Marketing Thought

Branding For A Purpose

David Aaker’s The Future Of Purpose-Driven Branding is written by a true legend in the field of branding. What is more, his message is a good one. Branding for a purpose is on the up. It has a great future.

The Two Jobs Of Purpose-Driven Branding

Purpose-driven branding has a great future because branding expertise can really help with twin jobs:

  1. Doing good for the world.
  2. Doing good for a firm.

While the first job is socially key, the second is what will help the program to continue, e.g., be sustainable in business terms. Any benefits gained for the firm will allow it to scale. Persuading firms (or people) to do good work is just so much easier if they have something to gain from it. Purpose-driven branding can be very effective branding.

Aaker distinguished purpose versus mission. (Although these admittedly have a lot of overlap).

Purpose Versus Mission

Actions To Take In Branding For A Purpose

Aaker sets out a number of things to think about when considering branding for a purpose. A lot of this makes sense from a traditional branding perspective. The purpose should be clear and easy to communicate.

It often helps to be able to communicate in stories rather than just communicate in dry statistics. When reducing child mortality the number of deaths prevented obviously truly does matter. Still, it is often easier to communicate using the story of an individual. It is just much easier to imagine the heartbreak of a parent losing a young child, or the joy of the loss of a child not happening, than imagining a % decrease in a massive problem.

Other good advice includes don’t just describe what the firm is doing. Don’t just say the firm is devoting x hours or y dollars to a task. Better be clear on the why of the program; after all this is purpose-driven branding. Why would the firm devote the time or money to this? What is the point of it all? What are you achieving? Being clear on these things should really help with gaining sustainable commitment.

Aaker gives some major choices to think through. Should the firm seek to establish its own program or work with a partner? Both can be the right choice. It just depends on the precise situation.

Branding Isn’t Just For Business

Branding is too often under-appreciated, under resourced, and/or inadequately implemented in the social program world.

Aaker, 2023, page 37

Business people brand because it is effective. Social programs should also make use of branding for the same reason: because it is effective. The point is that tools that work (in any specific circumstance) should be used by everyone. We shouldn’t get worried that the tool is ‘too businesslike as long as it works.

Aaker also talks of the importance of branding bother the core focus of the firm while also branding the individual social programs themselves. This helps people identify and get behind the central purpose and individual programs.

Stirring Action

One of the challenges in this field is that purpose is fundamentally about important things. When writing about it one naturally drifts into high-minded language. The problem becomes clear when you have an annoying reader like me. David Aaker was doing a good job setting the scene but he lost me a little. I broke my concentration on the first page as he wrote.

It is not the time to stand still and drift towards irrelevance.

Aaker, 2023, page 14

My first reaction was ‘when is the time to stand still and drift towards relevance’? Of course, I thought of a potential bestselling business book based upon the idea that now is the time to stand still and drift towards irrelevance. It would be really easy to be a manager in such times. Just chill and watch the world drift by. I’m not sure it is good advice but it would be a great book. I could call it, ‘Drift management, the benefits of irrelevance’.

Okay, this wasn’t an important comment but it made me laugh which is more than most business books do.

The Good Guys Are Winning

An interesting thing about Aaker is his positivity. Steps are being taken. Progress is being made.

News flash! The battle is not over, but the good guys are winning! Those firms that aspire to have empathy, heart, a social purpose or mission, and a solid and effective set of social programs are seeing their ideas carry the day.

Aaker, 2023, page 68

Maybe not everyone will be quite as positive. Still, it is nice to read Aaker as he gives his optimistic viewpoint.

For more on purpose see here. For more on sustainable marketing strategy see here.

Read: David Aaker, 2023, The Future Of Purpose-Driving Branding, Morgan James Publishing

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