Brand purpose takes centre stage: Edelman Australia CEO

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Brand purpose has transformed from a marketing strategy to a key driver of business growth for many directors and organisations.

Last year a “Strength of Purpose” study of 8,000 global consumers and 75 companies and brands by New York-based Zeno Group found that consumers were four times more likely to purchase from a purposeful brand.

In an interview in Forbes in June last year Alison DaSilva, Managing Director, Purpose and Impact, Zeno Group said a correlation and regression analysis of the data demonstrated that when a brand has a strong purpose, consumers were six times more likely to protect that brand in a challenging moment and 4.5 times more likely to recommend the brand to friends and family.

Viewing purpose as a core component helps businesses stay relevant and build trust with stakeholders, says Michelle Hutton, CEO of Edelman Australia. Her organisation has famously tracked consumer trust since 2001 with its Edelman Trust Barometer, which this year found, "an epidemic of misinformation and widespread mistrust of societal institutions and leaders around the world."

Little wonder then that she believes that purpose as a strategy has completely changed in recent years.

“For too long, purpose was seen as a bolt-on, it was a nice thing to do, versus now, it's a core business strategy. I think there is so much data around the value and impact that it brings when purpose is indeed a business strategy and not an add on.”

Hutton says that the pathway to finding purpose has also changed in recent years as organisations are moving to a bottom-up approach of defining their overall purpose.

Once thought of as the responsibility of the corporate brand and an outline of business practices, Hutton believes that brands have an opportunity to increase relevance by finding a balance between purpose, culture and society.

Hutton highlights two major global brands Nestle and Mars, and how their distinctive brand purposes translated into a different set of opportunities for each of them. 

“[Nestle’s Purina brand] frames their purpose around the food that makes pets happier and healthier. On the other end of the spectrum, Mars has taken a very different approach…Their purpose strategy is actually broader. They've taken it beyond the pet food category, framing is around how do we make a better world for pets.”

In translating a company’s purpose into a measurable strategy, businesses can track and measure the success of the execution of their purpose.

Sarah Downie, CEO of Shared Value Project Australia says that the concept of shared value exemplifies this concept.

“Shared value is all about redefining the role of business in society, we believe very deeply that business success and the success of society are interdependent,” says Downie.

“I think 2020 has proved that beyond a doubt, but we also believe that business can thrive by thinking differently about its role and its connection in society. Shared value is a strategy and a framework to help organisations walk their purpose.”

Hutton says that while an organisation can discuss their brand purpose, it means nothing without taking actionable steps to implement the plan into regular operations.

“There are a lot of examples of organisations who think they have a purposeful strategy, but don't invest behind it,” she says.

“They don't treat it like a commercial business strategy. So I am optimistic that particularly here in Australia, ESG reporting will totally change, not just the conversation, but the output and the impact of a purposeful strategy.”


Credit: The video was produced by Josh Lundberg, Matthew Ryan and Tejas Bhat.

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