Define Your North Star: Brand Purpose Beyond Products

Feb 13, 2018 9:00 AM ET

The new opportunity for brands is not only marketing incremental product benefits, but embodying a higher purpose that serves your consumers’ aspirations for a good life by directly addressing the barriers to it.

As capitalism shifts to unite profits and purpose, most brands know how to design a great product or a reliable service. Yet many struggle when their company’s deeper mission has become muddy or even irrelevant. Brand purpose lives at the intersection of a company’s authentic reason for being and the unmet human needs that it can uniquely fulfill in the marketplace and the world. Revealing this harmonic is the key to defining your north star.

Nourishing Lives

DanoneWave, the U.S.’s largest public benefit corporation whose brands include Activia, Evian and Dannon yogurt, developed its Alimentation Revolution manifesto to bridge the disconnect between people and the source of their food so we can all make choices that nourish our families, communities and the world. Crafted collaboratively by the company’s employees, the manifesto honors the profound role of food in our lives and proclaims that “good health is a state of general well- being, involving the mind as well as the body, and emotion as well as sensation.”

Recognizing food’s significance for pleasure, culture and the health of the planet, the manifesto commits to the “quest to find better health through better food and beverage for the greatest number.” All of the brands in the DanoneWave portfolio are now becoming “manifesto brands,” whereby the products, positioning, communications and marketing will holistically support its north star purpose and be measured by the B Corporation impact assessment.

“In 10 years’ time, people will say it’s inconceivable that business was done any other way,” explains DanoneWave CEO Lorna Davis. “The notion that a company can only care about profit will be seen as old-fashioned and irresponsible.”

Net Positive Impact

The Body Shop’s north star, Enrich Not Exploit, is grounded in the late founder Anita Roddick’s belief that business should be a powerful force for good. Ever since the makeup and skincare company’s founding in 1976, the brand has committed to working fairly with farmers and suppliers, never testing on animals, addressing taboo subjects like human trafficking and enriching the biodiversity of our planet. Today, the brand is working with The Future-Fit Foundation to become the world’s most ethical and sustainable beauty business. For The Body Shop, it is not just about setting goals to be “less bad,” but rather doing business in an intentional and transparent way that actually makes a net positive impact on the planet while also fueling the company’s growth.

A Kinder World

Snack company KIND is on a mission “to make the world a little kinder” by inspiring individual and collective action: “Nice means well, but it’s not enough. Kind is different. Nice is polite, but it stays out of it. Kind is honest – it speaks up and rises to the occasion. Nice doesn’t add to problems, but Kind rolls up its sleeves and solves them. Nice doesn’t bully, but Kind stands up to bullies. Nice is something you say, whereas Kind is something you do.”

CEO Daniel Lubetzky is putting kindness into action by challenging the FDA to update labeling requirements so they encourage nut and seed consumption as part of a healthy diet. And the KIND brand recently created a 45,485 pound pile of sugar in Times Square to draw attention to the amount of added sugar found in most kids’ snacks. “Since day one, KIND has been committed to balancing health and taste, and our KIND Promise has centered on crafting snacks with a nutritionally dense first ingredient,” Lubetzky declared.

By elevating a north star purpose that integrates both business and societal impacts, brands are helping consumers realize their aspirations for a better life by directly addressing the more systemic and structural issues that all too often get in the way.

For more design principles, global consumer insights and inspiring brand examples, click here to download BBMG and GlobeScan's full report, Brand Purpose in Divided Times