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  • Writer's pictureAndy Goram

What's Gone Wrong With Brand Purpose?

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

In episode 12 of the employee engagement podcast "Sticky From The Inside", Andy Goram is joined by Giles Thomas from MIMO Brands to discuss what's gone wrong with Brand Purpose. It's come in for some real stick recently and there looks to be a whole bunch of confusion with it. Why?

In this honest conversation, Giles and Andy wade through what's going on with Brand Purpose, the link and confusion with the sustainability agenda, why "profit" is not a dirty word, how marketers have to take a large part of the blame for the confusion, why business has to step up. Giles also offers up some examples of who's doing it well. Although, even that throws up some controversial suggestions. In the end, it's all about linking up purpose, profit, people and planet to the best effect possible - no small feat then!

Two men smiling and having a zoom conversation
Giles Thomas (left) and Andy Goram (right) discuss what's gone wrong with Brand Purpose

00:00:00 Andy Goram

Hello and welcome to sticky from the inside, the Employee Engagement podcast that looks at how to build stickier, competition-smashing, consistently successful organisations from the inside out. I'm your host, Andy Goram, and I'm on a mission to help more businesses turn their lights on behind the eyes of their employees, light the fires within them and create tonnes more success for everyone.

This podcast is for all those who believe that’s something worth going after and would like a little help and guidance in achieving that. Each episode we dive into the topics that can help create what I call stickier businesses. The sort of businesses where people thrive and love to work, and where more customers stay with you and recommend you to others because they love what you do and why you do it.

So, if you want to take the tricky out of being sticky, listen on.

00:01:10 Andy Goram

OK then, so today the phrase brand purpose is synonymous with, I think modern forward-thinking businesses and brands and defines some greater meaning to why that brand or company exists. Yet many still struggle to define their purpose beyond the “We make money.” And that's not what purpose is, frankly.

But then there's the added confusion to terms like purpose-driven and purposeful, and that agenda of doing good works and ethical support of causes. And that is all play and can play a huge role in the engagement of employees and, importantly, customers. And the culture of a company. And of course, how that brand is seen to the outside world. But all those things can be interpreted slightly differently.

Now, somewhere along the line, to me, it's all got a bit tangled up and I think the result of that is that purpose, particularly brand purpose, has come in for quite a bit of stick, and some questions are being asked to its relevance and importance. But then to confuse that even further, purpose has been highlighted in a recent McKinsey report as the number one thing that the most successful companies are or are planning to focus on as we move forward. Which to me sounds absolutely fantastic, but I'm not sure that cleans up any of the confusion, and the role brands play in all of this.

So, thank goodness that today I have someone with me to help take a closer look at this issue. And I am absolutely confident will offer up some sound, practical advice on the best way forward for brands and brand purpose.

Now he's got years of experience in developing strong brands and helping them solve some of the most complex strategic problems. And he's now the joint owner of brand consultancy MIMO brands and he's a smashing guy to boot, Giles Thomas, how are you, my friend?

00:03:15 Giles Thomas

I feel your intro has set the bar very high

00:03:20 Andy Goram

For good reason.

00:03:22 Giles Thomas

... and I'm not 100% convinced I can live up to it, but it's very nice to be here. It's very nice to be here and to hear such wonderful words come from your mouth. I'm flattered and honored. How are you?

00:03:34 Andy Goram

I'm OK my friend. I'm OK. I'm loving doing these things and getting to speak to guys like you and actually record conversations that I have with guys like you because I have conversations with you and no one ever hears the genius that we spout. But now through the gift of Zoom and the podcast, they get to hear that stuff and we get to edit out all the rubbish that gets in the middle of it as well, so you know...

00:03:55 Giles Thomas

As we said I said, “What could possibly go wrong?”

00:03:58 Andy Goram

What could go wrong, my friend?” So look, we've known each other for a good while now. My listeners don't really have a clue who you are. Tell us, who is Giles Thomas? Who is Mimo? What are you up to?

00:04:09 Giles Thomas

So, I run a company called Mimo Brands, which is a specialist brand strategy consultantcy. We help clients to solve their messier problems, and we also do our best to get into a place where they can exploit the commercial benefits of brands within organisations, because strong brands generate value for businesses and weak ones don't, so we helped them to strengthen the brands they have.

