Does Purpose Marketing Have A Marketing Purpose?




Alex Smith has written a neat article in Campaign about the trendy idea of

Marketing Purpose.

The thing I like about what Alex has to say is how a new generation of marketing professionals  have narrowed purpose to mean:

‘the “social good” that a brand provides’

rather than clarifying the whole point of why the business exists and as Justin Basini in his 2011 book asked…

Why should anyone buy from you?

The idea of ‘Purpose Marketing ‘ seems to me like yet another of those mystical inventions of some marketing professionals who  claim that only they have the privileged professional insight to see the magical and profound marketing reason for which something is done or created or for which the business exists.

Sagely these marketing types propose that Marketing ‘Is all about the higher purpose of your brand’…..









image credit Agustina Guerrero

Even esteemed marketing Prof. Ritso is having a pop at Purpose Marketing. In this article in in Marketing Week he cautions Om-nicient marketeers to remember the fundamental rather than the transcendental purpose of Marketing.

‘Heineken should remember marketing is about profit, not purpose. Heineken’s new purpose-driven ad might express all the right values, but marketers must remember if you don’t use your budget to create sales, you’ve failed.’

No wonder some marketing professionals struggle for reputation and credibility in organisations. Imagine this sketch:

Boss: so what you going to do to increase profits and market share?

CMO: we need to communicate our purpose – thinking ‘save the banana’ or ‘protect the navel gazers in Antarctica’

Boss: wtf?

CMO: well Boss these days its all about connecting with the ends-means, aspirational purpose drivers of Generation Z in a digitally connected hyper-real post truth society

Boss: we already have a purpose – we solve customer problems, make their lives easier,satisfy customer needs and give them great value (just read about it in Value-ology btw) and sell them products and services at a price they want to pay.

CMO: Om…it’s alot deeper than that though Boss…from a marketing perspective we need to  creatively communicate our values in the most arcane abstract way possible to show how smart and insightful we are and that we aren’t selling anything even though we are selling something…if you get what I mean.

Boss: how much are we paying you?

For me Alex nails it when he says:

‘It’s also the purpose of the word “purpose”. If a brand figures out what it’s for, and strives to deliver it to the best of its ability, then it can maximise the value it gives to the world, and thus maximise the value it receives. In this situation everyone wins – the brand is focused on value creation and innovation, which is good for the customer, and the customer rewards them handsomely, which is good for the brand.’

This line of thinking connects directly with the principles and methods of our book




Attaching some abstract ‘purpose’ to your business in the hope that customers will associate your brand with deep and meaningful values like ‘save the porpoise’ makes a big mistake in confusing Values with Value. Okay I get that Values (deeply held beliefs about what matters in life) can be valued, and they are not necessarily the same thing as the problems I want your product or service to solve for me. Also Purpose Marketing overlooks the idea of Value Appropriation (the point Ritso is making) whereby organisations also have to get value out of the supplier customer exchange. It’s not all about the customer (Marketing Fallacy #1) For more on this see:

Ellegaard C., Medlin C.J., Geersbro J. (2014) Value appropriation in business exchange –literature review and future research opportunities. Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing 29/3 185–198

Does this mean that Purpose Marketing is just another ‘fad’? Another way of some professional marketers searching for their professional purpose?

I predict that this form of Marketing will soon be superseded by Cetacean Marketing which will all be about Killer marketing campaigns that ensure you don’t give your customers the hump by creating the wright value proposition.








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