Attaching a higher purpose to your product in your Promotions seems like the ‘flavor du jour,’ the latest ‘P’ in the Marketing Mix. We see Audi promote equal pay and Pepsi reconciliation, while Lush calls out police spying and Gillette ‘toxic masculinity.’ I admit, I have chosen these recent advertisements because they have so tremendously backfired that most readers will be aware of them and because they illustrate what happens when the so-called brand purpose turns out to be puffery… at best (references below). It’s like Mark Zuckerberg declaring that Facebook is all about community building. ‘But only if they can sell our private data for profit’ many will think.
The priority of profit seems to be the quick litmus test, the winnowing that separates the corn from the chaff. Is a company willing to forgo profit maximization to live up to its promise of a higher purpose? Is it willing to stick the neck out when declaring a certain position goes beyond popular conveniently non-committal ‘virtue signalling’? Is the company actually practicing what it preaches when nobody watches? Internally and consistently? This is where Audi is found out to be paying its women managers less than men and for not having any on their board and seen retreating quickly and choosing some other idea to advertise.
So is ‘putting some Higher Purpose into your Promotion’ a bad idea – despite being so popular with marketers now? Is that because, ultimately, Purpose and Profit don’t mix well – in fact are opposing forces?
The short answer is ‘Yes and No.’ The longer one comes through this interview with Dave Rapaport, Global Social Mission Officer at Ben & Jerry’s, a brand that seems to have succeeded at promoting ‘Peace, Love and Ice Cream’ over the past forty years quite credibly but also quite profitably – at least that’s what its owner Unilever reports of its subsidiary (since 2000). Among other things, Dave talks about how
- social activism and ‘euphoric concoctions’ mix well when they are loved and lived
- the intention can not be marketing but the purpose can drive popularity
- work is too long and purchases are too precious not to be meaningful
- profit is not an after-thought… but comes later
- the most important thing is to stand up when it really counts…
… but, where are all the other brands when you need them?
Enjoy (CLICK PLAY BUTTON)
For more insights into what drives the success of brands like Ben & Jerry’s read our book “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueberbrands,” and other posts on this blog-cast.
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Here is a benchmark against which Ben & Jerry’s efforts can be measured: Jamie Peck opines in The Guardian that “Brands are not your friends… They don’t care about social justice. They exist solely to sell you crap you probably don’t need.” She is reacting to some much discussed and mostly liked ads Heineken aired in 2017, reflecting “shifting in societal attitudes” for which Heineken should get no credit, she thinks, but instead be shamed for jumping from girls in bikinis onto the social band wagon. Is Ben & Jerry’s approach fundamentally different? – We would argue that yes. Social Engagement is a core part of the brand’s DNA. That brand has consistently, for decades put their money and actions where their proclaimed mission leads them. That is what makes it an ‘Ueber-Brand’ in our book.
On the oher hand, here are some embedded links to the debate over the Audi, Pepsi, Fresh ads and our post on Gillette (and CPG’s) foray into social activism.