Discovering your brand’s social purpose
by Laricea Roman-Halliday, Head of Marketing at Party Casino

Audiences demand accountability from brands on the issues they care about.

15th July 2021 Read time: 56 minutes

Does your brand have a social purpose? Does it stand for something? How should a brand discover or define its purpose? Is it conceivable that some companies have launched with no brand purpose at all? 

All those questions, and more, were discussed at length in a What’s Possible Community session in July. 

It’s not a destination, it’s a journey,” says Laricea Roman-Halliday, about the process of defining a brand’s social purpose. And she should know, she wrote the book on the topic. Laricea is the author of A Brand’s Purpose…Less Unicorn, More Zebra? and is also the Head of Marketing at Party Casino. 

The title of her book points to the differences between unicorns and zebras and how they can be symbolically applied to discovering your brand’s social purpose. Laricea believes instead of competition and monopoly, the characteristics of zebras are much more suited to purposeful brands.  She explains: 

The zebra is all about community. Zebras live together. It’s all about the community and working together for the betterment of the community. It’s about quality, it’s about collaboration. By sticking together, they defend each other from predators, they find food, they look after their young. It’s all about the sustainable prosperity.”

All profits from her book sales are donated to Forests Without Frontiers, a non-profit organisation that plants trees in the United Kingdom and Romania.  

Laricea took part in a roundtable with the What’s Possible Community to talk about how a brand should define a purpose that will resonate with its customers. 

Consumers demand brands take action and do better things for society and do other things than just profit. I noticed some of the brands who are doing that are the most successful brands of the moment,” Laricea told the Community.  

In fact, Nielsen reports consumer brands that demonstrate commitment to sustainability outperform those that don’t. According to a study in 2015, 66% of global respondents were willing to pay more for sustainable goods from ethical brands.  

Laricea encourages brands to ‘find their north star’; the core and the heart of the business that brings cohesion between everything from product to operations to marketing. This is the roadmap to discovering your brand’s social purpose. 

The most effective case study to demonstrate an innovative brand purpose, in Laricea’s opinion, is the TOMS shoes initiative

The building blocks of a brand purpose 

Good news for brands that have not developed a social purpose yet: it can be retrofitted.  

Laricea has a two-pronged approach for brands who want to generate a brand purpose from a genuine perspective as opposed to jumping on the bandwagon. As an owner, founder, CEO, CMO, or marketer, building a brand’s purpose starts with these two things:  

  1. Your own personal ambitions. The things you are passionate about, and what you want to fight for.
  2. What is your consumer’s opinion about the thing you are passionate about? Or, what do your consumers care about?  

Brands, according to Laricea, might notice their consumers hold opinions about politics, social issues, or environmental issues. She says the best brands find a sweet spot between what the founders care about, and what their consumers care about.  

Another of Laricea’s two-pronged approaches to implementing an effective brand purpose is:  

  1. Always be genuine.
  2. Walk the talk. 

The brand purpose, Laricea says, should start at the ground level of the company and permeate all the way upward through the organisation. The entire organisation has to walk the talk.  

Your brand purpose has to start with the janitor. When JFK once asked a janitor at NASA what his role was, the janitor replied by saying, ‘sir, I am putting a man on the moon’,” Laricea recalled.  

Laricea says that once a purpose has been developed, constant development around it is imperative. She believes that instilling a purpose into a brand is no longer optional.  

The fruits of your labour 

Once you have discovered your brand purpose, implementation is the next step.  

Laricea, in a full chapter of her book, talks about how some of the world’s best brands have implemented an effective brand purpose. Implementation of the brand purpose, according to Laricea, is an all-encompassing process.  

Start building on changing everything. The service you are delivering, the suppliers you are using, and the clients you are working with,” Laricea instructs.  

Once the process is complete, Laricea says there will be an army of committed consumers who would happily convert other people to become your consumers. She also notes that a company who has a successfully implemented brand purpose will have an army of happy employees as well.  

All of the positive outcomes the brand sees will be the fruits of the labour of discovering, defining and implementing its purpose.