By Mustafa Shamseldin, CMO – Africa, Middle East and South Asia at PepsiCo
If you look for the meaning of “purpose” you’ll see references to “meaning” and “reason”. Essentially, it’s about the “why” – why something is done, or why it exists.
Purpose is a buzz word these days, and for good reason too. Brands are increasingly recognizing the ability of purpose to deliver change on a much bigger stage and connect with audiences on a more emotional level, through causes they care for deeply and vocally.
Life is too short to simply stay on the same merry-go-round, continuously ending up where you started on a steel stallion that’s a little worse for wear every time you circle back. Time to pony up and head for the horizon, moving the needle on things that matter, planting the proverbial trees that will offer shade to another generation.
The journey to finding and living brand purpose is different for every brand. Some brands have confidently shown over several years how brand purpose can engage audiences in authentic ways. Others are adapting to changing circumstances, looking for deeper meaning, a stronger positioning, and a more solid outlook in purpose. Across the board, brands are realizing that it’s not just talking about what could or would be nice to do. It’s about transforming those words into actions that can truly shift gears and generate momentum to get to the destination in mind.
Of course, organizations have a responsibility to their people, to contribute to economic wellbeing and continue to produce products and extend services that consumers need, like, or aspire to. But that’s just day-to-day economics, it’s not the end-game. According to a Harvard Business Review study, companies with a strong sense of purpose are able to transform and innovate better.
Brands need a “why” - a reason and resolve that motivates employees, taps into consumer’s passions, identifies improvement areas before they become challenges, and inspires an occasional leap of faith. Purpose helps brands engage with consumers in enriching new ways. It’s a deep connection and a unique competitive advantage - something that crafts the building blocks of brand love along the way and drives organic advocacy long into the future, emerging when an organization might need it most.
Consumers want brands to care about more than economics. They want to engage, but brands need to give them a meaningful reason to do so. More brands need to recognize that purpose is the key to customer loyalty – people are willing to lend their trust, support, and even forgive brands for mistakes, if they believe in what the brand stands for.
So how can a brand identify purpose, define goals, and develop an enduring strategy that inspires and supports long-time growth for the company, its community, and its planet? From people to planet, from local to global, there are so many causes where a little love can go a long way, or a big boost can make billions believe that more is possible.
Like many things though, the answer is usually closer than you think. A brand product might lead you to it, an employee’s passion, a local news story, a conversation, another organization’s feel-good success story. How do you know you’ve found it? Finding purpose that fits, feels natural. Like an extension of your operations.
Sustainability is a great example, because it links to so many components so many of us care deeply about. Aquafina has recently highlighted PepsiCo’s ongoing commitment to reduce, recycle and reinvent towards a more sustainable food system with a new 2021 goal, pledging to collect and recycle the equivalent of 100% of Aquafina plastic packaging produced in the UAE.
Another example is LIFEWTR, PepsiCo’s premium bottled water brand that supports emerging artists. Having just launched in the UAE with captivating label designs created by local artists of Arab origin, it's a wonderful way to illustrate the link between product, place and purpose. One feeds the other, so the purpose of supporting emerging artists leads to more creativity, and artistic packaging, and other exciting launches, and new markets, and happy hydrated consumers, and their passions - for culture, for design, for emerging artists.
Ultimately, people are looking for brands to stand for something and do something, and they can see through it when action is initiated but not sustained. So, we need think about purpose carefully - as an enduring movement that can propagate broader conversations, rather than a moment in time that lives and dies as a stunt.
For organizations to effectively embed purpose in the organization, action must start at the top. From leadership development and training, to integrating purpose into employee performance metrics, rewards, and operations – brands need a clear mandate to align employees, customers, and suppliers with a strong purpose.
If you haven’t already found it, it’s time to set out in search of your purpose. Every brand can win with purpose and receive the ultimate prize: next-level brand engagement through genuine connections.
Opinions in this piece belongs to the author.