The Purpose Of Branding Is Not Purpose. 


Purpose is a word brands and marketers are using to cudgel positive brand values. It has been co-opted by many companies to convey ideals like sustainability, education, anti-poverty, LGBTQ and an assortment of other worthwhile causes.

Purpose-driven initiatives are brilliant. IRL (in real life). I’m wary, however, of making them part of your brand strategy. Unless there is an endemic product feature or value that accrue, stay away.  

Brand strategy, in the What’s The Idea? framework, forges three product values under a single brand claim. Those values are culled from the most powerful customer care-abouts and brand good-ats.  These three values are the ones most likely to impact a sale. They must not be borrowed-interest values, which is often what “purpose” driven values are.

Say you are a kayak maker in the mountains of Colorado and you donate 1% of your profits to water conservation. Excellent.  But that doesn’t make you a conservation company. You are a kayak company.

Branding is your purpose. Your only purpose.  It’s what will allow you the largesse to donate.

PSFK a smart brand and marketing consultancy has an upcoming event called Retailing with Purpose. The event description says “Where we investigate ways to respond to the needs of the community – from sustainability to inclusion.” Off-piste my friends. Topical yes, but a side trail. Worthy of attention but tactical…not a branding play.

I have a presentation on social media with a slide “Care about what your customers care about.” I live by it.  But tie that care-about to something deeply embedded in your product features, functions and experience. Don’t piggy back. Not in branding.