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What defines the Purpose of a Brand?


The 4Ps of marketing have conventionally been Product, Price, Place & Promotion, however, a 5th P of marketing, namely Purpose has been fast gaining currency. Although the point to question is- Is it really a new concept or something that Marketers have known for a very long time?

Further, it’s not just important to know what is ‘Purpose’, but we will also explore the route towards finding the Purpose that your Brand can own and understand why its consumers would value it.

Start with ‘Why’

One of the most-watched Ted Talks in the world was that given by Simon Sinek in 2009. As of Feb’22, the talk has garnered more than 57 million views. The talk essentially encapsulates a simple fact that consumers are moved by ‘Why’ your Brand exists rather than just by ‘What it does?’

The brilliant example that Simon Sinek gives is of Apple. Apple doesn’t tell you to buy its products simply because they are made with cutting edge technology and look great.

Rather Apple tells you that ‘we believe in challenging the status quo & the way we challenge the status quo is by making products that are not just beautifully designed but also simple to use and user friendly.

And hence, consumers are moved by ‘Why’ your Brand exists and not just ‘What’ are its features. While this is a compelling concept, what is interesting is that this concept is already linked to a concept called the ‘Brand Ladder’ that most students are taught in their Management institute.

The Brand Ladder

The Brand ladder interestingly starts from the ‘What’ or what the features of your product are and then makes its way up to the ‘Benefits’ it delivers and then further upwards it leads to the Consumer Rewards or ‘How does it make the consumer feel?’ And then further up to the Emotional Benefits or ‘shared values & beliefs, or essentially ‘Why it exists’.

Let me demonstrate this through the example of one of the world’s strongest brands or ‘Coca Cola’.

Features: Coke is essentially a dark carbonated sugary beverage.

Benefits: However consuming a Coke is refreshing and leads to a sugar rush.

Consumer Rewards: The sugar and the carbonation refreshes you & makes you feel happy

However, the real magic that Coke has woven for over a century is that they have managed to transcend the boundaries of just a product and have chosen to talk about ‘Open Happiness’ and alluding to a harmonious world.

It’s the shared values of harmony, optimism and joy that endears Coca Cola as a Brand to so many consumers across the world. The joy one feels triggers the emotional centres of the brain and makes Coke such a valuable brand.

Understanding your Products Features & Benefits

Given that uncovering your Brand purpose is fundamentally about finding the right positioning, a Marketers needs to start by interrogating how your product is different from your competition. Often the differentiation might even be quite slight however by adding appropriate RTBs (Reason to Believe), Marketers can carve out a distinct position.

Let’s study a few popular brands and discuss how they are able to differentiate their products from their competition through the addition of interesting features or RTBs (Reason to Believe).

1. The most common example is that of Coca Cola, Pepsi & Thumbs Up.

All three beverages have much in common and only the most discerning consumer may be able to call out the difference in a blind taste challenge. However, Pepsi is slightly sweeter than Coke and that gave them the right to sharply position themselves as the Choice of Younger Consumers or the New Generation. While Thumbs up on the other hand higher carbonation and is less sweet and that enabled them to take on the positioning of an intensely masculine drink.

2. Next, we can look at Lux, Santoor and Dettol.

Having worked in the soap category I know that 99% of most soaps have exactly the same constituents. However, Lux used glamorous fragrences and advertising to position themselves as the choice of Bollywood superstars. While Santoor used Sandal & Turmeric as a way to build a story of younger-looking skin and Dettol used its parent brand of antiseptics to talk about protection from germs.

3. Finally, we can look at the Tooth Paste category with Dabur Red Toothpaste talking about Ayurvedic formula while Colgate is recommended by Dentists and Close Up is positioned on the Fresh Breath platform.

Hence, clearly, the first step in the journey of finding your brand's purpose is to understand the Brands features and ladder it up to a clear functional benefit.

Understanding your Consumer

After a Marketer clearly understands what sets their product apart from the competition, they now uncover the next layer of the onion or rather what drives preference. What is there in the attitude or beliefs of her consumer that causes the consumer to prefer her product?

A few interesting case studies of brands that have found a compelling purpose and how it links to those products is what we shall discuss next.

1. One of the first campaigns that come to our mind when ‘Purpose’ is mentioned is ‘Dove’. Dove has run a fantastic campaign of ‘Real Beauty’ for many years. But what gives Dove the ‘right’ to take about ‘real beauty?' The fact that Dove as a soap basically contains moisturises which cleanse the skin rather than any fragrances or harsh compounds is where the credibility comes from.