00:04:34 Andy Goram

I think that's interesting because, making money or profit when you talk about the topic we're going to talk about today, about purpose. Sometimes people think that purpose is at the expense of profit and that's rubbish, right? Because businesses want to make profit 'cause profit helps you continue to deliver the purpose right? So, you need to make it commercially viable. It needs to be connected to customers it and what we're talking about today is, well, what's that deeper meaning for a brand that helps, I don't know, accentuate those connections maximises the opportunity to grow and grow customers and grow loyalty and generate decent profits. I mean profits are not a dirty word.

00:05:15 Giles Thomas

No, and I think historically it was always viewed as an either, or. You could either have a sustainable, environmental, purpose-driven brand, or you can make certainly short-term profits and I think there are some excellent examples which have completely debunked that.

00:05:30 Andy Goram


00:05:30 Giles Thomas

But having said that, I think there are plenty of examples where it hasn't gone well. Which I think has led to some of the disparaging comments around the word purpose and those people who peddle it as a source of income.

00:05:46 Andy Goram

Yeah, to me there's the element of fad and tick box that's come in, because I don't think people understand it properly. Possibly for some of the confusion. Probably 'cause it's the bright, new, shiny thing, or was and marketers do love a shiny thing to kind of rally behind. But at the end of the day, I don't think it's necessarily been properly understood, and I don't think it's necessarily been properly executed.

What's... when I use the phrase “brand purpose”? What does that mean to you, Giles?

00:06:17 Giles Thomas

It simply means your reason for existence and you're right, it has been conflated with the environmental and sustainability and human rights agendas. Which is all fine. But instead of it being a nice, clear description, it's become a bit of a mess. I think you're absolutely right. It's confused also by, you know, various other bits of language.

I think probably just at the outset, before we start with what's gone wrong, maybe we should just sort of review what's good about them. It's such an important question, and it's such a popular question at the moment, and you've got a spectrum, as you've rightly pointed out in your intro. You know, you've got those who believe that capitalism itself will disintegrate if every last enterprise doesn't publicly state the fact that it's saving the world through selling more biscuits, or whatever it might be. You've got that end, and then you've got the other end, who just think it's all a load of Tosh, and they will carry on treating their employees like slaves and polluting oceans and creating exponential piles of landfill and simultaneously destroying the High Street. You know, I think those are the ends of the spectrum and I think the truth probably, like all things in life, sits somewhere in the middle.

What do I think? What do I think? I think it's incredibly important, and I think that through one lens, Purpose, it's important because I think there has been a relentless, Tsunami, if you like, of global consumerism, which is contributing to the destruction of our planet and destruction of our well-being. So, if you talk about the environment, if you talk about social issues, talk about human rights issues. I think consumerism is an accelerant of those issues. And therefore, any levers that we can pull to reduce its impacts, I think is worth it. And whether that's, you know, being able to reduce ocean pollution or whether we can have a small impact on deforestation or any of those, you know, it's worthwhile doing. And I think, that as well as impacting our environment, I think this sort of rampant consumerism is damaging our values in society. I think that it's contributed hugely to the inequalities that we all blindly and... not ignore. We don't ignore them, but we're slightly immune to them now.

00:08:42 Andy Goram

But if you think that sitting back and buying your £2.00 T-shirt from Primark in huge numbers is a good thing and we can buy joints of meat for Pence in the Pound? There has to be some end result of this consumerism? Right? There has to be.

00:09:00 Giles Thomas

And the result is huge inequalities in wealth. Huge inequalities in living standards, huge inequalities in health. And it also promotes greed. It promotes envy, and it promotes wastefulness. None of which are good things in my book. We should care about these things. We should care about the fact that on our planet is, you know under huge threat. We should care about the fact that we treat so many of our fellow population really, really badly. I mean, according to Oxfam, the world richest 1%, the richest 1% has more than twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion people. I mean, it's a horrible statistic. And so, that's people, and if you want to talk about the planet, a third... get this, a third of all food is wasted, but one in nine go hungry around the world.

I mean, these are horrible statistics and businesses have a lot to do with that. Businesses are how so many people earn their money, so, the inequality of wealth is as large way large part down to business. And the destruction of our planet is in large part down to business. So, it's up to business to step forward and take responsibility and do something about it. So, if that's what your purpose is “to save the planet and to look after people better”, I think that's close enough for definition. But that's the relationship, I think.

