Bailey Video Podcast: Why Is Brand Purpose So Important?
We are proud to debut the Bailey Video Podcast, a new web series centered on brand creation and development. In each episode, Bailey’s branding experts are joined by industry leaders and subject matter experts from across the country to candidly discuss some of the most important topics facing brands and businesses today.
Our first episode features insights on the topic of brand purpose from Bill Levisay, President of Bolthouse Farms Brands, and Bailey Brand Consulting President and CEO Christopher K. Bailey. Over the course of the conversation, the two compare notes on the power of being purpose driven, what it means to lead by example and the delicate balance between purpose and performance.
Click above to view the conversation. Topics include:
- What Is Brand Purpose and Why Is It Important?
- How Do You Create Alignment Between Internal & External Messaging?
- How Do You Stay Authentic With Your Brand Purpose?
Bill Levisay, President of Bolthouse Farms Brands: Chris and I both own old cars; now mine is an old 1981 German sedan. I won’t go into too many details, but it doesn’t steer perfectly straight. You’re always kind of working your way, and weirdly enough, it’s a perfect image in my mind of how you work an organization around brand purpose because it’s not like you say one thing and you’re done. It’s how you actually drive the car every day, and you’re steering towards that destination a little bit more and sometimes you come off, then a little bit more, but over time you are moving your team, your products, your policies, your customer approaches more towards that destination.
Voiceover: Hi, welcome to the Bailey Video Podcast, a podcast from Bailey Brand Consulting about brand creation and development.
Today we’re talking about Brand Purpose with Bill Levisay, President of Bolthouse Farms Brands, a vertically integrated farm company specializing in healthy consumer products.
Let’s take a listen.
Eric Yeager, Director of Media Production of Bailey Brand Consulting: Chris, we’ll probably just kick it off to you here and I’d love to understand, I think the first question that we have is what is brand purpose, and why is it so important?
Chris Bailey, President and CEO of Bailey Brand Consulting: We think about it a couple different ways and I think one aspect that I think I’d really like to get at is this has been a phenomena the last five to ten years we’ve done a lot of brand purpose initiatives, and it’s really become a foundational part of a business strategy in many cases.
Leadership of an organization realizes that the alignment in the organization is not there, and purpose is really the solution to solving some of that. And I think that it’s really about getting alignment of values that really keep the talent there, because people are looking for meaningful work, and so the brand purpose really needs to be very authentic but it needs to be purposeful: What are we trying to solve? What are we trying to do? And I think when everybody really gets behind it and starts to really contribute and understands how they contribute then the brand purpose can really help the business flourish and take off.
Bill: It’s been really eye opening to be in this period of growth and strengthening of the brand, but, wow, are the expectations higher than ever and, your point, Chris, we from the very start, literally the very first day that we bought the company back from Campbell’s, we put a flag in the ground around an idea of plants powering people, and that Bolthouse Farms, yes we sell carrots, yes we sell wonderful smoothies and carrot juice and wonderful salad dressings — we sell a variety of branded products, but what we’re really about is how to find more avenues for fresh fruits and vegetables — plants — finding their ways into people’s lives and having that process be a productive one for them, the land and for us.
You know, as people get healthier, our business can actually get healthier, and that’s not just an idea for marketing efforts to consumers, it’s a powerful attraction for employees, which is where you’re going, Chris, of what are we about and how do we know where we’re going beyond just an annual business plan or market share metrics or certain other ideas, because many of our products help people’s immune systems, help people live a healthier life, and those were all good ideas until there’s a global pandemic and then it’s foundational ideas. Oh, you’re working on something that actually helps people be healthier, wow, let’s do more of that, right?
Eric: When you really know who you are, like you’re describing, Bill, it’s easier to make those business decisions day after day and keep your business healthy. It’s a little different than say a brand purpose of feeding the bottom line or increasing revenue for stakeholders. I think we’re talking about a brand purpose being more aspirational and really knowing why you do what you do, as opposed to what you make.
