Marrying mission with purpose

The question of how brands continue to remain relevant is one that is central among companies looking to make space for themselves among an ever-shifting consumer base. As companies look to engage the New General Market consumer, Seventh Generation CEO John Replogle said there is one key element uniting companies that are able to endure: Soul.

Replogle shared this insight with attendees at the Drug Store News and Mack Elevation New General Market Summit in April. Replogle also discussed what it means for a brand to have soul, and how the brands that do are able to build loyalty among consumers.

“Soul gets to what the brand is all about. It’s about that purpose — it’s the mission, it’s the heart and fundamentally it’s why you exist,” Replogle said. “The consumer gives you a right to continue to exist.”

A brand with soul is able to marry its mission and its purpose, and appeal to consumers in the process, he said. A 2014 survey from the Futures Company found that 68% of consumers said they’re more likely to buy brands that push for change on issues they care about, and a 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer survey found that 75% of consumers believe brands can take actions to both increase profits and improve the economic and social conditions of the communities in which they operate.

“Fundamentally, identity matters,” Replogle said. “You must be ethically and consumer-oriented, deliver safety and security for consumers, and help them optimize and drive wellness and wellbeing. If your brand captures these core elements, your brand has soul.” Among the brands Replogle highlighted that have found their purposes was Dove, which, like Seventh Generation, is a Unilever company.

Prior to Seventh Generation, Replogle was part of the brand team that helped Dove find its soul and began taking active steps to help improve self-esteem among women with its Real Beauty campaign, he explained. “With the Campaign for Real Beauty, Dove found its soul, and I think as a result Dove will be an enduring brand,” he said. In fact, Dove just overtook Knorr as the largest brand in Unilever’s global portfolio.

Companies that begin with a mission have even more potential to endure. Replogle noted that Seventh Generation’s ethos is built on the Great Law of Peace, which was the guiding principle of the Iroquois Confederacy, and is said to encourage all decisions be made through the lens of how they will impact the next seven generations to come.

Inspired by that creed, Seventh Generation works to communicate their mission to its customers through its products and its sustainability efforts. From being ahead of the curve in listing the ingredients on its products to thinking of itself as a benefit corporation that can use business to solve social and environmental problems, Seventh Generation is communicating its brand identity to its customers who are more loyal as a result.

Given Replogle’s history of building two purpose-driven brands over the last decade, including Burt’s Bee’s, he has shown that consumers will reach for products with a purpose, that it is possible to charge a premium in the marketplace, and that this business model is one of accelerated growth. In conclusion, Replogle said. “Ultimately, build that brand with soul, align with consumer interests, lead the way and they will come to you and allow you to be part of their lives and pay for that privilege,” he said.

(Click here to view the full Special Report: New General Market Summit 2017.)