00:10:27 Andy Goram

Cool, I mean in terms of where we think it's gone wrong or why we think it's had a had a bad rap, to me, and I'm interested in your opinion here, there seems to be 3 main disconnects in my head. There's a disconnect of the message and it's certainly not rooted in what business does, very often. There's a disconnect in the values of the business. They try and attach themselves to some lofty, worthy cause that has no connection to the business. And then, failure to communicate the blend of message and value to consumers, and with my line of work none of that is communicated, or connected to the internal audience, either. That's my premise on why I think this stuff has gone wrong and why it's got a bad rap. How do you see it?

00:11:16 Giles Thomas

I don't disagree with that. The start point is that I think us, business, and in particular, the branding and marketing people have some blame attached to us.

00:11:27 Andy Goram


00:11:28 Giles Thomas

Because I think you're absolutely right, there's a messaging slash language issue here. That's what we do. You know we're here to help communicate between communities to achieve a change in behaviour, and we haven't done that very well. And I think there's overconfidence because people have oversimplified it, and actually, it's really quite difficult and complex. And I think there's also efficacy. I think a lot of people have done it and they haven't seen any impact, and so, therefore, it allows people to, you know, point the finger at us.

So, I think language is an interesting one, because you'll rightly point out there's that there's a problem with definition, but I think also it's encouraged, untrained branding practitioners to talk even more nonsense than we have done before. And I think unfortunately, we have an unenviable reputation for dispensing impenetrable waffle when we want to, which at times, you know, has hidden, you know, it's been a smokescreen around incomplete thinking and a lack of discipline and rigor, and I think this is another example of that amongst those who are relatively inexperienced and untrained.

One of the greatest compliments you may have seen it on our website.Actually, one of the greatest compliments I've ever been paid was by someone called Jens Hoffman, who's currently CEO of Pizza Hut in Germany. And we presented to him some time ago on a board and at the end of it he stood up and said that was the most bullshit-free branding presentation I have ever seen. And I tell you, that I wear that as a badge of pride, and I think that pointed out a number of problems we have with us as branding marketing people. We don't always make it clear. We don't always make it simple and given a nice new shiny thing like purpose, we've messed it up again.

And I think, and I forgive me for using this as a reference point, I think this Wild West of brand purposes, is in part attributable to the very vulnerable Simon Sinek and his famous “Start with Why Ted Talk”, which by the way, I think is great. I wouldn't knock it. But, in my experience, this triggered a sort of stampede of willing, newly emboldened, but inexperienced branding people, who felt suddenly equipped to help their business and clients to sort of scale the Mount Everest of brand purpose and take it on and give them a simple solution, which in reality, it's really difficult to do, if you want to have any impact on your business and you want to have any impact on the communities around you. So, great presentation as it was, and we've all got a lot to learn from how Simon did it, but I think the confidence that it gave too many people actually worked against us.

I think, just picking up on that difficulty. I think, you know, if you don't have one to start with, it's really difficult to do it retrospectively.

00:14:17 Andy Goram


00:14:18 Giles Thomas

Some big companies have done a terrific job of spending a lot of time in unpicking the DNA of their business and finding a purpose that works for everybody. Works for leadership, works for all colleagues and for the communities they work in and their customers. But it is tricky and it's more than just employing a brand consultant for a day's workshop and doing a snazzy PowerPoint. You need a lot of people in the organisation to go on the journey with you and you need more than the top table as I said, because you're going to engage everybody.

00:14:47 Andy Goram

I think that's true. I mean that combination of leadership setting the North Star...

00:14:55 Giles Thomas

We’re at it again. Did you notice what you did there? North Star?

00:14:57 Andy Goram

Sorry, I’m just incorrigible. I cannot help myself.

So the leadership. I always felt this was very much part of the roles that I played was to set that kind of vision, but to your point, the involvement and collaboration of multiple, I'll use the word layers, 'cause I'm ill-equipped to use better vocabulary. Multiple layers throughout the organisation, and if you're really doing it properly, yes suppliers, the community, customers; to try and find that unifying alignment, which is really hard and you won't necessarily please everybody, but if you can marry-up that stuff and actually have it rooted in what the business actually does and how it actually makes a contribution, then I think you've got something worthwhile, right? And so, without that involvement it’s just the whim or the folly of a leader.

