Thought Leadership

How do you incorporate purpose into a brand’s marketing strategy?

Where purpose has become something of a buzzword, identifying authentic purpose and operating with clear goals continues to resonate with consumers

Georgie Moreton

Deputy Editor, BITE Creativebrief


Purpose washing might be rife in adland but when you look at the bottom line purposeful brands tend to always outperform their competitors. Be it purpose in the form of ethics and sustainability or purpose that means simply knowing why a brand exists and how to best deliver on its promises, brands without purpose are missing a fundamental pillar of operation. 

While not every brand is in the position to name the earth as its only shareholder like Patagonia, or even dedicate as much time to ethical causes as Ben and Jerry’s, there are less drastic ways to ensure a business is operating with purpose at its core.

Whether it’s becoming B-Corp, delivering a high class experience, or educating consumers to make more informed decisions, authentically purpose-driven brands attract more customers and better talent.

With the cost of living crisis impacting consumers at every level, now is not the time to side-line purpose in favour of quick wins. Instead, businesses should strive to look at the bigger picture, think about the macro-economy and differentiate from their competitors by providing value and making a positive difference. To help brands find purpose we asked industry experts what their number one piece of advice is for incorporating purpose into marketing strategies?

Pete Kemp

Pete Kemp - TSW.jpg

Managing Partner

The Specialist Works

The last 10 years has seen a lazy duality set into our industry which manifests itself on both sides of a ‘now’ somewhat tarnished coin.  On one side we have the short termism of being tasked to deliver immediate ROI, ensuring nothing ever changes, and nothing ever gets delivered beyond ‘buy this now’.  On the other side we see marketers needing to tick the brand box, and defaulting to the safe, hackneyed narrative of ‘Purpose’

A brand needs to have a right to tell society how to think, feel and act. It can be a brand genuinely rooted in socialism such as ‘Co-Op’, who have only ever existed to serve society at a local level, be it through their unique ownership structure, yearly profits to local charities, all the way through to providing free child funerals. It can come from a globalist view too, such as Tony’s Chocolonely, who ‘kick the shins’ of the moribund Fairtrade™ brand, to truly end modern slavery in the cocoa industry.

That is true brand purpose.  It goes beyond having a rainbow on your logo, or £1 on your corporate lunch bill for the homeless or proclaiming your ambition for carbon neutrality.  It’s about permission evidenced through action.

David Kells

David Kells.jpg

Director of Strategic Partnerships


Authenticity is everything. During the pandemic, many brands fell foul of opportunistic advertising that jarred with their purpose. Marketers and agencies should assume a high level of intelligence and expect scrutiny from their target audience. Communicating the truth behind their brand is essential.

Self-reflection is key. Marketers and agencies must ask themselves questions such as ‘do I think this an accurate reflection of the brand I work for?’ and ‘are we trying to find a deeper meaning to our offering that doesn’t exist?’. These might seem obvious, but are often missed.

If the company's offering is able to help people during the cost-of-living crisis, then they should be confident in creating engaging campaigns that reflect it. If it doesn’t, then they should stay clear of the economic climate context and focus on another strength within the business. Consumers will still want to buy clothes from retailers they love or cook using their favourite brands, so if the hard work has been done to build a great product and you have loyalty and advocacy from your customers…double down on it and give people what they want.

If a brand can tweak its offering so that it acknowledges the current crisis and makes life easier for customers, then even better. The brand will be more relevant and loyalty should increase.

Rowenna Prest

Rowenna Prest.jpg

Chief Strategy Officer


The current financial climate will affect businesses as much as those who use them, so I think it’s never been more important to be clear what your brand purpose actually is. Purpose isn’t, and shouldn’t just be, a brand’s CSR initiative. Purpose is why a brand exists. And while it often goes beyond a brand’s category by feeling valuable on a cultural level, there should always be a clear line back to what that brand offers / sells in their day-to-day. Omo and its 2008 Dirt is Good platform is an excellent example of this: yes, the brand made the argument for childhood development, but there was an authentic line back to the cleaning prowess of the product because the best childhood development involves quite a bit of mess!

If marketeers are working to the right definition of purpose, then they need to hold firm and feel confident that incorporating it into their marketing strategy is 100% the right thing to do for their brand and their bottom line.  We know people buy with their hearts then post rationalise with their heads, so leading with an emotive territory will pay back more than more rational approaches both now and over the long term. And if there is an authentic line from the product, then purpose comms will emotionally supercharge everything on the marketing plan. 

Will Sansom

Will Sansom.jpg

Head of Strategy

The Brooklyn Brothers

My No. 1 piece of advice would be to switch up this sentence so that it reads: 'how can brands incorporate marketing strategies into their purpose?' The reason why so many supposedly purpose-driven campaigns fall flat is because the world can see through their green-washed (creative) briefs. Put simply, it's clear that purpose is being used as a marketing strategy VS something bound into that the reason the company exists in the first place. Getting your purpose set in stone first and then thinking about how this can be brought to life through marcoms will only result in work that feels more authentic, more credible and actually proves effective for the brand.

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