Building a social purpose you can believe in

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Apparently, according to a new film from Natwest, “we are what we do”. From climate change to racism and hatred, to the suffragette movement, wartime bravery, and everyday acts of compassion, it’s all about humanity and our capacity to do right, and wrong, things.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all over brands having a conversation about, and with, the world they live in.

But what ‘we are what we do’ comes down to, is a promise that Natwest staff are empowered to ‘do the right thing’ and help customers, not just serve them.

I’m not sure what that has to do with suffragettes or racists, really.

This is an example of using brand purpose as a communications tactic. Cue powerful film. Emotive soundtrack. Earnest voiceover. And, no doubt, an award or two.

But the link to the brand? To its heritage, positioning, behaviours? To the experience of staff and customers?

It’s hard to find.

Here, on the other hand, comes H&M. A byword for accessible fashion to many (and cheap clothes to others).

Their latest film, set to Tom Jones’ classic “She’s a Lady” challenges stereotypes of how women should be. It shows how women are, or can be – ie, whatever the hell they want to be.

And the difference is, it’s completely rooted in H&M’s world. They sell clothes. They have the right – indeed, a duty – to have a conversation about the difference fashion makes in the world. They have the power to change it, for the better. And they’re doing it.

That’s social purpose as a strategy – one that links the story you tell to the world you actually operate in, and can affect.

That’s the kind of purpose that can make the difference to a brand’s reputation. To its bottom line. To its survival.

It’s the kind of social purpose that builds belief. Not stretches it.