00:15:52 Giles Thomas

I think so too. This can be done in a in a sort of as a veneer to organisation.

00:15:56 Andy Goram


00:16:00 Giles Thomas

You know, just putting on some nice new clothes. They don't fit and you look daft in them. I think the other thing about the process of it, I think it's really interesting because it does force organisations to explore and find some answers to some big and sometimes uncomfortable questions. And in so doing your... you've got to challenge your beliefs and you’ve got to challenge your values and your principles.

You know, are you prepared to risk losing short-term profits in order to pursue potential long-term benefits. As the great Bill Bernbach said,

you know a principle isn't a principle until it costs something”,

and I think the last 12 months you really started to see the companies... distinguish the companies for whom a principle is a proper principle. And it's something they're prepared to sacrifice. Sorry, they're not prepared to sacrifice the principle, but they are prepared to sacrifice other things in their business, profits, in particular, in order to demonstrate their belief in this principle, and others aren't.

00:17:02 Andy Goram

Are you able to pull out some examples of that, Giles? Because I think over the last months, you know, we've seen guys that have, I think stood up straight and proud next to the statement you just made. And other guys who decided we'll just park that for a bit. We'll park it for a bit 'cause we've got other stuff to do. In that Hall of Fame where would you?

00:17:25 Giles Thomas

The Hall of Fame? Well, I think the good news is, is that there are emerging waves of really exciting and principled young companies who are slowly, but surely, offering real choices in a range of different categories. But none of us have heard of them anymore at the moment, so I'm not going to pick them out. But I'll talk about three companies that I think everybody will have heard of. Some are obvious and one or two might be a bit contentious, and I think let's start off with a company both you and I know, which for anyone interested in the history of purpose, should really study the Cooperative Society.

00:18:02 Andy Goram

Yes, absolutely.

00:18:03 Giles Thomas

Not just here in the UK, but everywhere. You and I've had the privilege of working with East of England Co-op for the last couple of years. And they, like other co-op companies have been exponents of purpose-led business for over 150 odd years. They've been doing this long before anybody else started talking about purpose.

00:18:22 Andy Goram

Founding principles.

00:18:25 Giles Thomas

Exactly, I mean their purpose is to “make profits in order to invest in communities.” Full stop. Now that's putting a really strong purpose right at the core of their decision-making process. And their business strategies are all designed to improve the well-being of communities, especially the disadvantaged in communities. They're highly principled, are directed by Coop values which, you know, I was... funnily enough, I was looking them only this morning. They're much the same now as they were 150 years ago and it's about equity. It's about democracy. It's about respect for people. It's about looking after your disadvantaged. It's owned, it's owned by members. And it's held accountable by a Lay board. So, I think structurally, they've been doing this before almost anyone else I can think of, and they continue to do it.

They were very limited in their use of furlough. They released... they put money and services back into the community. They've done a whole range of different things, but I think they're a shining beacon, along probably with other co-ops, I haven't worked for. I think they’re exactly what this country needed, exactly when they needed it. I think they don't get the credit they deserve.

00:19:39 Andy Goram

Giles, I think they're a great case study, my friend. And that bit you talk about ownership and consistency, they're two massive enablers of having a purpose or strategy that actually works. And every single person we've spoken to in that organisation would say the same things, would behave the same, the same sort of way. So yeah, great case study mate.

00:20:04 Giles Thomas

2nd is a very different organisation and structured in a very different way, but my word has it led thinking in the field. And, of course, this company’s Unilever.

00:20:17 Andy Goram


00:20:18 Giles Thomas

The way they have led the purpose agenda. For admittedly only about 10 or 12 years, but that's sort of eight or ten years longer than most other people, at a time, as I said earlier on, when most businesses couldn't see a future in trying to align sustainability, for example, and business performance. It was always an either or, they made their intentions really clear back in 2010, when they launched the Sustainable Living Plan. And since then, they have discovered and it’s worth everyone else taking note, the more they have leant in on purpose, the faster they've grown. So, if you look at the brands that have done best in the Unilever portfolio, the ones that have put purpose right in the middle and have shaped their products, shaped the distribution, shaped their content and messaging. Shaped everything about the brands are the ones they've grown fastest and credit to Unilever, they really learnt how to do it and do it at scale, globally.

