CMO Moves

9 CMOs on Elevating Brand Purpose to a Business Imperative

Brand purpose is not a new concept by any means, but it has certainly become an elevated one in recent months. As chief marketers attempt to thoughtfully, yet boldly steward their brands through times of uncertainly and societal unrest, leaning into their foundation—their core—as a company has never been more important. 

Here, we summarized advice from 9 CMOs who put purpose center stage on what it takes to define, activate and sustain your brand purpose today.  

Defining Your Purpose 

  1. Start From WithinWe spent about a year and a half with consumer understanding—starting with consumer insight and then associate understanding. If you're going to build an iconic brand, you have to build it from the inside out. That connection with associates is as important as the connection with guests. … Working with my [C-Suite] counterparts and the executive team was also really important during this process because they had so much knowledge, insight, and perspective.” Shelley Haus, CMO, Ulta Beauty
  2. Purpose Must Be Rooted in Your Business Plan"As CMOs, one of the things that many of us need to do is ensure that as we talk about purpose, we're connecting it to the most meaningful commercial parts of our business as well. Your purpose has to come out of where your business starts." Vineet MehraGlobal Chief Marketing and Customer Officer, Walgreens Boots Alliance
  3. Tell your Story, Authentically. “When people want to learn more about our company, it’s not just our unbelievable products and services that we are so proud of. It’s ‘what kind of company are you? What do you believe in?  What are your values?’ It really matters to have that transparency. ...  What companies and brands need to do is to tell that story but do it authentically. That’s what it really is, at the core of everything we believe in, is that we are in the trust business.” Meredith Verdone CMO, Bank of America 

Activating Your Purpose  

  1. Acting on Purpose Builds Trust. "The modern marketer is not a mythmaker; they're a truth-teller. They want to get to the core truth and tell it in a beautiful way, while also leveraging this truth to truly do good. It's such a powerful tool. I'm really heartened that we have this new generation of marketers who are insisting that companies create a truly positive change in the world. And products are just a vehicle to do that." Andréa MallardCMO, Pinterest
  2. Leverage Purpose as the Ultimate Filter. “If it's not authentic, if it's not driven by your values or not something that is consistent with who you are as a brand—whether you are a six-month-old brand or a 207-year-old brand—it is not going to work. It's going to feel totally inauthentic and forced. ... It may be tempting to say, ‘let's jump on this’ but if it’s not consistent with your values, walk away.” Carla Hassan, Chief Marketing Officer, Citi
  3. Use Purpose to Drive Societal Change. “Great brands should be working on real societal issues that matter to their customers. It’s on all of us to drive change—yes, it’s the way society has been built, but we need to change it. ...  I think what is so exciting is that there's a coalition of like-minded marketers in the industry that have really decided to go do something actively about solving problems in culture. Fiona Carter, CMO, Goldman Sachs (former Chief Brand Officer, AT&T) 

Sustaining Your Purpose 

  1. Purpose Takes Consistency. “How do you maintain a business that says and stands for the same thing wherever you are in the world? It has to be really anchored in knowing who you are and being able to consistently and persistently tell that story over and over again.” Taj Alavi, former Global Head of Brand, Uber
  2. Purpose is Your Anchor“As we think about our brand's role in society and the role that purpose plays, it is the fuel that gets us going. It's, it's the catalyst that gets us past those challenging times. And it is the center that anchors us when we're going 10,000 different ways.” Ronalee Zarate-Bayani, CMO, Los Angeles Rams
  3. Balance Purpose and Performance. “Performance marketing is the oxygen and when it runs out, you’re dead. But purpose-driven brand marketing—that’s your nutrition. You need it. Sure, you can survive without it for a few days, but your brand will eventually die and it’ll be a slow death.” Mayur Gupta, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer, Gannett - USA Today Network