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The power of purpose: creating impact in divisive times

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Brand purpose needs to originate internally to be authentic. / Stocksy

The past few years have seen a rise in brands driving their engagement and sales strategies by looking beyond profit margins and towards a collective sense of purpose. It’s no longer enough to sell a product that people can put to good use. These days, brands need a driving force behind them, a unified vision to align their actions and attract consumers who feel an affinity with their reinvestment, their inclusiveness, their drive to make a difference.

As an agency, we understand the need to move with change and evolve brand vision and purpose to react effectively. 2019 sees us undergo significant change ourselves, as we launched our new global integrated marketing services agency, ICF Next. Our focus is to implement purpose as a core impact strategy, unlocking a new breadth of capability and potential for collaboration. Through the work of We are Vista, a leading UK-based communications agency that we acquired last year, we have a firm foundation of uniting leadership, inspiring ethical behaviour and guiding thriving, confident employee cultures across the board.

What we’ve learned is that purpose starts internally, and we begin with insight and analytics – defining the strategic glue to enable transformation. Then, it’s all about getting everyone from leadership to employees on board, bringing the vision to life with meaningful, impactful creative, and optimising every channel and touchpoint with the right technology to deliver the message.

And we’ve seen this in action. Back in 2008, reframing was the only way forward for Lloyds Banking Group. By connecting their vision and working hard to engage every colleague with a sense of shared purpose, they’ve become Stonewall’s second best brand to work for. It took time, but aligning to a new, more principled ambition changed perceptions and improved trust.

In the automotive industry, where public demand grows, new entrants crowd the market and government policy turns up the pressure, we see legacy car manufacturers accelerating towards fully electric vehicles – increasingly aligning their reasons for being with doing what’s right for the planet.

And for us, the power of purpose plays out every day. At ICF Next, we combine creative and technology specialists under a new purpose – delivering accelerated change, beautifully, for consumers, colleagues, citizen and communities across the world.

So, step change always starts with belief – gauging the mindset of an organisation, and spending time identifying its reason for being. Does it exist to make the world greener? Is its work inextricably bound with enabling young people to reach their full potential? Does it aspire to promote fairness and equality? Are they on a mission to create more joyful experiences for consumers? Whatever it is, it’s got to start at the heart, and from there, we have the power to help it grow.

John Armstrong is president of ICF Next

James Wilkins, chief executive of We Are Vista, also contributed to this article. We are Vista was acquired by ICF in 2018, and will officially become part of ICF Next on 26 March.

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