Much like Socrates of old, here at the7stars we like to question, think and talk about our purpose – so we were naturally interested to see the latest Fit for Purpose Index, released this month by Radley Yeldar.

The overarching lesson from the index is that actions speak louder than words: a brand purpose should sit within the overall business plan, trickling into all business decisions rather than existing in isolation as a glib line of marketing copy.

To come up with the list, released annually, Radley Yeldar analyses five facets of purpose: authentic story; clear communication; ambitions and targets relating back to purpose; employee engagement with the purpose; and whether the business is clearly aligned on one purpose.

Looking past ‘meaningful’ marketing campaigns, the index separates those who work towards a common purposeful goal from those where a sense of purpose is appropriated superficially and applied at a marketing level.

Unilever comes in at number one; a company founded by a Victorian visionary whose purpose in 1890 was to “to make cleanliness commonplace; to lessen work for women; to foster health and contribute to personal attractiveness, that life may be more enjoyable and rewarding for the people who use our products”. Now no longer only a soap business, Unilever’s purpose has been developed and broadened, but the sentiment otherwise lives on.

Interestingly, the company’s ex-global brand chief recently moved to home appliance maker Beko, where she pivoted the company’s marketing strategy to make more of existing work tackling the childhood obesity epidemic.

The ‘Eat Like a Pro’ campaign culminated this month with the Beko sponsorship badge replaced with #EatLikeaPro on Barcelona players’ shirts in the El Clasico match against Real Madrid. A total of 1.2 million tweets were driven on the topic, with Beko matching each one with a donation of €1 to charity partner Unicef Children. Because it was based on an existing sports sponsorship and partnership with a relevant charity, the stunt was entirely credible.

Looking across to other industries, tech performs poorly in comparison – the Silicon Valley giants might have purposeful visions but they are rarely followed through. In Mark Zuckerberg’s own words Facebook exists “to make the world more open and connected”.  But following the Cambridge Analytica scandal and with Facebook’s algorithmically-created filter bubble blamed as a contributing factor in recent global political divisions, it is easy to see why they performed poorly when looking at purpose in a more holistic sense.

But does this matter? Do consumers even care about brand purpose? And will they even know if that on-trend ad campaign isn’t aligned with a brand’s wider behaviour?

Just one look at Gen Z, the latest consumer demographic to capture marketers’ eyes, is enough to reinforce the fact that brand purpose is here to stay. More than any generation yet, Gen Z care that the brands they associate with have meaning.

More so, 67% of Gen Z believe that “being true to their values and beliefs makes a person cool” – so, yes, purpose matters. But authenticity of purpose matters most.

It’s here that many brands get stuck. In the clamour for purpose, too many confuse meaningfulness with worthiness. People know brands are businesses, but they still believe they can have interests beyond profit as long as it fits with their brand reason.

It makes sense for a soap brand to aspire for cleanliness and attractiveness, or for a beauty brand to celebrate a diverse sense of beauty.

Consumers value purposeful meaning from their brand transactions, even if they aren’t expecting the meaning of life.

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