I’ve been trying to find a way to articulate this for a while without just saying “do you know when brands become inauthentic?….” Because that’s rather ambiguous, isn’t it?
Then I heard the term “Purpose-washing” and everything fell into place.
If you’re familiar with the term “greenwashing” (the process of making a company appear to be more environmentally friendly than it is), then you’ll likely know purpose-washing is its (seemingly innocent but equally ugly) little sister.
It’s when we roll out beautiful taglines, mission statements or emotive campaigns for “likes”, shares and public esteem without the substance to back it up.
But unlike greenwashing which is usually for the big boys or “eco” companies who haven’t done their homework, purpose-washing is something we are all capable of.
It’s when we broadcast ideas without truly embodying them. It’s when we make promises of something greater, only to not deliver.
Purpose washing is the shallow part of branding. It’s superficial marketing. It’s saying the right thing without making the necessary changes or having the conviction to see it through. Its the very thing that people have grown tired of.
Business and marketing have been marred with gimmicks and short-term gains.
We all know that, which is why there’s a rise in demand for conscious businesses and transparency. We’re sick of profit at all costs and businesses founded on win-lose instead of win-win for plant, profit and people.
But just because we’re tired of it, doesn’t mean we’re immune from it. We still fall for false promises.
To build a meaningful brand that stands strong in its own integrity, you have to brand from the inside out – so the brand (and its purpose, strategy and values) is founded on real stories, real passion and real follow through and consistency.
Purpose washing is a problem because its a process of companies aligning themselves with a movement, cause or stand without doing real work in following it through.
It doesn’t help just to say your purpose, you have to embody it.
Your service, products, employees, supply change, policies, processes all have to embody it. That means your values have to be present in all aspects of your business, not just in your marketing campaigns.
Storytelling is guilty of purpose washing.
Stories can be used as a tool for truth just as much as they can be used to manipulate.
It is possible to have a seductive story even if the company doesn’t match up.
How to tell the difference? Make sure a company’s actions match their words and stories.
How do YOU be the difference?
Go beyond your branding. Your brand and message is the end result of a much longer and deeper process. For your message, story, brand and actions to be congruent, you need to know who you are, what you stand for and what you are committed to creating. Your strategy needs to match up.
You have to let the truth be your brand. To do that, you must discover the truth and be honest about how you are going to align your actions with your values.