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Purpose Purists plague on brands

Marketing gurus proclaimed in unison that without purpose life is not possible. That without purpose you won’t have a reason to exist and are teetering on the edge of death. And they add en passant that you can’t come up with a purpose afterwards and reverse engineer the process. No, no, you have to carve your purpose in stone on day one. Otherwise it doesn’t count: ‘You can’t fake purpose.’

Speaking of inclusivity. It’s a lot like a flood during which Ben&Jerry’s and The Body Shop together with Dove have hoisted themselves onto the roof of the purpose house. And then use an oar to shove away people drowning in the flood waters. There’s no place for followers, wannabe Mother Theresas and opportunist Mandelas. Sorry, but we’ve got to keep the purpose race pure of course.

We don’t have to give a Nobel prize to companies that accidentally sew in a thread of ocean plastic in their jeans. But why portray them as opportunistic greenwashers? Purists who slap purpose beginners’ palms with long rulers like strict headmasters should be ashamed of themselves. Cut the elitist attitude. A real master of the universe can also enjoy the neighbour’s purpose garden. And give them the benefit of the doubt. Because who knows, something great might grow out of it or all the droplets of dew may combine to create a in the purpose bucket.

It’s naturally not about words, but actions. Fakers will be publicly reprimanded with a Golden Wind Egg. But if chemical group AkzoNobel paints the favelas in Rio, it’s okay for it to be featured in the newspapers. Pepsi should be encouraged if they – after the Kendall Jenner blooper – still want to go for purpose marketing. And if the Dutch Vindicat fraternity – also known from some minor abuses – gives refugees English lessons on Monday nights, the rector deserves a compliment for a change. Because those asylum seekers will in no time exclaim in fluent Oxford English: “The better world isn’t a picky bugger. The more souls, the better!”

Dick van der Lecq

Dick van der Lecq is the Managing Director at DDB Unlimited. He was previously the Managing Partner at Etcetera.