In search of purpose for Fairphone: the power of purpose for brands

To really connect with consumers, brands can no longer present a facade and sell. To thrive, brands need to create an emotional connection with people, stemming from a clear brand purpose. A purpose that addresses a real societal issue and that strives to create a movement to resolve this issue. In May 2017, we organized an event about purpose marketing at Fairphone, a social enterprise that makes the world’s first ethical, modular smartphone. The event was organized by the Nyenrode Business University Alumni Circle for Sustainability, in collaboration with the Alumni Circle for Marketing & Digital. Here are some of the key outtakes from the event on purpose marketing.

Creating a fair phone isn't easy

Lina Ruiz, Fairphone's strategic partnerships and events manager, kicked off with an introduction to Fairphone's mission: making a positive impact in how phones are made, used and recycled. Interestingly, she used a video by Milton Friedman  to explain the complexity of supply chains. She then shared Fairphone goal of creating positive social and environmental impact from the beginning to the end of a phone’s life cycle. They do this in four ways.

Fairphone's long-lasting design creates products that last and that are easier to repair. The design helps people understand how to get more years out of the device and move away from the mindset that consumer electronics are semi-disposable objects.

Fairphone traces where the parts come from and therefore creates demand for fair materials that are good for people and planet. One material at a time, Fairphone strives to increase awareness and source better ingredients for their devices.

Fairphone wants to improve working conditions in the electronics sector. With experts, NGOs and other partners, they develop innovative programs to improve worker satisfaction and representation. 

 

To progress towards a circular economy, Fairphone encourages the reuse and recycling of electronics. Withspare parts and recycling programs, they support both consumers and producers. 

The power of purpose for brands

Consumers are increasingly oversaturated with advertising messages. Brands constantly try to sell themselves with beautiful messages, but not all of them are authentic. No wonder the Edelman Trust Barometer shows an implosion of trust in business. At the same time, people look to business to be drivers of change for a better society. From brands, people demand something they can relate to, authenticity and higher ethical standards. The brands that succeed are therefore those that offer shared value for both society and business. That have a purpose that truly connects their business to societal issues in a relevant way. Some companies, like chocolate maker Tony's Chocolonely and transportation company AirHunters, had a clear societal purpose from the start. Tony's wants to abolish slavery in the cocoa industry. Airhunters wants to decrease the carbon footprint and congestion caused by suboptimal transportation. Their brands, therefore, radiate their respective purpose very clearly. Other older and larger companies, like Unilever and Heineken, seem to have veered further from their original purpose but are redefining purpose for their brands with great success. Year on year, Unilever's purpose brands like Dove, Lifebuoy and Ben & Jerry's, outgrow the other brands by 30%.  And Heineken's responsible consumption campaign with DJ Armin van Buren created a global movement of DJs urging people to dance more and drink slowly.

Guiding brands toward purpose

Using the purposeful positioning model developed by The Terrace, the participants then got to work on Fairphone's positioning. The model helps companies and brands find their purpose through an outside-in approach.

1) What are external societal issues that a brand can or should address, such as environmental problems, social issues, latent consumer needs, stakeholder issues and true customer needs?

2) Through the lens of those key issues, how can a brand create shared value? Where are the opportunities for impact or societal value? And how can it create business value in parallel?

3) Who are the people to engage and keep in mind? Through the shared value angle, who are the people that will use the brand? With whom would the brand compete? And which parties are potential collaborators striving for the same societal value?

4) What does the brand really stand for? What are the brand's key benefits, personality, promise and the reasons to believe? This is often more comfortable territory for the marketer.

5) Why is the brand really here? What is the brand's true purpose? The heart of the model brings together the input and perspectives from the previous steps. Once that purpose is distilled and chosen, then go back from the inside out to refine all elements in the model.

Collaboration for positive change

Combining the forces of Nyenrode's sustainability and marketing alumni and their guests, the group came up with various alternate business models. Each stemming from a different angle on the purpose that Fairphone could adopt. Therefore each leading to quite different engagement strategies and tactics. The conclusion of the evening was that there are many opportunities for Fairphone to further focus its purpose and marketing tactics. Even with limited time, the group came up with very actionable ideas, which were gratefully received by the Fairphone team. The other conclusion was that crafting purpose takes more time than the 30 minutes we had available in the context of this workshop - and that is was incredibly inspiring for all involved! Over drinks, the participants continued to talk for hours, sharing how they could put more purpose into their own brands and lives.

