Doing well by doing good

"Brand purpose" is the fashionable way to do business.

Merely making money is old-fashioned thinking.

New thinking is that a company needs to have a view on what it’s doing to make the world a better place.

Of course, they’re not really doing this because they happen to be nice guys.

The reality no-one talks about is they think they’ll make more money this way.

Simply put, if people like what you stand for, they’ll buy more of what you make.

This stems from the belief that all people ever buy is "brand".

So, the nicer the brand, the more they’ll buy.

For the last few years this has been considered modern marketing thinking.

Except it isn’t.

It’s actually over 300 years old.

Brand purpose actually began with the Quakers around 1650.

The Quakers are a religious group that believes everyone is equal.

Therefore, it’s against their religion to treat anyone differently.

Everyone, from the King to a beggar, must be valued the same.

So, in all their business practices, integrity was the key factor.

They would only ever manufacture goods of the highest quality.

They would only ever charge a fair price.

This price would be clearly marked and there would be no bartering.

All customers would be treated fairly.

All suppliers would be paid promptly.

All staff would have good working conditions.

Quakers wouldn’t produce anything of inferior quality, which was rare in a world where cheating was common.

They wouldn’t manufacture anything harmful, also rare in a world where most would do anything to make money.

The workers would be fairly paid, housed, have pensions and medical care.

All of this simply because it was the right thing to do, not as a means of making money.

And yet they did make money.

So rare were these qualities that people trusted the products made by Quaker companies.

They didn’t care about their higher principals, but they appreciated quality and fair dealing.

It wasn’t brand purpose they bought, it was companies with a reputation for selling good products

And many Quaker companies, with Quaker values, grew.

Cadbury, Fry’s, Rowntree's, Lloyds Bank, Barclays, Clarks shoes, Bryant & May, Waterford Crystal, Quaker Oats, even (much later) Sony.

They grew because people trusted their products.

But nowadays marketing gurus dress their brands in brand purpose because it’s the fashionable marketing tactic.

Although to the Quakers, the ethic came before the brand.

Maybe that’s why most of the brand purpose we see today is so obviously tacked on.

Maybe that’s why most of it doesn’t work.

For brand purpose to work, it has to permeate the company like letters through a stick of rock.

It has to be based in truth, just like the Quakers.

Not slapped on afterwards as cheap a marketing gimmick.

Dave Trott is the author of Creative Blindness and How to Cure It, Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three


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