Purpose is meaningless - Rationale

Purpose is meaningless

How do you define, articulate and amplify an authentic brand purpose? We have collected five key takeaways from our recent virtual roundtable ‘Purpose is meaningless… if it’s not authentic’ with Jean Reddan, Head of Group Marketing and Public Affairs at Davy; Arabella Gilchrist, Head of Content Marketing and Story-telling at Camelot; and Kathi Hall, Head of Content Strategy & Brand at Age UK.

Brand purpose has become a divisive topic in the marketing industry. Yet, when building and retaining trust with customers and engaging new generations coming into the workforce, an authentic brand narrative is no longer just nice to have – it is a business imperative. 

In our recent virtual roundtable, run in partnership with the CMA, we discussed the definition of brand purpose, how to ensure any purpose you create is based on proof points, and its role in building trust. 

  1. Purpose is an organisational northstar

Commercial objectives should not be the only driving force behind your organisation. To authentically build trust with audiences, purpose must be your northstar – guiding and aligning every aspect and – importantly – action, of your organisation.

Although your bottom line and purpose are inherently linked, an authentic purpose is not about what you say, it’s about what you do. 

“Purpose is the ethical code of your organisation, it’s how the brand is about more than just profit.”

Kathi Hall, AgeUK 

  1. Articulating purpose internally is as important as externally

The perception of your positioning and how your actions back your positioning up is not something which exclusively concerns your customer audience, either. Defining an authentic and meaningful brand purpose can be incredibly powerful for colleagues. Then there’s the issue of how to respond to expectations of new generations coming into the workforce who want to feel aligned with your values.

When articulated clearly, purpose becomes baked into every decision employees take, which in turn benefits the whole organisation. It also gives your team something to believe in, feel proud of, and get behind.

  1. COVID-19 has catapulted brand purpose into the spotlight

Long before the pandemic, purpose-driven business practices were being recognised as important. But recent months have catalysed new focus in this area. In times of crisis, if your purpose is already well-defined and understood by your audiences, you won’t have to ‘change’. Rather, your response will emerge organically. It will guide you in how to best connect with people. 

  1. Brand purpose is not just about marketing

When a brand’s purpose is seen as more than a marketing ploy, your purpose will not only be more authentic, but it will become the driving force behind your employee and customer interactions with your brand. Marketers must champion purpose, then coordinate with, and gain buy-in from, C-suite, HR and DEI to effectively establish, follow through and then communicate proof-points. 

“If a brand’s purpose is truly inauthentic, no one will buy into it.”

Jean Reddan, Davy 

  1. Combat cynicism in backing purpose up

There is cynicism surrounding brand purpose, which has mainly arisen due to brands bandwagon jumping or ‘purpose washing’. The journey to authenticity can be a long game. To be authentic, your purpose must be backed up with relevant, meaningful and measurable actions. Don’t cut corners, and don’t rush. 

“Brand purpose is about being able to prove what you’re saying is true… understand who you are trying to engage with or you won’t ever engage authentically.”

Arabella Gilchrist, Camelot

For more on how to define, articulate and amplify your brand purpose, watch our virtual roundtable, check out our series of manifestos, or sign up to our mailing list to get everything Rationale straight to your inbox.