Bill: Yeah, I think the next 35 years, it’s going to be so driven by ESG, Eric, and brands are going to have to live up to very broader sets of expectations than just market share, revenue and EBITDA. What are we doing with the environment? How do we operate in society and how do we govern our enterprise is not just “Oh, that’s an interesting idea to ADD to the list.” That WILL be the list, and by doing a good job of that you’ll have the chance to drive revenue and market share and hopefully profitability, and this idea of brand purpose — young marketers, young entrepreneurs, some of them do a brilliant job at it, but boy, that’s going to be something to learn immediately or early in their careers.
There are really big things we’re working on, bigger than the business plan and having not only a leadership culture but an employee culture that gets the importance of both — that you’re working against bigger things and — you know the “and” is the important word here and you’re driving performance that allows you to actually reinvest in the business to drive against the bigger things. It’s a wonderful, virtuous cycle when it’s humming.
Eric: Well, speaking about alignment, that leads into the next question, which is coming up with a brand purpose I think is one thing and really getting aligned both internally, and externally how you share that message is another thing, and I think the question for both you guys: How do you do that? How do you go about getting a consistent message both internally and externally?
Bill: Bolthouse Farms is 106 years young or something like that now and you and I worked on Breyers ice cream that started in 1866, we worked on Coca-Cola together, 1886. These are old businesses in the landscape but they’re not, success is not ensured, they could be gone tomorrow. And I mean that. I fundamentally believe that we know big brands, we’ve been around big businesses that aren’t here today that were here earlier in our lives and so this idea of success is not inevitable and brands strengthening and growing and building a legacy over time — it is a journey, and that process needs to be thought of as that and have a longitudinal view rather than an episodic view, because I worry that, I watch some companies and some brands really change brand purpose all the time. And it’s tempting and it’s very faddish and it weakens the journey of a brand or a company over time, not strengthens, right?
And so that idea of how do you have enough — I don’t know if you want to call it depth and maturity but the ability to look beyond the quarters or the years of a business plan and say “Where are we really trying to go?” Right now our company is doing some work — it’s very challenging — of what will Bolthouse Farms — what do we want it to look like in 2030?
Eric: I think a lot about an example of a big brand, Toys R Us, which you would have thought that they were golden forever, but somewhere along the way maybe they didn’t have that brand purpose, which allowed them to stray in terms of the business decisions that opened the door for other players to come in and put them out of business or themselves putting themselves out of business — to me that was a huge shocker.
Bill: In our time together, we’ve watched businesses struggle with it. I mean what’s interesting today is I think probably all I’m doing this on a MacBook Pro, I have my iPhone — still an 8, but it’s an iPhone, but in my lifetime I’ve watched Apple go through two cycles where they almost closed.
Blockbuster was an entertainment experience. Their organization and certainly their senior executive team was thinking about running thousands of stores with blue and gold headliners on the top, but the consumer was looking for an entertainment experience and found it elsewhere.
Think about how much photography is happening that Kodak isn’t touching. I had the pleasure to be in Rochester in 1983 or 4, so did you, Chris, and now to see Rochester today and what Kodak is or isn’t as a company, and yet there’s never been more photography than today.
Chris: Right. And if they would have maintained the ownership of memories, they would have then stayed on task. I think that the challenge with them is they really thought they had the market of film cornered. But now there’s no film.
Bill: But the film to them was the Blockbuster store or the grocery store of the customer that didn’t understand what I was doing with Amazon.
Chris: And I would argue that that’s when you need to be examining your purpose. You may be a little bit off of it because you’re forgotten about the customer or the consumer and who you really support.
Bill: And if you push it backwards on you, is that purpose really just about the current way you do it?
Chris: Exactly. I think one of the interesting things that I’ve picked up a little bit from just some of our clients is the exposure that they’ve gotten to a broader set of their employee base within what’s been going on within COVID, that it’s the idea of being able to really understand some of the talent that you have within the organization but also understand what moves them. And because this has been, a real big strain on people in so many different ways, and I think for companies they’re going to have to really examine and think about how much of that purpose can be pulled and stretched a little bit to maintain relevancy for the real strong talent that resides within the organization.
