Alice asked the Cheshire Cat,
who was sitting in a tree,
“What road do I take?”
The cat asked,
“Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the cat,
“it really doesn’t matter, does it?”

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It’s the purpose, not the benefits

Whiplash Team, 23rd April 2021

It’s the purpose, not the benefits

Keeping the actions of the brand aligned with its purpose, beyond the benefits, is one of the pillars for the construction of a solid and consistent reputation. Sometimes this may mean saying goodbye to some clients whose line of business does not correspond to the reason of our brand, even if it implies economic losses in the immediate term. In the long run, the benefits in terms of building and consolidating the brand will be greater.

Inspiring consumers, earning their trust and loyalty is not easy. Even less nowadays, when responsible consumption gains traction and users are more aware of their power and ability to drive change demanding consistency from organizations with regards to the brand’s purpose and its actions.

In Spain, without going any further, 83% of young people say that they choose brands with purpose and 81% of consumers think that companies should position themselves on issues of a social, environmental or development nature. These are some of the conclusions of the second edition of the study ‘Brands with a conscience: the era of corporate purpose’ carried out by the consultancy firm Hotwire.

The case of Spanish consumers is not unique. Not new. It is a phenomenon that occurs globally as the new generations, Millennials and Centennials have become part of the consumer and labour markets, as revealed by various studies, including Deloitte’s Global Millennial Survey 2020, which details the priorities of what it calls “resilient generations” in 43 countries.

But commiting means going much further than a declaration of intent or a statement or a marketing campaign about the values ​​that the company defends. It is something that must be demonstrated with forceful actions and that, sometimes, implies forgetting about benefits and attractive clients in order to demonstrate that our brand practices what it preaches.

A good example of this is the clothing for outdoor sports company Patagonia. From the beginning, the company made its commitment to the environment clear. In fact, the purpose statement for 45 years was to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

At the end of 2018, the company changed that purpose statement to read: “We are in business to save our home planet”. In 2019, in an action that surprised and upset some of its’ partners with whom the organization had co-branding agreements, decided to stop selling its vests and other products to certain companies.

Until then, the practice had been for Wall Street firms such as JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, among others, to give away these vests with their embroidered logo alongside that of Patagonia at corporate events. So much so that the vests became part of what some financial media called “the uniform of the Wall Street boys.” The new action was to stop selling to profitable clients, but Patagonia preferred that its brand be associated with “mission-driven companies that prioritize the planet”.

This step reinforced the historical stance of a brand that since its beginnings focused not only on benefits but also on values. And it has set an example. Nowadays, when consumers demand consistency and social and environmental commitment from companies, there are many organizations that see their large clients not only as a source of income, but as an expression of what they defend and their raison d’être.

For example, Cotopaxi, a Patagonia competitor, does not sell its products to tobacco or alcoholic beverage companies. Or the Someone Somewhere brand, which sells backpacks and warm clothes made by artisans in five of the poorest states in Mexico has refused to sell its products to certain political parties in Mexico, as well as to companies that produce alcohol and tobacco. All this to the detriment of the income statement.

The key in all of this is that consumers understand that organizations have an important role in shaping society, and they lean towards those brands whose values ​​and purpose are in line with their personal beliefs. For brands, building a solid reputation, based on actions consistent with their purpose, is the best way to achieve better results and greater benefits in the long term.

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