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A Conversation with Dove on Brand Purpose

Mackenzie Newcomb
September 29, 2020

Brand purpose has always been important, but lately it is taking center stage with over 63% of consumers citing purpose as a driver for purchasing from a company. With the unpredictability and upheaval of 2020, this is a perfect time for brands to dig deep and find their purpose, or lean into their established missions. 

In the latest episode of The Fast Traack, our CEO, Pierre-Loic Assayag, and our VP of Marketing, Evy Lyons, interviewed Firdaous El Honsali, Director of Global Communications at Dove, on the topic of brand purpose. Specifically, they discussed the question, “What does it take to truly enable brand purpose and what role can influencers play in bringing a brand’s purpose to life?” 

Listen to the episode on Spotify or Apple Podcasts!

“More than ever, we need brands with purpose. We need brands that have an ambition to make the world a better place, brands that take action and hold themselves accountable.” -Firdaous El Honsali, Director of Global Communications at Dove

Here are some of the overarching takeaways from the interview:

Why is brand purpose so important?

  1. Brands are part of society and they have an important role to play in shaping our world and promoting change. 
  2. We know that brand purpose is a large reason for people’s purchasing decisions. Customers will buy brands that match with their values because they feel that they are taking action. Younger generations, in particular, want transparency, 
  3. Brands with purpose are experiencing growth. 

Fundamentally, brands are part of society, and it’s important they contribute to society in a meaningful way. Corporations have a role to play in implementing positive change in the world; the larger the company, the bigger the impact. From a business perspective, consumers are more and more concerned about making purchasing decisions that align with their values. They feel as though they are taking action by buying the right products. Having a strong brand purpose is important for both ethical and strategic reasons.

Does brand purpose support growth? 

Firdaous sites that, time and time again, within the Unilever portfolio she has seen brands with strong purpose outperform in terms of growth. Also, when a brand has a purpose, it attracts extremely passionate individuals to come work for them. These people, in turn, accelerate the growth. 

Does every brand have an opportunity to be a “purposeful brand”? 

All brands have the opportunity to put purpose at their core. If they did not have it from the start, right now is a great opportunity to do it. If your brand is lacking a central purpose to rally around, you need to dig deep and figure out what makes sense by asking, what purpose aligns with my brand, and my customers? 

What is the most common mistake with brand purpose?

The most common mistake brands make when creating their purpose is failing to couple it with action. Pushing a new ad campaign is not enough. Dove, for example, has impacted 60 million young people with their self esteem actions, bringing its purpose to life. In the podcast, Firdaous goes more deeply into this work. 

“A common mistake is thinking that doing a purposeful ad is ticking the box of purpose.”


How does brand purpose affect influencer partnerships?

Firdaous says that when Dove chooses influencers, they need to be aligned with their brand values. They look for influencers who are fighting beauty stereotypes organically. When you know that you are working with influencers with the same values, it is a great way to build deep, long lasting relationships. Firdaous shares the example of taking some influencers to schools to see the work Dove is doing with children around self esteem. This authentic connection creates a strong bond between influencers and Dove. Her advice: be transparent and partner deeply with your influencers to harness your shared passion. 

How does Dove turn its mission into action? 

This process starts with recruiting and building a team that is passionate about the brand’s purpose and dedicated to bringing it to life. We’ve heard this same advice from the team at TPH by Taraji in an earlier podcast episode about social justice and brand marketing. 

For brands that want to move purpose to the center of their company, how can they do this authentically?

Start with listening and asking the questions. Firdaous suggests approaching non governmental organizations (NGO), influencers, customers and subject matter experts and, with humility and authentic intentions, asking how your company can help and how they can move this cause forward with the help of their brand. 

How does Dove manage relationships with so many influencers around the world?

It can be tempting to take the easy route of engaging in transactional relationships with influencers. Seeing that the results were less than ideal with this approach, Dove has focused its influencer model to a more relationship-based approach. 

The difficulty with this approach is doing it at scale. Dove tackled this issue by focusing on quality, not quantity, starting with key markets to work with influencers the way they truly wanted to. The results were incredible and proved the relationship-based method was working. From these initial programs, the Dove team was able to put more resources behind it, scaling to more markets and influencers across the globe. 

Can brand purpose grow over time?

Dove was founded in 1957 with the launch of the Dove Beauty Bar (soap), which was revolutionary at the time. Now you probably associate Dove as the brand attached to Real Beauty; but that campaign didn’t begin until 2004, nearly 50 years after the brand’s creation. Whether your company is in its infancy or is a heritage brand, it is never too late to decide on your brand purpose.

How can your brand be flexible while remaining consistent? 

When the COVID-19 epidemic hit, the team at Dove was eager to be helpful. They asked themselves “what does real beauty look like in a pandemic?” This resulted in the Courage is Beautiful campaign to honor the medical workers on the front line. Additionally, they created the #washtocare campaign encouraging hand washing to reduce infections, even stating in the ad "We don't care which soap you use, we care that you care. For you. And for all." Though for Dove these ads were the first of their kind, they felt very authentic and on brand for the company. When your company’s purpose is clear and consistent, it will manifest in many ways.

Listen to the latest episode of the podcast for more, or watch the video below for captions (in english and french!)

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