I was asked recently to give a talk answering the question ‘does brand purpose really drive profit?’. My very short answer to it was ‘yes it can, but mostly it probably doesn’t’.
“Purpose” gets (over-?)used a lot when talking about companies, but a lot of the conversations gloss over where those organizations sit on the spectrum that runs between purpose-as-a-reason-for-being and purpose-as-a-marketing-tactic (however well-intentioned it might be). The link between purpose and performance is logically going to be weaker or stronger depending on where a given organization lands on that spectrum.
The author also nails the most on-target hypothesis around why purpose has becomes such a big thing in the marketing/advertising space:
And my theory is that perhaps advertising people have subconsciously sought in response – through their eager adoption of the concept of brand purpose – to prove they can be of value to society and that their work can do some good. The great irony here being that a response which has resulted in advertising people pretending, for example, that a brand of carbonated sugar water can solve some of society’s biggest issues, will actually have the opposite of the intended consequence: most of the pseudo-purposeful advertising out there just makes ad people and their output seem even more deceitful.