Peter Field makes strong case for potential power of brand purpose campaigns

The findings were unveiled at EffWorks Global 2021

Blanket criticisms of brand purpose advertising are unjustified, according to effectiveness expert Peter Field, who outlined his case for the potential power of brand purpose campaigns using his new analysis from the IPA Effectiveness Awards Databank, at the IPA EffWorks Global 2021 Conference.

Studying the IPA Effectiveness Awards Databank, Field has compared and contrasted 47 brand purpose cases with 333 non-purpose cases over the same period, from which he is able to show that brand purpose can be very effective. Whilst he acknowledges that brand purpose is too often poorly executed, he argues that it is early days for the approach and identifies a number of ways for how brand purpose can be more effective.

When brand purpose is done well, it can be incredibly effective, but to be good there are particular learnings to observe.

Peter Field

Using a set definition of brand purpose*, Field is upfront about his initial top-line finding which could validate some scepticism. According to this figure, the average number of very large business effects for all non-purpose campaigns stands at 1.6. For brand purpose campaigns this figure stands markedly lower at 1.1. However, and crucially, when delving into the data further, it is clear that there are sharp and explainable differences between strongly executed brand purpose cases and weakly executed ones. By studying the 57% of brand purpose cases that perform strongly, Field observes the considerable potential rewards of the approach and the key features of these strong campaigns. He argues that many more brand purpose campaigns could enjoy these rewards if they learnt the lessons from the successful ones.

Field’s key findings that make the case for better brand purpose campaigns:

Strong Purpose cases are very effective

The number of very large business effects for Strong purpose cases is 2.1 vs 1.6 benchmark for All non-purpose cases (but only 0.1 for unsuccessful purpose cases).

Strong Purpose cases drive trial & share

50% of Strong purpose cases achieved very large customer acquisition effects vs 30% of All non-purpose cases (but only 5% of unsuccessful purpose cases).

And 41% of Strong purpose cases drove very large market share growth vs 26% for All non-purpose cases, but again unsuccessful purpose cases lagged well behind at 0%.

Strong Purpose cases build brands

The number of very large brand effects stands at 3.0 for Strong purpose cases – an exceptionally strong performance - vs 1.9 for All non-purpose cases (and 1.0 for unsuccessful purpose cases).

  • Delving into these brand effects Field observes particular strengths for strongly executed brand purpose across metrics associated with brand appeal: trust, commitment and fame
  • As well as across metrics associated with distinctiveness: differentiation, image and awareness

Field argues that these observations refute the blanket criticisms of brand purpose as an ineffective approach, but goes on to show that brand purpose has some considerable innate strengths that outperform alternative approaches. Chief amongst these are its impacts on suppliers and distributors as well as on investors. He argues that improving ESG performance is of immediate appeal to these important stakeholders, who respond positively to advertising that shows genuine commitment to doing so.

Similarly, positive media coverage of brand purpose campaigns is generally stronger than of alternative approaches. This can help to amplify the effectiveness of brand purpose.

Additionally, strong brand purpose is shown to have powerful effects on employee satisfaction.

Field’s lessons to learn for effective brand purpose cases

Field pinpoints the four key areas where better execution of brand purpose can lead to strong effectiveness, highlighting specific cases:

  • Physical availability: strong cases work closely with distributors aligned to purpose, to develop bespoke in-store presence. (For example the Skittles and SK-II cases)
  • Mental availability & Distinctiveness: strong cases clearly align purpose to product virtues/benefits and ensure this is credible. (See Dove, Kenco, Lifebuoy, Velvet, Waitrose cases)
  • Penetration growth: strong cases use purpose to strengthen association with category entry points.
    (Ella’s Kitchen, Lifebuoy cases)
  • Mass Appeal: strong cases align purpose to popular issues amongst target market. (Bisto, Lifebuoy, Volvo Australia cases)

Says Peter Field: "What these findings show is that we shouldn’t dismiss brand purpose out of hand. As we see here, there can be considerable benefits for companies in deploying brand purpose campaigns – both for engaging their own employees, stakeholders and investors as well as for driving customer sales. When it is done well, when it is genuine and credible, brand purpose can be very powerful."

Says Janet Hull OBE, IPA Director of Marketing Strategy and Executive Director IPA EffWorks: "Even though brand purpose is a relatively new science, there is already evidence coming from the IPA Databank of the range of its appeal to different stakeholders. Given growing industry interest in brand purpose strategies we can expect to see many more cases in the 2022 IPA Effectiveness Awards to take our learning forward."

Watch Peter Field's Effworks Global 2021 session 

* Definition of Brand Purpose for Field’s analysis: 'A commitment articulated by a commercial brand or its parent company to goals other than improved profits or products, involving contribution towards one or more positive social impacts in the fields of health, the environment, human development, sustainable business practices, or other similar areas.'

The basket of six business metrics referred to are: sales, market share, new customer acquisition, customer loyalty, pricing power, and profit. Field is referring only to ‘very large’ improvements to these based on a four-point scale of improvement.

Strong purpose cases were defined as those that achieved at least one very large improvement across this basket of six business metrics. (i.e they are defined by a minimum level of effectiveness).

Last updated 01 May 2024