Brand authenticity – does your promise match your purpose?

To stand out, more and more brands are clamouring to uncover and shout about their brand purpose – the reason they exist beyond making money.

Branding | 3 minutes read | Gary McIlwaine

Brand authenticity – does your promise match your purpose?
Brand authenticity – does your promise match your purpose?

Some brands tap into our craving for the alternative: for the local in a globalised world; for the crafted in a world of corporate uniformity; for the sustainable in an age of depletion and waste.

Other brands get personal.

Nescafé don’t just make instant coffee, they free up time to spend with our children.

Fairy aren’t only about washing up liquid, they want to help us hug more.

The right balance

To use purpose well, symmetry is key.

Brands must balance their brand promise against the reality of what their service or product actually delivers.

Take P&G’s brand Always. Their Like a Girl advertising campaign has been praised as one of the best of the year, championing female empowerment.

Always got it right: their brand purpose fits with their brand promise. They promise to protect women, physically, during their period. Young women’s confidence tends to drop after their first period.

Always has a bigger brand purpose – to champion young women at their most vulnerable stage in life.

Faking it

Many brands fail to achieve this symmetry. To seem better and more worthy than their competitors, firms often end up over–stretching and promising too much.

This could be a nightmare customer service experience from a company who claim to put customers first.

Or a sandwich from Subway – a chain that promises fresh, healthy food, but forgets to mention the chemical filler in its bread is also found in yoga mats.

True authenticity

Don’t think of brand purpose as a marketing tool. Instead, define your promise and your purpose at the same time.

Trying to fake this is dangerous and your audience will not be duped.

Authenticity here cannot be manufactured.

Instead, your purpose should be reflected in everything you do; your design, your business strategy, how you treat your employees, how you interact with your customers.

And the more you talk about how great your brand is, the less people will believe it – show, don’t tell.

Doing this well

Japanese retail brand Muji nails purpose and promise.

Muji calls for a return to simplicity in everyday life. They believe their customers shouldn’t have to pay for what they don’t need. As such, they design simple, high–quality products. 

Muji spends very little on marketing and advertising; it owes its success to word of mouth recommendations from happy customers.


Muji is low–key and not flashy. Maybe someone outside Japan finds it cool. We don’t want to say so ourselves

Kei Suzuki, Muji Executive

The ethical fashion industry also offers good examples.

Rapanui‘s eco–labelling ensures its customers know exactly where the materials in their clothes come from. Howies offers local, low–impact production and long–lasting products while Brothers We Stand provides great design, with a social and environmental conscience.

Why it matters

A compelling promise, with a meaningful, authentic purpose, will help a brand attract and retain the right kinds of customers. Customers who believe in what you do, and need what you offer.

Authenticity breeds loyalty, and a willingness to recommend.


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