The fascinating and useful Kantar Purpose 2020 study demonstrates that brands with perceived positive impact (in other words, which are perceived to be purposeful) outperform brands who are not or only partially. Over a period of 12 years the brands with high perceived positive impact have a brand value growth of 175%, versus 86% for medium positive impact and 70% for low positive impact.
Kantar Consulting surveyed more than 20,000 consumers and carried out 100 deep dive interviews with leading brands. 76% of marketing leaders believe their organisation has a defined purpose, but only one in ten actually have a corporate purpose statement backed by a meaningful activation plan. Furthermore, while two-thirds of marketing leaders believe that purpose delivers long-term growth only one third of them believe purpose is regarded as a “company-wide movement” within their company.
The study also outlines the journey for becoming a purpose-led brand and business, from articulation (how can the business be meaningful to the world) all the way to amplification (how brands can create a movement). I caught up with Robert Jan D’Hond, Managing Partner, and Global Lead Brand Practice at Kantar Consulting to find out more.
Afdhel Aziz: Robert, welcome. Could you please summarize what the Purpose 2020 report outlines?
Robert Jan D’Hond: The study outlines the journey for becoming a purpose-led brand and business, from articulation (how can the business be meaningful to the world) all the way to amplification (how do we create a movement). Ultimately, we have defined three phases:
Articulation: with 5 key characteristics to create a meaningful and credible Purpose: Relevance, credibility, uniqueness, coherence and Business-proof
Infusion: with 4 drivers of rally throughout the business: Leadership driven, culture & strategy-led, 360executed and impact measured
Amplification: with 3 ways to create a movement beyond your brand and company: Role-modelling, collaboration and fueling conversation
Aziz: Please tell us more about what differentiates the companies in the highest multiple (175%) versus the low and middle – what sets them apart?
D’Hond: The critical dimension which sets the overperformers apart is the ability to infuse the purpose led thinking throughout the company, rather than just being a marketing and or one-off gig. Eighty percent of over-performers are successful in a companywide infusion versus just 32% of underperformers. This strengthens both the credibility and the ability to truly deliver purpose led thinking at all customer touchpoints.
Purpose-doing gets more important than Purpose-saying. Each saying should be underpinned with a program of doing.
Aziz: Do you feel like purpose is now “table stakes” for every CEO to understand?
D’Hond: Yes, and increasingly key influencers are making this crystal clear. From last year’s Blackrock CEO letter to this years statement from the Business Roundtable CEO get urged to create a clear view and all unambiguously state that for each business the long term strategy can only be viable with a view how it will contribute to a better planet and society.
Aziz: What do you think the biggest misconception about purpose is?
D’Hond: The problem is that there are many misconceptions. From very restricting ones like “Only specific companies, with an activist heritage can credibly be purposeful” or “As a company we can only claim our purpose if we’re perfect in all aspects.” To too bullish one’s like “We can take any purpose for our brand which taps into a societal topic.”
Not to mention that in general the concept of “Purpose” is widely misunderstood and used more as a buzz word rather than doing real branding with impact.
Aziz: What do you think the biggest barriers to purpose being adopted is?
D’Hond: Both skepticism and anxiety with Purpose. Being skeptical on the impact a company can make, or anxious of living up to a purposeful promise. The key is to start with a bold vision, implementing key steps to get there, and then being humble in the communication.
In the broad business reality where brands are managed by a quarterly P&L, proving the long-term impact of purpose is difficult – not many leaders even dare to start.
Aziz: Fascinating. Finally, tell us about your idea about the ‘beautiful paradox’ of purpose?
D’Hond: Sometimes you hear the statement in the boardroom that “we are too much under financial pressure to be purposeful,” that we should focus first on financial return and then see if we can do something more beautiful. But the reverse is most often true, the purposeful companies have a higher return, than the companies focusing on just financial return. The evidence is there, but turning your business from a revenue machine to being purpose-led takes time and commitment. As Purpose2020 outlines, it’s a journey, not an overnight makeover.