A big thank you to Fairphone for hosting this event, to the many people who participated so actively and to the many people involved from the Nyenrode Alumni Circles for Sustainability and Marketing & Digital. Interested in finding out more about purpose marketing, please contact Marjolein.

This blog was originally written by Marjolein Baghuis (@MBaghuis) and Tim Mazajchik (@tmaz85) for the Nyenrode University Alumni website. It has also been posted on the websites of Heartbeat Strategy and Change in Context.


Brand Purpose Model: what is the most beautiful thing you can do with your brand?

As a marketer your goal is to win fans and keep them. You do that by making a difference. And by showing what moves you. What you stand for. But what is the best way to get to the core of your brand?

Brand positioning models

Brand positioning models come in many different forms, from the brand diamond, the brand propeller, to the brand sun, etc. All magnificent one-page models that try to cover the essence of a brand. The truth about the brand, meant to be brief and guide colleagues and external contacts. Most are inspired by the brand key: the model developed by the Unilever Marketing Academy to consistently manage their brands internationally. Just one A4, containing all important information in nine clear bullet points. As a marketing strategist I see them in many shapes and forms: from boring Word documents to inspiring works of art. Accurately defining your brand is no easy task. It requires many decisions. Those decisions together define the strength of the brand.

Marketers and brand managers recognize the need for choosing a cutting edge position in the market. Who is the brand, for which target group are you always the best choice, and of course a razor sharp consumer insight. We can’t live without it.

Stand for something as a brand

If you ask me, the brand key is hopelessly worn out. In times like these, where what used to be rattles, we need the courage to let go of the old and embrace the new. The brand key is not sufficient anymore because it doesn’t take into account the world around the brand. Both the internal organization as well as the external stakeholders need to receive adequate attention. Next to the functional and emotional advantages consumers increasingly expect “like-mindedness”. Choosing for a brand that shares their values. A brand that doesn’t just stand for something, but also cares about something! And I’m not talking about a briefing that was sent to the advertising agency ordering to “come up with an authentic campaign”.

I believe that brands should decide on how they can improve and enrich people’s lives. How they can expose and contribute to social issues. Current position models fall short in addressing this.

We need an inspirational model that helps marketers to proudly carry their profession and helps companies to create true value. Brands have the power to encourage people to make better, healthier and more sustainable choices every day. Brands can help to redefine our vision on quality of life. Brands can guide us, by hitting the sustainable route. Brands can enthusiasm people for this route. They can trigger positive change in the behavior of people.

The Terrace’s ‘Brand Purpose Model’

As a warm-up we start with the question: “what is the most beautiful thing you can do with your brand?” Bam! It provides food for thought and breaks with the laws of conventional marketing mechanisms. This is your chance to think something about something, to be opinioned. Stand for something. And that is exactly what customers expect from you. That’s how you create preference.

The “Brand Purpose Model” by The Terrace offers companies a holistic view on their business to sharply define the purpose. In that process the marketer doesn’t just need his or her own team, but also colleagues from PR/PA, Sales & CSR are needed. Of course having the general director at the table is highly desirable. Without connecting these different disciplines, no shared “purpose” will arise in the organization. Any social activity will just be a little something on the side. Your customers will see right through it.

How it works

We work from the outside-in. Based on insights and needs from different angles we determine the business value and the social impact that fits the brand. The target group and competitors follow next.

Of course you have to know who you’re up against in the market. However, successful brands create a cooperative environment. Take for example cooperation in the supply chain; for marketers, the transition from a linear to a circular economy means that your products will come from two sides, from you and to you. That’s not something a company can manage on its own. Cooperation is crucially important. This includes your target group, who has become more conscious and can arrange more things themselves. Granting others something is the key.

Everyone knows it, character can’t be copied. Why do so few brands of today show what they really stand for? A strong brand purpose provides focus for successful collaboration and innovation.

What does your brand stand for?

Leontine Gast