Is this the end for brand purpose?

Pepsi, Heineken, Dove and McDonald’s have all run into trouble recently by combining social purpose with a sales message. Is this the end for brand purpose?

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  • Stephanie Nordstrom 04/10/2017 at 5:32 pm

    Great read. I fully agree with the reverse effect that purpose-driven marketing has from what it intends for these large brands. They are co-opting something that was never theirs in the first place, which will only increasingly be perceived as manipulative. Furthermore, the practice dilutes the sincerity of anyone taking a stand to have a similarly ulterior motive. In contrast, I do see modern brands having much success when they grow structured from a central principle. Glossier – Skin First, Makeup Second is an example of a purpose that they introduced to the market. Ownership over a positive idea – if original, will only continue to flourish.

  • Visnja Milidragovic 21/06/2017 at 9:23 pm

    The real purpose of companies has always been to make money – whether for a good cause or not. And they’re always sold more than just the product, whether people were aware of it or not. So no, brand purpose isn’t dead – so long as companies are making money. Consumers are just becoming more discerning – whether this affects their purchasing decisions or not is the only things companies really care about.

  • Celia Wilson 20/06/2017 at 11:11 pm

    I don’t get influenced by ads because at a very young age my Dad who worked at a large corporation said not to believe in them… Ha

  • . 20/06/2017 at 5:07 pm

    Advertising is the lapdog of capitalism, and until capitalism is fixed – something becoming more obvious as a broken model every day – advertising will continue to pander and manipulate for a single bottom line. And as much as emotionally intelligent advertisers and their agencies would wish to be a part of real change, they are merely followers, beholden to the whims of shareholders over stakeholders and the fallacy of neoliberalism and the markets “invisible hand”.

  • Radostin Peshev 20/06/2017 at 9:08 am

    Very insightful article indeed. It (re)proves the simple truth that Sir John Hegarty talked about – the brand relevance. Nowadays, every brand tries to tame the social wave no matter how far it is from the brand credo and how appropriate is to the audience. Brands should think more about authenticity – today’s audience most despised thing is fakeness and all those look fake as a cause. Cannes Lions are also overoccupied with fake-ness.

  • Neil Hopkins 20/06/2017 at 9:02 am

    Is it the end of brand purpose, or the end of badly done brand purpose? McDonald’s Dead Dad should never really have come off the idea board ; Pepsi was like bad Dad Dancing and should have been spotted before release; and I’m not entirely sure what Dove where thinking with their bottles.

    Personally, I quite liked the Heineken work and think that some of the backlash against it was wrong (more here: ). I also disagree with your read on it – that the act of buying the beer is an act of social good.
    The ad merely positions Heineken as a mechanism, not an end. brands like TOMS Shoes, for example, position the purpose/social good relationship much more strongly.

    For examples of well done social purpose, I think that NatWest works quite well at the moment – they seem to have judged mood & tone well.

    Purpose is a massively strong driver – and I think that it will remain so as more people become more interested in the world around them. The key, however, is to make the expression of that purpose meaningful and not a fly-by-night attempt to get some soft headlines. Consumers can see where a brand’s actions don’t match their advertising and will vote with their wallets!


Halesworth, Suffolk


Halesworth, Suffolk