EXCLUSIVE | Laeeq Ali, President, Ad Club BLR: Does Purpose have a role in the mix of Politicians, Brands, Beliefs, Vote Bank, Loyalty?

image-laeeq ali ad club bangalore on purpose mediabriefWriting exclusively for MediaBrief, Laeeq Ali, President-The Advertising Club Bangalore, Convenor – Startup Panel – CII Karnataka, Co-founder & Director – Global Services Origami Creative & Bloombox Brand Engineers, and now co-author of Your Time is Now, says Purpose with a purpose will help you arrive at the ‘Why’ of your brand.

Laeeq Ali is a first-generation entrepreneur, dreamer, investor, consultant and author. He comes with more than two decades of experience in Branding, Advertising, Marketing & Communications in the Indian and Middle Eastern markets.


Laeeq co-founded Origami Creative, a boutique creative firm in the year 2000 & Bloombox Brand Engineers, a brand consulting entity with a presence in Bangalore, Dubai and Canada. The group has grown to be a family of around 100 now with multiple interests in the areas of business brand consulting, marketing, advertising, technology, and food & beverage.

Purpose, purpose everywhere, not a drop you can drink. OK, I twisted Coleridge there, but would you agree with me if I say that Purpose is one of the most abused and overrated buzzwords in the marketing world today?

I was reading an article by Shashi Tharoor – a powerful write up on politics, ideologies and shifting loyalties.

I will share some parts of it to set context.

“To me, politics has to be about ideas, or it’s nothing. If you are interested in a career without convictions and principles, you may as well be a banker or lawyer…and make money, or a chief executive and wield power. No one cares about the ideology of the manager of a company that makes detergent, as long as your product cleans.”

Tharoor then goes onto talk about politics being an ideology and not like an IPL franchise with shifting loyalties, about politicians choosing a party and how they have to be aligned to certain principles, beliefs and ideas throughout their career.

Does Purpose matter only to political parties?

I thought it was a very intriguing article, especially when you correlate it to purpose, business, branding and brand loyalty. It got me thinking whether purpose is relevant only to political parties?

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Can businesses of tomorrow survive with only a product benefit and profit motive? Is it enough to provide a detergent that cleans or is there a need to stand for something larger?

Do you think the same logic applies to leaders and business brands too? Imagine a leader who stands for something sustainable and then moves on to the opposite side.

Do Millenials and Gen Zs care for Purpose?

I truly believe so. But here comes the tough part about the so-called loyal vote bank – customers and employees. While I personally know many Baby Boomers and Gen-X who have been very loyal and aligned with a certain business brand, I am not sure whether we have conclusive evidence of this trait among the Millennials or Gen Zs yet.

While Millennials are driving the need for business brands to be more ethical and purposeful, some consumer reports are painting a completely different picture about loyalty. (Article continues below)

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FEATURED IMAGE SCOTT GOODSON OF STRAWBERRYFRONG ON THE MASTER'S VOICE PODCAST WITH PAVAN R CHAWLA MEDIABRIEFClick on the pic above to listen to the episode. This episode features Scott Goodson in conversation with Pavan R Chawla. Scott  speaks about his new book Activate Brand Purpose. Scott is a globally respected thinker, advisor, author and guide on transformative, movement-oriented philosophy and strategy. He is also Founder and Chairman of StrawberryFrog, the celebrated Cultural Movement firm, and he also authored the core philosophy of Mahindra RISE, which the group lives by and is highly respected for.

(Article continues) A recent Forbes article points out that a high majority of millennials are heavily influenced by price when making purchases. They state that more than 50% of them have admitted that if you offer them a discount of 30% or more, they are willing to shift loyalty. A good majority follow the brand’s social media pages, in the hope of getting a steal deal sometime soon.

While this puts a question mark on purpose and loyalty at large, my strong feeling is, these business brands have not understood their customers well. So, I would like the business owners and brand practitioners to ask themselves – “How well do you know the people who are most important to your future?”

To Purpose or to not Purpose?

