appealing emotion or, for example, the choice for a specific target group.
Purpose marketing is an operational marketing tactic that allows you to achieve a certain sales, communication or activation objective by making a positive contribution to the world. Therefore, this is not the same as having a brand purpose. A brand purpose is the guiding compass of a brand organisation. However, the fact that you have a brand purpose does not mean that you are also a purpose brand. Purpose brands are brands in which the social problem that the brand solves is central to the vision and core values, which are born out of a desire to make the world a better place.
As a result of the Corona crisis, social support for Profit-only Brands seems to be declining at an accelerated pace. More and more brands and brand organisations see that they can create economic and competitive advantages while at the same time improving the economic and social conditions of their environment, creating value for all stakeholders. Many brands are therefore moving in the direction of Profit-first Brands.