I mean the purpose is really simple. It's to “make sustainable living commonplace”. To make sustainable living commonplace, it's got very few words, but it's a very big thought. And they've publicly posted their goals, which includes improving health and well-being for more than 1 billion people. Reducing environmental impact by half and enhancing livelihoods. So, they've been very public about it. They've been doing it a long time. They've stated their aims, and it's led to business success. And I don’t think you can fault that.

Actually, again, if you just think about the examples. So, Dove was all about self-esteem, wasn't it? It's educating men and women about what self-esteem looks like, and what it doesn't look like. They've helped over 35 million people think about that and educate them. Lifebouy, which isn't a brand you see that much here, but that's reached over a billion people with hand washing campaigns so. Is that sustainability? I don't know. I would have thought that's health and well-being probably, so we've got mental health. We've got health and well-being. Vaseline, which was again, it's a huge global brand, has helped lots of people in terms of who are on the front line of poverty, that sort of social well-being.

But also, the sweeping moves they've made across their businesses, reducing the total waste footprint of their consumers. They've reduced by 32% that's across all their categories, right?

00:22:56 Andy Goram

I mean, just by dint they have to all end up tying back to the overarching principles, or else they wouldn't be delivering their goals. To me, it's a very similar thing when you're setting company values and individual behaviour, is that you set the company values as principles and the way to get ownership is to get the behaviors personalised, right? But they still link back to the values. You haven't got a million different values, you have the standard stuff, but you have individually owned behaviors to kind of deliver those things.

00:23:28 Giles Thomas

I think Unilever are an absolute shining beacon, and they are again a proof that you know that the credentials or credibility comes from continuity, and they've been doing it a long time and they've been serious about it and they've managed to turn it into commercial benefits for everybody to see as well as community benefits. So, they’re very good examples of where it's done properly. And there's one more brand I want to mention, which is slightly contentious because it's really, you know, Mr. Branson gets a lot of knocking. It's a popular sport, isn't it, amongst the less well informed and the slightly resentful?

Yeah, he's a tax exile, so I can't... and his PR team were very slow in the early days of lockdown, but, I'm of the belief we should give the man a break. I think Virgin, the Virgin story is remarkable and one is driven by core purpose and always has been. And the purpose is really simple. It's “changing business for good”.

00:24:26 Andy Goram


00:24:26 Giles Thomas

Four words sit at the heart of that brand. As soon as you know that, you get a better understanding of what he's been doing, so you can make sense of... I mean, I'm old enough to remember Virgin Megastores record stores. And I'm old enough to remember Mike Oldfield, and you know the music business, but you know, he's probably most famous for the airline. But people forget, you know, he took on big, comfortable, sometimes monopolistic or duopolistic markets, like airlines. He was one of, if not the original Challenger brand. That expression that marketing people love to still to use. And it's very accurate. You know he put people and profit and the planet together, at the heart of his business, than saying it's all about profit, or it's all about people. And it's sat at the heart of their decision-making ever since.

00:25:18 Andy Goram

I do think it's interesting because he does, to your point, he has the potshots knocked at him, and you could argue in one respect, depending how informed you are, as to be one of the brands that perhaps didn't live up to their billing during the last year or so. And because of some of the decisions and PR bits that we've made at the at the start, so I think it's interesting that you're a backer, because there are just as many knockers who think, you know, to your point about those guys who perhaps haven't stood by purpose quite as well, there's a fair number of people that would say, “Branson showed his true colours over the last year”. I don't know if that gets mixed up in the amount of wealth the man has, and therefore if he asks for help for money, “Well, he's got loads. Just use it out your pocket, Richard. What's the problem?”

00:26:09 Giles Thomas

Well, yeah, this is why I use the word in informed, and you know, people think that people who are very rich, have lots of cash sitting around in the bank which some do, but given the number of businesses that he has and the sectors that they're in, gyms, hospitality, airlines, cruises, you know, they were the worst hit by lockdown. And I don't know the actual numbers, but I would suspect that 70% of his business also pretty much dried up overnight. And it doesn’t really matter how rich you are when that happens in the business of that scale, that is catastrophic.

