CHAPTER 17Has Purpose Lost Its Purpose? McDonald’s Defines Its Style of Marketing

Silvia Lagnado and Colin Mitchell

Purpose has served many brands well. We have both advocated for it in the past. However, today, as purpose has grown in popularity, it risks being disconnected from the product. This makes brands blur together and lack meaning. We must recognize that different brands operate at different altitudes. This will determine both the brand’s strategy (the balance between positioning and purpose) and its expression (the balance of “saying” and “doing”).

The Rise of Purpose

Perhaps Jim Collins started it. After conducting a six-year study of successful companies and their less successful competitors in various industries, Collins concluded in his book Built to Last (HarperBusiness, 1994) that a sense of vision was the answer: “Visionary companies pursue a cluster of objectives, of which making money is only one—and not necessarily the primary one.”

Vision then migrated from the world of general business theory to the world of marketing. In his 1999 book on challenger brands, Eating the Big Fish (John Wiley & Sons), Adam Morgan posited that really strong brands were founded on beliefs. Historic campaigns, such as Apple’s “Think Different” (1997) and Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” (2004) showed the power of this idea.

Gradually, the language of marketing changed. Agencies started producing “brand manifestoes.” Campaigns were described as “movements” led by “anthem ads.” ...

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