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Counter Talk: Purpose is a necessity

We now live in a world where brands are judged by their reputation, story and purpose. This year’s New General Market Purpose Driven Summit challenged a high-growth group of brands and retailers to protect their brand story — connecting with today’s consumer as people first and to create a genuine connection.

The Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that 60% of millennials are belief-driven buyers, as are 53% of Gen Z and 51% of Gen X. Consider this, 57% of consumers now buy or boycott a brand based on its position on social or political issues. A shift has occurred, the majority of consumers will stop buying a brand if they believe the company’s practices are unethical.

Many purpose-driven brands are growing 10-times faster than larger, established —non-purpose — brands, and purpose-driven companies return six times more to shareholders than explicitly profit-driven organizations.

Here are some stories shared at the summit:

    • L2: Vice president of intelligence Evan Neufeld spoke about “The Changing Rules of Building Brand Equity.” Neufeld shared that personalization is an ongoing challenge, with more than half of all brands being laggards in data capturing and target marketing, and 83% of marketing content creators calling it their top obstacle.

    • Sundial Brands: CEO Rich Dennis founded the company with a vision, and the brand came along for the ride. Dennis believes brand soul is birthed from conviction and community love. Sundial Brands has recently initiated a $100 million New Voices Fund that invests in female entrepreneurs of color.

    • Unilever: Mike Clementi, vice president of North America and global customer development, spoke of the paradox of thriving as a leader in a world of uncertainty and ambiguity. Unilever takes pride in helping its employees discover their “individual purposes” — and how it links to Unilever’s broader purpose. This linkage allows all parties to thrive.

    • IRI: Larry Levin, executive vice president of consumer and shopper marketing and thought leadership, shared that brands must understand that they are now speaking to five distinct generations: Silent, Boomers, Gen X, millennials and Gen Z. Levin shared that nearly 50% of those age 18-to-21 years old influence their household grocery shopping, and 70% of Gen Z make purchases based on their values. “This new generation doesn’t see diversity unless it’s gone,” Levin said.

    • Brandless: Rachael Vegas, chief merchant, said that customers should not have to pay more for quality. Brandless is a digital company that offers an amazing group of food, household and health and beauty products for only $3. Launched in 2017 with 300 items, — largely non-GMO, some organic, vegan and cruelty-free. Brandless’ 1-for-1 social mission is a partnership with Feeding America, that buys a meal for people in need with every order placed.

    • Coty: Shannon Curtin, senior vice president, reminded us that the Empire State Building was built in 410 days. So why can’t we innovate more quickly? Curtin highlighted Coty’s commitment to social listening, purposeful storytelling, content optimization and selling.

The day’s centerpiece was a panel with Latriece Watkins, Walmart senior vice president of merchandising, consumables and OTC; Colleen Lindholz, Kroger president of pharmacy; George Coleman, CVS Health vice president of merchandising; and Chris Skyers, Wakefern vice president of corporate merchandising and marketing. The overwhelming message was that purpose must be more than a slogan — it must be trustworthy, protected by values and truly serve the consumer.The best brands are flesh and blood, and their purpose is a catalyst for relationship transformation. Both values and value are necessities for brand experience and growth.
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