Aoife Murphy on using purpose properly

Aoife Murphy offers marketers three purpose-positive choices to help give give their brand an edge over competitors

Brand purpose is the Marmite of the marketing world. We love to hate brands who get it wrong. But as consumers develop and the value-driven Generation Z starts to build more and more wealth, is it time to revisit your brand’s purpose and dust it off for a post-pandemic world? The onslaught of communications from brands on their sustainability efforts got me thinking a lot about their purpose.

Now purpose might sound so very 2019 for seasoned marketers, but I wonder if enough brands have really made use of it to drive distinction. With brands like Pepsi, Gillette and Brewdog, getting burnt in the ‘purpose’ fire, perhaps others are wary of stepping in too far. The fact is that brand purpose is useless unless the whole business, and not just the marketing department, believes in it.

Gen Z, or people born between 1997 and 2012, account for over 40 per cent of global consumers. Their spending power is growing up with them. While we cannot tar one generation with a single stereotype brush, research is suggesting that they care more about genuine causes such as the environment, inequality and diversity than the generations that have gone before them.

Banking on a customer-based strategy: Aoife Murphy says the finance industry provides a wealth of inspiration. Legacy brands that used to be known for their stuffy corporate structures and bureaucratic processes, suddenly found themselves under pressure from unconventional new entrants. By flipping their purpose drivers from how the bank experiences customers, to how customers experience the bank, brands like Permanent TSB revolutionised their brand offering.

As we enter into an age where brands are being built in multiple channels using various different tactics, central creative strategies are becoming increasingly essential for Irish marketers. A purpose that is deeply connected to your brand’s roots and product offering should be the marketing goal. It does not have to be earth shattering, but it certainly does have to be honest.

As we dare to think of post-pandemic life, perhaps now is the time to dust off your brand book and revisit its purpose. Putting purpose back at the core of your communications strategy needs some updated 2021 guard rails. Here are three purpose-positive choices for your brand.


Nothing comes from brand purpose without action. Long-term growth comes from pursuing a distinct brand purpose that closes the gap between ads and action. A brand purpose is an idea bigger than profit. It combines your beliefs, values and reason-for-being into a single conviction.

To make a brand purpose truly purposeful it must seek to bridge the divide between its words and its actions. That means going beyond just creating ads that state a desire for change. Instead you must actively create and drive the change needed.

Three Ireland is a great example of a brand that has done just that. Three’s brand purpose of “making life mean more through connecting” is not a tagline, it is the cornerstone of their business strategy. It is a shared purpose that goes beyond communications, it impacts on their   entire business.


To have a culture-led approach is to look beyond the functional and focus on phenomena and assumptions that are frequently taken for granted. In this way, cultural context can provide a hotbed of inspiring and effective insight. Crucially, understanding culture is exciting. It not only makes work a bit more fun but it spotlights areas of focus as growth drivers. Hellmann’s do it for left-overs.

Nike do it for streetwear and Bodyform do it for sanitary products. By leaning into your audience’s culture you create positive behaviours. It builds empathy for your customers, so they look like real people, not targets. Of course, the challenge with behaviour is that it is constantly evolving, so an agile team and brand that is set up to be comfortable flexing with a changing world is essential.

BRAND EXPERIENCE                              

Being purpose-led requires a mindset that pushes you beyond category norms. People now have high expectations of the brands they buy, so the experience you create has to be premium, memorable and full of joyful moments. Sometimes purpose can be small and very pointed, perhaps you are looking to solve pain points, maybe you want to make dinner time easier or toilets less smelly.

Customer pain points should be a brand’s enemy. Everyone should strive to overcome them one at a time to make the total experience of the brand and the business better. The goal of these interactions is to provide moments of delight. Making people happy is a proven strategy that builds memory structures and creates brands that are loved. Out of category thinking is a catalyst for innovation.

The finance industry provides inspiration. By flipping their purpose drivers from how the bank experiences customers, to how customers experience the bank, they revolutionised their brand offering. Experiences like ASB’s kid’s saving scheme, ‘Clever Kash’ and Lloyd’s bank, ‘Get Comfortable with Money’ programme are purpose-led initiatives that still provide their core products’ seamless utility.

Aoife Murphy is executive strategy director at Boys+Girls





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