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Product, Service & Design Innovation
Purpose to the People:
How Brands Can Turn Crowds of Consumers Into Movements of Change

Purpose brands that are authentic in creating a positive contribution to society while focusing on the delivery of great products and services are outgrowing other competitors. A clear purpose drives consumer preference and motivates employees, accelerating business results and positive change.

Purpose brands that are authentic in creating a positive contribution to society while focusing on the delivery of great products and services are outgrowing other competitors. A clear purpose drives consumer preference and motivates employees, accelerating business results and positive change. Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman and the ex-global marketing officer of competitor P&G*, Jim Stengel* (amongst others), have repeatedly shared how brands with a purpose outperform the rest. So how does one accelerate impact and growth of purpose brands further?

Our research on the economically powerful millennials and upcoming Generation Z indicate that the growth of purpose brands will continue, as these generations have a serious affinity toward brands with purpose. However, the opportunity lies in the acceleration through further involvement of these generations in the role that the brand takes: they want to actively contribute to a more inclusive, sustainable society and want to see the relevant results of their actions.

I identify three levels of purpose brands:

  1. Those that share views: Coca-Cola, Always, Dove and Magnum all drive a positive cultural idea at the core of their brand. They tap into a societal issues as a campaign tool and use their views on the issue to create brand differentiation and following.
  2. Those that change behaviour: Lifebuoy, Heineken and Budweiser take a positive role in changing behaviour towards a purpose or product-related societal issue.
  3. Those that deliver part of a solution: One of the best examples available in my opinion is TOMS, but other brands such as Chipotle and those connected to organizations such as Fairtrade and the Marine Stewardship Council have also embedded part of their solution to a societal issue into their business model.### Empowerment and Measurability

The examples from Level 1 and 2 above provide opportunities for massive societal impact, however measuring such brand impact as well as the subsequent sense of consumer empowerment is difficult. As such, communicating this to the people they serve is also tricky — so you may feel inspired by Magnum and its #TrueToYourPleasure campaign and share the brand’s view, but you exist as an anonymous individual in a seemingly motionless crowd.

Interestingly, the examples mentioned under Level 3 give you clear and measurable points of action. You can actively contribute to part of the solution for the societal issue the brand supports by acting with your wallet. Every time you buy a brand in one of these examples, you make a statement whilst contributing to the brand’s cause. So companies such as TOMS do more: They create communities of change.

Exponential growth of “goodsumption”

Because of the measurability of results and the sense of empowerment, I see the exponential growth of purpose-driven brands in the third category.

We’ve noticed the growth of energy labels over the years and soon we’ll see the labelling of societal impact gain just as much relevance, with organizations such as B Lab taking a more prominent accreditation role.

Labelling will help consumers to take conscious action.

Technology helps by allowing consumers to make purpose and ideology-based buying-decisions (think of apps such as Buypartisan and Buycott).

Business models where positive societal impact are directly linked to positive business results (so the more I buy, the more I directly impact) will provide consumers with a feeling of empowerment and contribution.

From voting with your wallet to co-creating

Technology will soon take consumer empowerment even further. I have recently had several meetings with Amar Sharany, the inspiring founder of in/PACT. The software and programs his team have developed allow consumers and employees of businesses to participate in the allocation of “Goodcoins,” the monetary expression in/PACT uses for budgets available to brands to drive purpose. With this, consumers and employees do not only act through their wallet, they co-create and co-decide with the brand and get information about their individual contribution for the causes and ideologies they support.

Creating movement brands

I see purpose brands turning into movement brands that inspire and empower consumers to join their cause, accelerating their positive impact on society and their growth potential, when:

  1. They touch a primary individual emotion broadly recognised in society. These emotions are based on feelings of fear (for social exclusion, rejection, loss of loved ones, health, environment), resentment or injustice.
  2. Their purpose — the change the brand envisions and acts upon — addresses this primary emotion and is relevant for their business. The closer the link between target audience, purpose and business, the easier it will be to create traction.
  3. They take a stand by staging and dramatizing the societal issues they want to address in their campaigns.
  4. They contribute to the solution of a societal issue, using their business model as a lever for change, sharing a view and/or changing behaviours.
  5. They empower consumers and employees to participate and actively contribute to the purpose the brand supports. They make them part of the solution to injustice, social exclusion, ecological and environmental issues etc. and actively create communities.
  6. They create visibility of results and impact created by the brand and the people it serves. They will in the near future use technology to create customized connections about the individual consumer contribution, inspiring consumers and increasing the sense of impact and empowerment.

Taking the above to heart, brands can turn crowds into movements that are united in their common purpose and actions. Business can become an even more impactful contributor to positive change. Isn’t that an inspiring thought to start 2016?

For more on our view on marketing and building brands, please visit Innate Motion.