When Purpose Is Wrong
Aug 12

When Purpose Is Wrong

The latest buzzword in Branding is “purpose.” And just as with all buzzwords before it, the concept at the forefront of nearly every conversation in the industry rags is often as misunderstood as it is mobilized correctly. So it is not surprising that companies attempting to be purpose-based are inadvertently running themselves headlong into problems.

Purpose-based marketing is about defining the thing you believe in, the reason why you exist, and then aligning every component of company culture, customer experience and communications with that belief so that every single thing your company makes, says and does is aligned. Not under a tagline or design guidelines. But fundamentally. It’s what draws in customers — people who believe the same thing you do – and turns them into advocates, not just revenue.

It doesn’t have to be about saving the world or doing something for a specific cause like TOMS or Patagonia (although it certainly can be). And it’s definitely not about one day pulling a Gillette and, out of the blue, saying one beautiful thing, while being something else altogether. That’s what gets you into trouble. Especially now that consumers are actively seeking out such contradictions and broadcasting their disdain when they find it.

Recently, CEO of Unilever Alan Jope has called this out by saying, “Green-washing, purpose-washing, cause-washing, woke-washing. It’s beginning to infect our industry. It’s polluting purpose.”

The problem is that it becomes an issue of inauthenticity. CEO and founder of online form builder JotForm, Aytekin Tank, explains it like this, “I would argue that not all organizations can (or should) have a social purpose. Even without a cause at the core, companies can still stay competitive and operate in a way that makes both customers and employees feel proud to associate with the brand.”

Every company has a culture. And a product. At Trumpet, we believe most brands have a purpose. Drawing it out, articulating it and aligning culture, communications and customer experience with that core belief is not a decision absent effort. That’s why most brands don’t do it. Instead, they go for beautiful ads and hope consumers don’t discover they are curtains and not windows into what a company stands for.  

Being a Believable Brand® takes time, organizational buy-in and extreme commitment by the leadership team, not merely MarComm. But it is doable. We know, because we do it all the time for clients. If you ever want to talk about transforming companies from one with a tagline to one with purpose, send us a note. We’d love to talk to you about where to start.

Scott Couvillon

20+ years agency experience in NOLA and San Fran.

Believes most weak brands are simply stories waiting to be told.

Fishes, hunts, camps and raises 3 boys. Sometimes simultaneously.

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When Purpose Is Wrong