Brands need to do things with purpose, on purpose

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Brands need to do things with purpose, on purpose

Following last weeks event where we were joined by Grundfos, LEGO and Nextstep by Bindslev, Jens Krog reflects on purpose as a term and its implications for the industry. 



Last week, I had the pleasure of celebrating 25 years with Advance. What a journey it has been!

Over the years, I’ve met a lot of interesting people and fascinating companies, while helping international brands on their quest to stay true to their core in an everchanging world. That’s not easy.

There is an increasing pressure on CMO’s and CEO’s to define or even invent ‘purpose’ in their operations and communications, in order to tap into the latest trends and stay relevant. In my experience, this ‘path to purpose’ can be a dangerous route to follow. The brand purpose that results from this approach is often superficial and something that doesn’t truly live in the organization. It may not connect to the actual experience customers have with your brand or products. I believe that the only way to understand and articulate this ‘purpose’ is to closely look at why and how your company was established in the first place. Who founded the company? What motivated those people? What was the original ‘modus operandi’?

Sometimes, this core purpose is easy to see and still lives on in the way the company operates. But sometimes the company has grown and evolved, and that core purpose has to be found again, by drilling down and rediscovering those early operating principles. When that happens, it’s amazing to see how much this ‘new-found’ but old purpose resonates with employees and customers.

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At my 25thanniversary celebration, I was delighted to be joined by a couple of old friends and colleagues who provided some insights into the work they do that connects to a bigger cause or purpose that helps make the world better.


Claus Bindslev kicked off the afternoon with an inspiring story of how he, an established Danish strategy and transformation consultant, was inspired to start a sustainable fisheries NGO in a troubled part of Africa, where piracy was rife. Fresh water and the pumps that help mine it, are essential to life.


Grundfos, represented by CMO Ulrik Gernow (who I first met at LEGO a decade ago!) originally invented pumps to help industries and private households in the developed world to get fresh water. With water scarcity being one of the greatest global challenges, Grundfos is also helping to solve these issues in developing countries. So their original purpose is still driving them today and making them relevant, credible… and very successful.


Check out their LinkedIn page to see how meaningful their work is and just how proud the employees are.

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I have had the privilege of working with LEGO throughout my entire career at Advance. LEGO is also very conscious about their footprint, although the way they execute their purpose is a bit different. LEGO was invented to create system in kids’ play. First in wooden toys and later as the well-known bricks. This system-in-play supports motoric skills, spatial intelligence and playful learning. I’m convinced that these benefits and the potential it has for the kids (and kidults) of the world were discovered as the products were matured. Today LEGO has expanded this to support kids’ development through play in a wide range of initiatives through the LEGO Foundation, Kirkbi investments, and the Sesame Workshop.


These companies consciously do these initiatives via their daily operations - on purpose so to speak. It’s not just a communication exercise talking about intentions; it’s inherent in what they do and how they operate.


You may argue that LEGO and Grundfos are both privately held companies and therefore have a longer perspective on investments and profit. That’s absolutely true. But in the future, more and more customers, employees and investors will be asking for a relevant and credible purpose, no matter how the company is owned.


As a communication person, I love the idea that the media landscape, transparency and globalization are putting pressure on brands and companies to stop pretending and overselling themselves and what that they do. And this is just the beginning. I’m convinced that we, as an industry need to help companies navigate the coming years and stay true to their DNA and their core purpose, rather than trying to be something they are not.


I, for one, look forward to this! 

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