The Power of Purpose

The role of purpose in driving profit was top of the agenda at Wax/On’s recent Glass Half Full event.

Izzy Ashton

Deputy Editor, BITE


With Brexit looming and marketing spend facing increasing scrutiny, the role of purpose-driven marketing is under the microscope. The problem with purpose, as Ben Hooper, Creative Partner and Co-Founder of Wax/On explained, is that it is an ethereal concept, one that "businesses need to consider the commercial value of." This was the subject at hand for the agency's second episode of their Glass Half Full series aptly titled Purpose Smurpose.

The goal of the events is to examine the marketing landscape through a more optimistic lens. A punchy discussion ranged from how purpose can be more genuine through to whether there should be a more sustainable form of capitalism. The panel also asked if now was the time to challenge and change the very definition of what it means to be profitable as a business.

Melda Simon, Global Marketing Manager at Unilever also leads on the company's Unstereotype Alliance project which seeks to use the advertising industry as a force for good to drive positive change. However, this strategy is not just the good for society but paying dividends to the bottom line. Simon outlined the success of Unilever's Sustainable Living Brands - in 2018 they grew 46% faster than the rest of the business and delivered 70% of the brand's turnover growth - citing the reality that purpose "drives relevancy because it gives a brand a clear role in society."

Mark Cripps, the CMO of the Economist said that the publication has had purpose at its core since the first issue created in 1843. According to Cripps the title has always been in "pursuit of progress [for] society, business, humans." He explained: "If it's in your [brand] DNA, leverage it. Brand purpose is what makes brands necessary in society."

This is certainly the thinking at the heart of Tony's Chocolony, a 15-year-old Dutch chocolate brand whose principal aim is to "change the entire chocolate industry" as Ben Greensmith, the UK County Manager for the brand explained. Tony’s Chocolony wants to create a space for cruelty and child-labour free chocolate to be produced. They believe that, although the brand is small, "we are inspiring bigger companies to copy our sourcing programme." And it's paying off. The company are the number one chocolate brand in Holland with a 20% market share, having grown 50% year on year. And they've recently reached UK shores.

The ultimate conclusion was that purpose can't be a flash-in-the-plan PR stunt; it has to have authenticity and, preferably, be a long-term strategy for a brand. As Simon said, "Brands doing it well need to shout louder."

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