Purpose: the five brand actions

by Ben Peacock and Scott Matyus-Flynn

Bolts Bolts

This article originally appeared in Marketing Mag

In the third instalment of our three part series on brand purpose, we look at the five actions market leaders can take to embed purpose into their brand.

Related: In part one, we compared the current focus brands have on purpose with the three waves digital went through in becoming a mainstream mode of communication and technology.

In part two, we discussed how introducing purpose to your brand can’t be done in half measures, and look at three big name brands doing it right.

You don’t have to look much further than the events of the past month to realise that brands can no longer sit on the sideline when it comes to the big social issues.

First, the lamb ad started a stir (fry?) by championing diversity or showing insensitivity to indigenous people, depending on which op-ed you read.

Then, in the USA, Nordstrum – a fave of urban millennial females – found itself between a frock and a hard place as it started phasing out Ivanka Trump merchandise.

But the biggest hit of all came for Uber when it chose to keep servicing New York’s JFK airport while taxi drivers staged a one hour protest over Trump’s travel ban. It might have made a few dollars but it lost a whole lot of love and customers as 200,000 people chose to #deleteuber.

Spotting the chance to um, ‘migrate’ these socially minded and social media active individuals, Lyft donated a million big ones to the American Civil Liberties Union and, in doing so, beat Uber in sign ups and rides given for the first time ever. Uber did their best to match the gesture, committing $3m to support drivers affected by the ban and quitting Trump’s business advisory group, but the damage was already done.

AirBnB wasn’t caught napping. They offered free accommodation to anyone caught out by the travel ban.

And Starbucks didn’t take long to wake up and smell the coffee, promising to give 10,000 refugees a home behind their tills.

Yes, standing for a cause is no longer a brand nice to have. It’s a brand essential, and if you don’t think hard about where you sit on social issues, sooner or later your customers are going to sort it out for you.

So how can your brand be a winner in this world of must-do, do-gooding?

As any rockstar will tell you, being an overnight success is years in the making.

Or to paraphrase Ali, you don’t win in the ring, but in the preparation.

With that in mind we have assembled the Five Brand Actions – five ways a brand can deliver on purpose by changing itself and the world for the better.

Which one is right for you? That takes time, consideration and a good understanding of brand, sustainability, community and communications to work out.

What is important is that your brand does choose to act.

Doing so turns your purpose into something lived rather than just spoken.

And makes sure that when the world starts asking where you stand, your answer is already clear.

1. Change a product

The first step many brands take is to re-tool their products to create ‘less harm’

Sometimes changing a product is a simple question of reformulation. Other times, it might mean deleting a product line all together, to avoid the brand damage that comes with it. How much a brand does will depend on the appetite of the brand. But there are big wins out there for brands with big ambition.

Who’s done it well?

2. Create a product

Creativity works best when it is given clear boundaries. Challenging your innovation team to generate a new, sustainable or socially aware product that better meets customer needs is a great way to encourage them to think outside the ordinary.

Who’s done it well?

3. Change a behaviour

Sometimes the main impact of your product is not in how you make and deliver it, but in how people use it. By helping them change the way they use it, you can better involve your brand in your customers’ lives and create social and environmental good at the same time.

Who’s done it well?

4. Supply a service

Sometimes, no matter how much you want people to change behaviours, they need a little help. This is where providing a service comes in. So, if creating unwanted waste is one of your brand’s biggest sins, then offering a take back system might be the best action you can take. Services can also generate a new income stream or provide raw materials for new products.

Who’s done it well?

5. Champion a cause

If you want your brand to stand for something, why not stand for something? Choosing a cause, then fighting for it is a very public way to differentiate your brand from the gun-shy out there. But this isn’t just about supporting a charity. It’s about embedding a social mission into your brand. So the success of your brand comes from the success of your cause. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Who’s done it well?

So there you have it. Five ways to act that make the world a better place, tell the world what you stand for, and get people talking about you for the right reasons – in a way that advertising simply can’t.

And what could be better than that?


Here at Republic of Everyone we bring brands, sustainability and creativity together to make doing good, good for business. 

Call us +61 2 8097 8746, email or drop us a line below if you would like to work with us. 

    Please get back to me by

    * Required