This truly brings us to the great crossroads of dilemma and the big question in your mind right now, would be – To Purpose or Not to Purpose?

Whether it is a political party or a business, I truly believe that businesses should stand for a larger purpose. Stand for something that is bigger than just your product or service. In fact, it is very heartening to see more and more business brands jumping the purpose bandwagon. But at the other end, it is very worrying that Brand Purpose sometimes gets completely lost in translation.

I asked some of the leaders on how they are living their brand purpose, their answers vary from doing some CSR activities to giving some scholarships. Isn’t it high time, business brands truly stood up for something larger and most importantly lived up to what they claim?

The heart-to-heart connection

Brand Purpose is a theory that explains why consumers engage with a brand in the way they do. The theory gained popularity in the mid 1900s when social psychologists found that people who identified with their brands were more likely to participate in a brand campaign and thought the company cares about them.

In the late 1900s & early 2000s, thought leaders like Simon Sinek and Jim Stengel, studied this more in depth and gave us a lot more to think & act upon. ‘Start with Why’ and ‘Brand Ideals’ are truly great frameworks to build your brands with.

Gerald Zaltman, Harvard Professor, says that 95 percent of our purchase decision-making takes place in the subconscious mind. Yes, 95 percent. This clearly calls out the role of the limbic brain in decision-making and how it is responsible for all feelings like trust, loyalty and human behaviour. While the NeoCortex holds rational and analytical thoughts & language functions, the Limbic brain is all about the emotional connection.

These pointers show us the importance of having a North Star; for brands to have a purpose meaningful to their consumers.

image-laeeq ali ad club bangalore on purpose mediabrief

Purpose with a Purpose – Arriving at the WHY of your brand

You might think it’s better said than done and it’s hard to get to a purpose that really unlocks the brand. Yes, it is. But imagine having a brand that is built around improving people’s lives and one that has beat all the category competitors by significant margins. I am sure you would have no complaints around that.

So, just in case, if you have not discovered your business brand purpose yet, here are some pointers and examples to keep in mind if you want to be in the true purpose game.

  • Stand for something relevant, stand for a meaningful change. Remember, there are too many of them trying to ride the wave and the majority are not fulfilling what they stand for, in the truest form.

They are my latest favourite – Sridhar Vembu & the Zoho Tribe – A private company with a public vision.

  • Keep it authentic. It is not about a stated intent, but back it up by solid measurable action.

Dove is a great example of how businesses can pivot and become a Purpose Immigrant – Discovering the value of ‘real’ beauty and improving self-esteem worldwide.

This is one of my favourites. Look up Innocent Drinks for some inspiration too. They simply want to Be Good & Do Good.

  • Before you shout out of the roof, get your house in order. Make sure your people are aligned to the cause. No one wants to hear about how much you love the planet if your people, product or packaging are contributing to its demise.

A classic Indian case of a Purpose Native brand – Sahar Mansoor & Bare Necessities.

  • The pandemic has really shown us that it is about doing first and storytelling later. Focus on the outcomes, rather than just advertising alone.

TOMS Shoes, from the revolutionary One for One to Grassroots Good. (Check it out)

  • Once the cat is out of the bag, leave no stone unturned to bring the Brand Purpose to life in the truest form. Go ahead and delight your customer with your brand experience.

It need not be about saving the world all the time. Look at Walmart’s Purpose for example – “Saving people money so they can live better.” or Google for that matter – “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

  • Importantly, in the process of arriving at the purpose and if the choice in your hands, choose what is right for the world over what is most profitable. Check out Warby Parker – Buy a Pair, Give a Pair.

As a brand practitioner myself, while we strive hard to build purposeful brands, I understand that it is not an easy task especially when we are not the business owners. Many a time the question arises –  Is Purpose a Branding Strategy or a Business Strategy? While I believe it is the latter, the answers to these questions are an endless debate and there is an absolute need to create more conversations and perspectives around the same.

Signing off with the famous words of Elon Musk – “Put­ting in long hours for a corporation is hard. Putting in long hours for a cause is easy.”

Happy Purpose to You.