Tom Roach is a clever man.

He describes himself like this:

With 20+ years as a strategist in the world’s best marketing communications agencies, I’m driven by a desire to drive future growth for brands by harnessing the commercial power of creativity, and to prove its value for the marketing industry as a whole.

Tom very recently wrote a great article on purposeful brands.

Breaking purposeful brands down into three groups.

In a really useful way.

Because he doesn’t just look at the purpose itself.

But where it comes from.

So overall I think there are probably 3 broad types of brands that define themselves as having a purpose that we see in the marketing world.

Imagine three concentric circles containing three types.

At the bullseye we see brands that are Born Purposeful, often founder-led, often small, niche, usually founded with a societal purpose and where purpose goes across the whole business operation.

Toms and Patagonia are perhaps the most often-cited examples of this.

No one ever seems to argue about brands like this – very clear purposes, and business models designed to balance purpose and profit.

In the middle concentric circle we see a second type, which tend to be Corporate Converts – often larger businesses which have adopted the concept of purpose more recently.

They usually seem to genuinely want to make a positive difference to the world alongside making money, sometimes to correct past wrongs or just to become a better corporate citizen.

They’re by definition on a journey of transforming themselves and are often more complex businesses, and because of that they may have to make pragmatic decisions that favour profit over purpose in certain instances.

They may not have a business model that’s built around their purpose.

They may have certain voices internally who are more committed to their purpose than others, and they’re likely not to have a founder present who’s committed to keeping the business permanently in line with its purpose in all its decision-making.

So they’re naturally a greyer area.

Purpose often becomes a new type of business vision or Northstar for these kinds of brands – they will typically need to find a space at the top of their strategy pyramid for their new purpose.

And there’s a third kind, on the outer circle, which I would call Pseudo-purposeful brands – these are the ones for which purpose is just a new ad campaign claiming to try and solve an issue like gender or racial equality, or toxic masculinity or whatever the most resonant topic is that their social listening data says is trending with their demographic that month.

This is the kind of purpose that’s least likely to become embedded across every function of a business, it was probably cooked up in the marketing department, and so is far less likely to take root within an entire organisation, be taken seriously and gain long-term investment.

And so it’s far less likely to be profitable in the long-term.

I like this 3-way split.

I like how I am building my own clothing brand, Always Wear Red in the only way I know how.

The first way.

And the article has helped me to think more clearly about brands I try to help through my mychael business.

Because I love Born Purposeful brands.

And I can tolerate and explore with Corporate Converts.

But I really do have no time for the Pseudo-Purposeful types.

And that helps me to work out the projects I’ll love.

From those I just can’t work on.

More crisply than before.

Here’s the full article.

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