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Why It’s Vital For Today’s Companies To Have A Brand Purpose

From TTG

As Coca-Cola introduces a new brand positioning, Marketing Week contributor Matthew Valentine highlights companies from different sectors that have a strong sense of purpose, with important takeaways for the travel industry

At a time when virtually every market is crowded, and when concerns about issues such as climate change are becoming increasingly important, brands are finding that they have to stand for something more than just being good at what they do.

“Brand purpose” can sound like jargon – but it is an increasingly important strategy in a world where customers are often overwhelmed with choice, helping a brand stand out from the crowd. Fundamentally, brand purpose is what a brand stands for.

Brands such as The Body Shop have always campaigned for human rights and environmental issues. But strategies that used to mark companies as outliers from standard behaviour are now becoming mainstream.

Customers could be forgiven for thinking that a market-leading brand like Coca-Cola had any higher purpose at all. But its new “Better when we’re open” pan-European brand positioning, launched last month, will see it take on a bigger role: in a world that is increasingly divided, Cola-Cola wants to be a brand that unites people.

The brand’s marketing director for Western Europe explains: “There is a fundamental truth that no matter where you look, in any country around the world, we are more divided than ever. Coca-Cola is a brand that needs to embrace different angles and facets, and we need to talk about the problems that are relevant today.”

Coca-Cola has pledged to end the use of plastic shrink-wraps across multipacks, launched pink packaging to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month and introduced new technology that uses ocean waste plastic to create bottles.

Unilever is undertaking similar commitments. It has announced plans to create a “circular economy” for plastics, ensuring it creates zero waste by halving its use of virgin plastic and helping to collect and process more than it uses. The group is being supported by environmental group the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and has adopted a “Less, Better, No” plastic framework.

Dominic Weiss, CSO of marketing group ZAK Agency, says that brands have to know what really motivates their customers if they are to appeal to them with a brand purpose strategy. And he cautions that brands must be sincere. “Youth audiences are smart and savvy. They get how marketing works. If you try and fake purpose, it will not end well for you,” he says.

G Adventures has a strong brand purpose, with a mission to support diverse communities through tourism. Managing director Brian Young says it is getting more important for brands to reflect the issues that motivate their customers.

He says: “Most customers now will ask ’What does this brand stand for? If I travel with, or buy a product from this brand, what more is sat behind it? Where is the doing good element?”

Standing for something more than the service you provide is key to motivating both customers and staff, says Young. “It has to be intrinsic to the operations of the company,” he says.


  1. Put an emphasis on real people
We invest in attracting, training and retaining the people we employ to ensure we have a positive, motivated and happy workplace to give our customers more than just a “transaction” and focus on brilliant service and human interaction.
  2. Reflect diversity in marketing and communications
Particularly for weddings and honeymoons where an increasing number of customers are same-sex couples who want to know that they’ll be treated with respect and care. We’ve put time into our end-to-end service, with our LGBT team in place that has been highly successful and we make them a central part of our communications and marketing.
  3. Look beyond jumping on the bandwagon
There’s a huge focus on sustainability right now, but it’s worth taking time to get your messaging right. We launched an internal campaign last year called Stay Beautiful, aiming to get all our staff on the same page, build knowledge, get them involved and feel that they were able to talk more confidently about the issues.
  4. Find a charity partnership that fits with your brand and people
Last year we asked our staff which charity they would like to support for the year ahead and Mind, the mental health charity, was chosen. It’s very much led by our people, so as well as raising funds we are also using the charity’s resources to guide our approach to mental health in the workplace.
  5. Purpose-led campaigns aren’t always quick fixes
They take time to bed down so they are genuine and authentic. They need the support, involvement and passion of the team and that’s what will drive them. Animals, for example, are a huge part of the holiday experience, particularly in somewhere like Africa, where Kuoni has a long heritage. We’ve worked with Born Free over the years to evolve our position on animal welfare. We also have the expertise of specialist advisors who have helped to shape our policies. It means when we talk about animal experiences in our marketing campaigns we’re confident that we’re following best practice.