00:26:48 Andy Goram


00:26:49 Giles Thomas

And people don't know that he had to sell, you know, a chunk of his space business in order to put the money back into the business. He didn’t have £200,000,000 sitting in a bank account. He had to sell a chunk of business, to put it back in the business, so that people... to minimise the impact. That's what he did. But no, that doesn't make it a very good press story so...

00:27:09 Andy Goram

No, 'cause he owns an island so, therefore...

00:27:11 Giles Thomas

Because he owns an island and therefore you know what does he care? He's rich and all these people are suffering and then actually his workforce were wholly behind him. And there was some very disingenuous articles written about how miserable they were. They weren't. You know, most people who work at Virgin, a bit like Co-op are fanatical about it. Not everybody, but most of them are.

00:27:30 Andy Goram

Are there better examples of poor behaviour that you would pull out in terms of purpose, then?

00:27:38 Giles Thomas

Well, I mean. You could argue that you know the rape of the High Street by Mike Ashley and the like isn't utterly, isn't completely sustainable. I don't know what his brand purpose is apart from making money for Mike Ashley, and I don't wish to knock him because you know, these are hugely successful businessmen. But he does business in a way that perhaps, I wouldn't want to work there, I'm quite sure he won't invite me to.

I have a lot of time for Morrisons, but I thought they had a really clumsy lunge very early on in lockdown one, when they changed, very publicly changed their mission statement and I can’t remember from what-to, something like from colleagues to communities and then said, “Look what we've done, we've changed our mission statement.” It was like, p-lease! There was a clumsy PR lunge that just made you look ridiculous.

And again, I don't wish to knock Morrisons. They do a lot of fabulous things. They have a very, very interesting operating model, but that was a... that was a clumsy lunge. And then of course, the usual big tech suspects who were counting their money. You know, Amazon really? Have you seen the working conditions in Amazon? Do you know how much pollution and wastage is created by Amazon, and on our own behaviour? Which of course, then gets back to what the real problem here is. It's not a single business problem, it's us. So long as we go, “I can get that cheaper on Amazon”, then we have a problem which gets us back down to... it's quite a good DJ link that.

00:29:11 Andy Goram

Come on segue, segue away.

00:29:14 Giles Thomas

I like the way you did that, as to sort of where it's not done. Well, let's just think about, why it's not done well. And we talked a bit about language and the waffle that marketing people use. We also talked a bit about how difficult it is to do. But in reality, it doesn't always work, and it often doesn't move the dial. It doesn't shift short- or long-term term communities and the problem is this, it's whilst in many categories people will say, “Yeah I'm going to buy... I value the brand’s purpose. I want to buy my milk from a brand that has positive purpose and impact on the community.” When it gets the point of purchase, there are more important drivers that come to bear often. So, in the shop, you know, those very same eco-conscious customers cease to prioritise saving the planet, because they can save their pennies instead. And that is a core problem in this, in that it doesn't matter how much we talk about these things; customers have got to change behaviours and we as marketing people have got to help customers change their behaviours.

Only a few months ago the commentators crowed about Boohoo.

00:30:30 Andy Goram

Oh? Sweatshops.

00:30:34 Giles Thomas

Yeah the inhumane, inhuman, inhumane treatment of sweatshop workers. And you know how young people, purpose-conscious young people would turn away from the brand, and they lost a third of the value of the business, their share price in one day. However, nothing changed.

00:30:51 Andy Goram


00:30:51 Giles Thomas

Nothing changed. In fact, Boohoo reported sales growth of 45% in the next six months. So it turns out that the, you know, the cheap top is worth more than the humane treatment of your fellow workers living on the breadline. And that's the problem.

00:31:06 Andy Goram

This is the gnarly thing and then this is where it's the purpose and sustainability theme kind of crosses over and is important. So, thinking about all of those things, the good guys, the bad guys, the misalignment and the confusion and all those sorts of things, where do you think the future lies for the role of brand purpose?

