SB'24 San Diego is open for registration. Register early and save!

Walking the Talk
4 Ways to Accelerate Your Business Results on Purpose

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 workforce and consumer base, stronger stakeholder relationships, and increased revenue and brand equity.

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 action.

Still not all in on purpose? Four years of research show that purpose is also an accelerant to business results 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 consumers alike.

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 purpose-driven brand.

Create an actionable plan — informed by goals and commitments to people, planet and communities

“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.”

Measure success holistically, beyond profit and shareholder return

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 customers 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 decision-making process.”

Share your authentic sustainability, purpose and ESG stories with stakeholders across your whole brand, at every touchpoint

“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 Simon Henzell-Thomas, 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.

Inspire your employees to tell stories with you, and for you

“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 employees 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.