Brand Sauce: Post-purpose Brands
In the last decade we’ve had an awful lot of branding and marketing buzzwords flying around. From sustainability, to authenticity and every word in between. We, as a society, latch onto these words to describe our businesses and strategies. Why do we do this? It creates a perceived image that we can share with the world.
New terms and phrases make an appearance, some stick, some disappear. A new term has appeared on our radar, post-purpose. LS:N Global then began to enlighten us on what the meaning of this phrase was and it’s a really interesting line of thought.
While we’re constantly justifying brands by their authenticity, the idea of a post-purpose brand takes this one step further. It is no longer enough to simply state your own authenticity. Post-purpose is about setting realistic, honest, achievable targets that express those beliefs. Ever heard the term ‘we live and breath X’? Well it means doing exactly that. As consumers, we’re no longer the naive, doe-eyed consumers from the past that actually believed Lucky Strikes were good for you or that Sunny D was made from real fruit. Today, we have access to endless information, expert opinions and past experiences we need to make informed decisions.
Consumers are hoping around from brand to brand more than ever. With less loyalty and a heightened sense of distrust brands need to be honest, otherwise skeptical consumers just won’t buy into what you’re saying. Being a post-purpose brand, that sets honest, transparent and most importantly, realistic ambitions can mitigate that skepticism and show consumers you’re doing what you say on the tin. Brands have to follow up what they say with conviction and action.
How does it differ from other buzzwords?
Buzzwords are buzzwords for a reason. Sustainability is still massively important to get brands greener, authenticity still shows consumers a brands true self but these words are often tricky to define. When we talk about sustainability we talk about green processes, longevity of products, no single use plastics, or anything really. It’s an umbrella term for a whole host of environmental issues. We could say the same about authenticity, they’re hard to put a single definition behind. So post-purpose is a little clearer because it’s about measurable goals.
If purposeful brands have “a reason to be created”, then post-purpose brands action that reason for being. It looks at the actionable goals that can be set by the company.
Why is this happening?
There are a magnitude of reasons why right now is the time for post-purpose brands.
You could pinpoint the start of this journey at the time in which consumers believed almost everything, reiterating that faithful lucky strike consumer of the 1920s. If you put a marketing strategy in front of our eyes, we’d probably have believed it, simply because there was no reason not too – if a doctor says it, it must be true right? They weren’t privy to the ad agency putting cash into the doc’s back pocket. Then, when the internet came around and developed, we had more access to information than ever before. We didn’t need a knowledge of medicine to know if the latest diet pill actually made you skinny, we could Google it. Fast forward twenty years and we Google everything.
When brands realised they could no longer pull the wool over our eyes, marketing had to change. Long gone were the days of throwing fake facts around, consumers knew better. In recent years companies have tried to appease savvy consumers with sneaky tricks like greenwashing. In their defence, for a while it worked. When big oil companies told us they were renewable energy centric we bought it. It didn’t fly for long though, customers cottoned on to this. Here begins our cancel culture.
2020 has been a rollercoaster to say the least and the BLM protests have shown us that we transparent change instead of flippant comments. L’Oreal got majorly cancelled after their social posts in support of the cause. This is the same brand that sacked Munroe Bergdorf, trans and racism activist, in previous years for being too “vocal about racial issues”. This performative allyship is a great example of what not to do as a post-purpose brand.
The Era of Monomass, a great read supplied by Dazed, tells us about the death of the influencer. This is not to say we aren’t looking to Insta users to guide us, but that the vapid, superficial qualities that flood our screens is coming to an end and transforming into something else. The days of Pretty Little Thing hauls are dying and in its place we want to see change makers and activism influencers. The same can be said for brands, we want realistic, honest goals that better our society.
Who’s doing it right?
If we know that big brands like L’oreal are doing it so wrong, then who’s doing it right? We’re a little tired of Patagonia being the go-to brand discussed at every possible moment, so here’s a few brands we feel are hitting post-purpose just right.
Nudie Jeans feels like the definition of a post-purpose brand. They set their ethical bar, and meet it. The premise of the brand is that being naked is the most environmentally friendly option, hence the name. Second to that Nudie have strived to make their jeans the most green option afterwards. From the outset, Nudie Jeans number one principle has been to keep that pair of jeans alive as long as possible. They do this through repairs. Repair shops, a mobile repair station tour, repair kits, you name it they’re repairing it. This shows us from the offset, their reason for existing, it’s pretty exciting. Further to this, they keep working to be greener, as shown by their totally transparent sustainable development goals (SDGs) easily found on their website. The sustainability link on their site is a transparent hub for everything Nudie related. From the water their cotton uses to living wages it’s all there.
Not only is their information transparent, but it’s actually easily accessible. You won’t have to slog through the deep dark corners of the web to find their sustainable, ethical, social or performance reports.
If transparency is the key to post-purpose brands then Girlfriend Collective is your ticket. The founders started the brand with being as transparent as possible at the forefront of their minds. On their website they state “We’re like the earth’s number one fan, so being eco-friendly is at the top of our priorities, as is giving you as much information as possible. Here’s a breakdown of each of our products and how it stacks up.”. Following list there is a comprehensive list of the fabrics used in products and their recycled quantities.
A key feature of this brand’s purposeful nature is the SA8000, a certificate developed by Social Accountability International (SAI). They created this certification to help and protect workers worldwide by providing a standardized guideline to protect the integrity of workers’ conditions and wages. Accountability is crucial. What does it matter if you’re setting honest goals, if you have absolutely no intention on meeting them? Set a trajectory and then keep it up, that’s what this brand is doing.
What does that teach us?
The reason these brands have so much success at being post-purpose brands, is because they don’t aim too high. While this seems counterintuitive, having spent our childhoods being told to dream big, it’s actually realistic. If brands aren’t shooting for the stars, setting unachievable goals, they have more time to concentrate on the nitty gritty, an introspective look at how they can make valuable changes within the field that they’re in.
The next big tick for these brands is their transparency. They not only provide access to the information, but they make it simple. They don’t wedge a link at the bottom of the page in size four font, they display it proudly.
So we’ve decided that there should be no deflection, the next step is accountability. One way from brands to ensure that not only are they setting realistic and honest goals, but are also meeting them, is through accountability. Whether this is through standards bodies, certificates or realising transparent reports, it’s important.
What does that teach us?
We say you should keep it real a lot but what’s really important is living and breathing your principles. Purpose should be a business philosophy, not an afterthought. The more honest you can be and the more realistic you are, the better off you’ll be. Further to this, actionable, accountable goals you can update your consumer on will go a long way. As brands and consumers continue to develop access to this kind of information is likely to become the norm. Get ahead of the game because dishonesty, deflection and false promises will only end in tears.
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