Bill: And the competition for talent — I think we’re just one company that’s thinking about it a lot, my goodness it’s difficult today and it’s not going to get any easier than right now. It’s going to get harder, there will be more choices, if the market does recover the way it probably will … it’s going to be a very difficult time to recruit and maintain talent, and if you don’t have a purpose that people are wanting to be part of, not just with their wallets but with their hearts, why do this? I want to climb THAT mountain, and so I think, I’m with you Chris, and I think— I won’t speak for you … where I am in my career, it will be the last set of challenges I hope to build in the next set of leaders is how to think about doing that and building that in a really strong way.
Eric: And Chris if I can just pull from the article that you co-authored on brand purpose, you had a quote in there from Elon Musk and it said “working long hours is hard for a corporation, but working long hours for a cause is easy.”
And that really struck me because I think that’s the difference in the Kodak example of sharing memories versus selling film. It’s a whole lot easier to get your head wrapped around making and sharing memories, as an employee, and internally that’s a whole lot stronger of a cause.
Bill: Yeah, I think that’s true, and the causes that people want to be part of go back to ESG — I do think are pretty well captured by that set of ideas. Can we create an environment that cansustain humanity for generations and generations, and not just so they survive it, but they can thrive in it.
Do we have a society that’s more just tomorrow and more open tomorrow than yesterday, and do we have a set of governance for our businesses and our communities that we can trust and be part of ourselves?
Eric: And I think that pivots into the next question that I have for you guys.
It’s about authenticity, and I think brand purpose, and purpose in general, is a fad word right now at least in agency world for us. I hear it a lot. “We want to save the planet,” “We want to save the world,” and it’s wonderful causes, but it’s so selfless you wonder why don’t you just go do that, but how do you stay authentic with your brand purpose?
Chris: Being authentic is somewhat a natural thing versus trying to be something that you aren’t, and I think that is the real sense of authenticity is that people can look at it and they don’t have any doubts in what you’re saying, they believe it, they see it, they get it and it’s the confidence thatcomes across, and I think when a business really gets that right — and you’ve said this to me many times, Bill, you said “go do good things,” and I always think about that as that’s exactly what we’re trying to do — we’re just trying to do good things for our clients.We’re not trying to fake them out and we’re not trying to put something up there that’s disingenuous.
It’s really about capturing the essence of what they are and then capitalizing on that, and that’s really what, getting your brand purpose really figured out — figuring out who you are but then getting everybody on the team on board with that and the whole organization seeing that is what you stand for.
Bill: You know, Chris, and I don’t know exactly where I learned this — someone taught me, a long time ago a really simple concept which was “be it, then do it, then say it,” not the other way around.
Decide what you are about and have that become who you are — be it. Don’t start talking about it yet. Be it. Then start taking actions to make that come to life. Don’t start talking about it yet, do it, and only when that’s really humming and going and going — and for us, you know, the harvesting of carrots it’s a good example — then we can start talking about it, then say it.
But right now in our culture so many times it’s flipped. We’re going to start saying it. We’re about this, we believe this, we stand for this, we’re all about this, and we aren’t doing much of it, and we certainly aren’t being any of it.
And so getting that model turned and having the turn of that model be foundational, and Chris, you and I have worked together on some client work. We always aspired for some of the clients to be more than they were, but we found foundationally the work was centered on who they were and what they were doing, you know what I mean? And so that spirit of that idea is powerful, and I certainly encourage it to be a model for how you serve clients and how we handle our business today for sure.
Eric: Great stuff, guys. I really appreciate it. This was very informational, and I appreciate your time.Thank you so much.
Bill: Eric and Chris, thanks for having me on. I’m a proud fan of Bailey and, Chris, we’ve worked together since ‘88 I think, something like that. The challenges that lie ahead are significant for brands, and brand purpose is a very powerful idea and, as we’ve talked about, it’s a journey, not a singular momentary idea. So, thanks for having me.
Chris: Well, Bill, we can’t thank you enough, and best of luck in the next product launch. Get it going good.
Bill: We’ll keep the carrot dogs humming for you. So, thanks, everybody.
Eric: Alright, take care. Thank you so much.
To learn more about this topic or to discuss an issue impacting your business, contact Bailey’s Vice President of Client Services, Jamie Gailewicz, at 610-818-3103 or email us at [email protected].