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Purpose Pressure

July 22, 2022
4 min read

There’s no getting away from it, consumers like purpose. What was once a USP is now almost a necessity, a fundamental component of a fulfilling life. And for every meaningful company that began with a genuine reason to better the world, there’s a handful shoehorning that purpose into their brand in an attempt to stay relevant. And when a quick Google states two-thirds of consumers globally (63 percent!) prefer to buy goods and services from companies that stand for a shared purpose that reflects their personal values and beliefs it’s easy to see why.

A recent purpose push for Hellmann’s Mayonnaise was too much for many shareholders to stomach (pun intended). If brands are pushing our condiments to have purpose, has it just become marketing bullshit? When I buy mayo, like most, my buying decisions are that it fits into the shopping budget, and most importantly, that it tastes good.

Google ‘brands with purpose' and you’ll find hundreds of articles with lists of big brands doing the purpose thing well. The Patagonia and Chobani’s of the world — creating products, but with a bigger purpose of what they add to the world, or even a reason for existing. Rather than serve up the same examples, here are 2 brands that I’ve purchased from solely BECAUSE of their purpose…

Who Gives a Crap toilet roll branding

Who Gives a Crap

Toilet paper that builds toilets. B Corp™ certified for the highest standards, who donate 50% of its profits to countries with poor sanitation and contaminated water. Nice brand, very clear mission, and a nice consumer experience.

I saw an advert for them, and I thought, “why not buy loo roll from a company doing good”. And for their premium toilet roll, delivered to your door, you pay a premium price.

But, my kids didn’t like it. So after a few subscriptions, I cancelled it. Purpose aside, the product didn’t meet the high demands of my daughters' bums.


Tribe bars branding and purpose


I came across Tribe through a running personality on Instagram. Their reason for existing, comes from a small group of like-minded runners who completed a 1,000 mile run to fight modern slavery in 2013.

I like protein bars, and don’t like modern slavery.

Win, win.

I’ve been a customer since 2018 and continue to use them. Their price point is similar to other bars, but they taste GREAT. That’s the differentiator for me, the taste. I’ve tried loads of other similar brands, with equally important purposes, that tasted like sawdust. So I stopped buying them. Whereas Tribe continues to keep me as a consumer because their product is great.


2 different brands that lead with a clear purpose. 1 brand I use each week, 1 that I haven’t used for a year, and probably won’t again. I bought from both brands because of their purpose, but as I became accustomed to their product, their purpose was used differently in my decisions.

For Tribe, I’m not consciously thinking “a percentage of the profit of this bar will go to preventing slavery”. It’s simply “I need a tasty snack, and I know these won’t disappoint”.

But for Who Gives a Crap, the purpose became the only reason to keep buying a product I wasn’t particularly bothered about. I actually felt guilty that I didn’t like the product, because of the good it was doing!

In both cases, the purpose was a differentiator in trying their product, then it was down to the quality/value to keep me.

There’s an interesting study by Deloitte, Purpose — A beacon for growth, where they looked to see just how important purpose is to consumers when faced with a buying decision (or if they rather cheekily say they do, when asked by a researcher). Both price and quality are still key drivers when consumers are looking to make a purchase, with values and purpose providing some form of differentiation.

Purpose is important, but purpose alone won’t save you if your product doesn’t do the job.

Purpose can be an excellent differentiator (here’s a great example in the bottled water market), and can be used as a genuine reason to attract a particular demographic to your brand with shared values.

But it needs to be authentic. Don’t force it. Don’t see it as a marketing effort.

Mayonnaise tastes great with chips, purpose or not.

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