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In State of the Whole Brand 2023, some of the world’s most influential marketers share their unique POVs on whole brand-building and purpose. Here are four ways they suggest you level up your own purpose-driven brand.
Brand purpose is a hot topic with provocateurs on either side of the issue —
from the pages of industry trade publications to every imaginable marketing
conference in the last five years.
But here’s the thing: Purpose isn’t a marketing tool; it’s an everything tool.
It’s an ideology and core idea that ideally guides and inspires everything your
brand does, inside and out — if it’s real and actionable. And it leads to
extraordinary plus points: Think smarter innovation, a more engaged
and consumer base, stronger stakeholder relationships, and increased revenue and
Consumers are mindful of this short-sighted approach and they’re not afraid to
call out a brand or, worse, ignore it. They won’t simply accept a brand’s
narrative about being socially and environmentally responsible; they demand
proof of commitments supported by brand
Still not all in on purpose? Four years of
show that purpose is also an accelerant to business
and can impact market performance. Brands that consciously use purpose to their
daily advantage — controlling it, communicating it and proving it in ways that
will lead to measurable, outsized growth — dominate the market and the hearts of
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At Barkley, we love electric ideas from
purpose-driven, whole-brand thinkers who inspire us. In State of the Whole Brand 2023,
some of the world’s most influential marketers open their playbooks to share
their unique POVs on whole-brand building
and purpose. Here are four ways they suggest you level-up your own
“Be honest and focused about what sustainability challenges you are going to
tackle. Decide what your brand is about. Have a sharp materiality assessment and
priorities,” says Alison
Taylor, clinical professor at
NYU Stern School of Business and executive director at Ethical
Systems. “It's incredibly important not to
overpromise on what your brand can do. It is one thing saying that you want to
better your company and consumers’ lives, to have a product that you can defend.
Show some restraint in terms of what problems you are promising to solve.”
So says Katie Dreke, founder and
chief sustainability officer at DRKE. Throughout her career,
she has guided traditional and experimental work for the world’s most
influential brands — including Nike, REI and adidas. “With a clear
obsession on quarterly results, brands often struggle to see into the coming
years — let alone the coming generations,” she says. “Some brands create shadow
boards of young
whose interests and opinions are weighted just as much as the corporate board of
directors. Other brands place a seat on their executive leadership team to
represent the needs and perspectives of future generations yet unborn — striving
to bring their voices and presence into the culture of the brand and
“In the past, IKEA has been very humble in how we engage — which maybe has
meant we've been quite quiet in some of these dialogues and debates,” says
Director of Climate (SVP) at parent company Ingka
Group. “In the last few years, we've really tried to
improve that, really engage positively with a diverse range of stakeholders on
what they think of IKEA and how we could improve and how we could do better.”
Engaging with stakeholders in such meaningful ways is impacting IKEA business —
and inspiring other brands to adopt similar initiatives as ways to accelerate
meaningful, material change.
“Think of your brand story as a book — know it, and commit to it,” says
Tracksmith Brand President Ryan
Eckel. “Organize your brand
narrative into chapters; and keep the plot moving to keep it interesting, while
staying true to the beliefs and values underlying the story. Crystalize and
sharpen your brand narrative — your purpose, why your brand exists and the role
it serves. And the simpler you can craft this story, the better. Be decisive and
confident in aligning your organization around your story. Let your story guide
your decisions and actions at the highest level — from strategy to product to
brand communications to real-world interactions.”
Done right, your brand’s purpose will inspire real stories and actions that lead
to powerful and authentic word-of-mouth and social sharing from your
and consumers. This work isn’t easy, but it’s important: It can align your
organization and connect you with consumers in powerful ways — because the more
your purpose powers your commitments to people, planet and community, the more
inspired your brand culture will be to deliver profit and continuous impact.
Published Oct 9, 2023 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 1pm BST / 2pm CEST
Jen Mazi is a sustainability writer and content director at Barkley — a marketing consultancy and Certified B. Corporation™ that believes all brands can be a force for good in the world.
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.