2. Similarly, consumers gave Lifebuoy the right to hero the message of ‘Washing one's hands’ all through the pandemic as the soap has heroed the message of health and hygiene for many years.

3. And finally one of the most powerful Purpose led campaigns of the past few years is P&Gs share the load which talks about the stresses that a homemaker goes through and urges their spouses to contribute more. The fact that P&G has an array of products that have made life easier for homemakers gives them credibility.

Hence, after you deeply understand how your product is distinct from your competition, the next step is about deeply understanding the attitude and beliefs of your consumer.

When you are able to hero a cause that your consumer deeply connects with you start your journey of uncovering your purpose.

Finding your Purpose

While a ‘Purpose’ deeply moves your consumer and can build loyalty through a connection, it is also a responsibility as then you offer a yardstick for consumers to measure your authenticity by. Once a brand articulates a Purpose or a clear ‘Point of View’, consumers expect consistency. A few Brands that have done this well are as follows:

1. Tata Tea: One of the most famous Indian campaigns that have been Purpose-led include Jaago Re from Tata Tea which leveraged the simple benefit of Tea as a beverage that the caffeine in it awakens you up to ladder up to the purpose of awakening your morality. They have been remarkably consistent and done a fabulous job over years.

2. Britannia Marie: Is one of India’s oldest brands and its light biscuit has been a favourite of women in the 10 am tea occasion for many years. It’s that 'me' moment that thousands of Indian housewives go through every morning after the husband leaves for work and the kids go to school.

It’s that time she wonders if she can do something more. The marketers at Britannia understood this and launched the Marie My Start-up Contest to provide seed funding to women entrepreneurs.

And hence, once Brands deeply understand their consumer they can craft compelling Purposes that build loyalty and preference.

Rules of a Good Purpose

Now, there can potentially be hundreds if not thousands of purposes that Brands can try and own. How do you know that you have found something that your consumer will value & something that will benefit your brands? Here is a simple checklist.

1. Your Brand must have the credibility of owning the purpose. There must be something specific about your product's differentiators of your legacy of communication that offers credibility.

It’s the philanthropic nature of the Tata Group that allows them to carry of campaigns like Jaago Re about social change. When Gillette decided to talk about toxic masculinity they faced a backlash as the consumer asked what exactly gives the right to Gillette to talk about such a sensitive subject.

2. The Purpose that you decided to own must have a link to why your consumer prefers your product. For example, no one will be surprised to hear Patanjali talk about natural goodness or Ayurveda given the nature of their portfolio and the values that Baba Ramdev espouses. However, at the same time, Colgate would never appear as credible as Patanjali, talking about natural formulations.

3. Ideally the Purpose should be something that the consumer can’t do on their own and would like to feel the part of a larger movement by supporting their Brand. Tanishq has often talked about breaking stereotypes that their users might themselves not feel completely empowered to. However, in making their Brand choice they feel a part of a larger positive social change that the Brand wishes to harness their energy towards.

In Conclusion

Purpose is a powerful concept of brand building as loyalty and preference is finally based on how a brand makes the consumer feel rather than just the tangible benefits of quality or performance. However, a marketer must first deeply understand the brand's differentiators and then link the same to the values and beliefs of their core target group. Post this as a Brands adopts a consistent tone of voice and delivers actions that her TG believes it, credibility and loyalty are eventually built.

About the Author!

Saurabh Bajaj is the Marketing Head for the Dairy Business at Britannia Industries Limited since September 2019. He is an alumnus of Delhi College of Engineering and completed his PGDM (MBA) from the Indian Institute of Management Indore in 2004. He has since, spent over 16 years in the field of Sales & Marketing having worked for a decade with Mondelez from 2005 to 2015, then as the Innovation Head for Premium & Luxury Spirits with Diageo for 2 years, before joining Britannia.

Saurabh joined Britannia in Sep’17 as the Marketing Head for the International Business which has offices in Bangalore, Dubai & Kathmandu where he worked on several exciting Innovations & Activations across the Middle East and South Asia. Now, he is working on an exciting mandate to scale-up Britannia’s Dairy play across India & Bhutan. Recognized as 50 Best Marketing & Communication Professionals by White Page International in 2020 & as a DMA Trailblazer Rising Star CMO in 2001.

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