00:31:29 Giles Thomas

I think this is a combination of thought and hope, 'cause I'm naturally an optimist. I think Plan B, which has always been that sort of. “Yes, wouldn't it be nice to do this if...?” Plan B will need to become Plan A. I don't think we have a choice. I think businesses will need to take more responsibility. More businesses will need to take more responsibility for their impact on people and communities and the planet. It is happening.

00:31:59 Andy Goram


00:32:01 Giles Thomas

It is happening.

00:32:02 Giles Thomas

There's some fantastic examples, some of which we talked about today, but it needs to accelerate and I think it will. And I think, you know, it will be business purpose as much as it will be brand purpose. You know, entire businesses have to have the purpose.

00:32:17 Andy Goram

Oh yes! I believe that.

00:32:23 Giles Thomas

And I think that it will cease to be a sort of marketing tool for differentiation. It will become a hygiene factor. You do it, otherwise nobody buys your products or services. Or indeed, through regulation, legislation, you won't be allowed to operate. I think we'll get there. I hope we'll get there. I think sharing economies will become more of the normal; become accepted and more important. And to do that we need to change behaviour and I think changing behaviour is down to businesses as a whole. But that's up to us brand and marketing people.

00:32:53 Andy Goram

Yeah, it's definitely a dual responsibility. There is definitely a dual responsibility.

00:32:56 Giles Thomas

Yes, it is. It's not just a business thing, but business, you know, they hold a lot of levers, many of which they used very successfully to adapt our behaviour. Businesses have to use those levers more responsibly, and we as users, customers, consumers need to be open to change which is not natural human nature. It isn't. People don't like change. But how bad does it need to get?

00:32:25 Andy Goram

At the moment there's a big say-do gap. Come back to that Boohoo example. “I want to be responsible. We must look after the planet. Yes, I will buy that £3.00 dress.” Thank you very much.

00:33:37 Giles Thomas

Yeah, and then it will go into landfill, yeah? And then it will pollute somewhere on the planet. And that’s where I think we’ll get to.

00:33:44 Andy Goram

OK. Well look, that's great if we think that. I mean there was a Bain and Co report not too long ago, that said, 66% of consumers feel that brands who make some kind of public ethical statement are more trusted, and then 56% of UK adults are more loyal to brands whose values are aligned to their own. So two themes that you've talked about, the sustainability thing, the behavior piece, but the alignment of values.

So, we're at the point in the show that I call “Sticky Notes”, Giles.

00:34:18 Giles Thomas


00:34:18 Andy Goram

And as you know, I don't have a capacity for retaining tonnes of information, so this is where you share some practical tips that my listeners can take away on, effectively three sticky notes. If you're thinking about brand purpose, what are the three sticky notes that you would put up that would help businesses get to a better place?

00:34:40 Giles Thomas

I think the first is “Open your eyes and your ears and look around you and see what other people in your categories are doing.”

Second thing is “Be honest about what you do, how you do it, and why you do it.” Properly honest, ask those difficult questions that you perhaps have been avoiding.

And thirdly, “Take responsibility. Step up. Step up. Don't let everyone else do it.”

00:35:11 Andy Goram

Three very succinct, excellent pieces of advice for everybody thinking about this. It’s an easy topic on the surface, it's a tough old complex thing underneath. And I think that's... that to me is the is the real issue behind making purpose something that really, really works for businesses, consumers, communities, is to take the time, get into the complexity, embrace the complexity, but seek out the unity. And if you can do that, I think you can have something that really works for people, profit and yes, we’ll put planet in there to.

Giles, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you today, my friend. Thank you for your sagely wisdom and advice and some great examples there that you shared along the way. I really appreciate that.

00:35:51 Giles Thomas

Likewise. It's been a great pleasure.

00:36:00 Andy Goram

OK, my friend, I'll see you soon. You take care.

00:36:02 Giles Thomas

Thanks Andy.

00:36:04 Andy Goram

If you'd like to find out more about Giles Thomas, MIMO brands and any of the things that we've talked about here, including the McKinsey and Bain report, please check out the show notes.

00:36:13 Andy Goram

So that concludes today's episode. I hope you've enjoyed it, found it interesting and heard something maybe, that will help you become a stickier, more successful business from the inside going forwards.

If you have, please like comment and subscribe, it really helps.

I'm Andy Goram and you've been listening to the sticky from the Inside podcast. Until next time, thanks for listening.

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