The Brand Shepherd Podcast

'Force-Fitting' Purpose to Brands Is No Longer Wanted

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Let’s connect some dots about the role of altruistic purpose in product branding and positioning.

First, let’s hear from the new CEO of Unilever, who recently announced that they will stop ‘for fitting purpose’ into their brands:

“But we will not force fit this [purpose] across the entire portfolio, for some brands it simply won’t be relevant and that’s okay,” he added.

Now let’s connect Unilever’s decision to the likely reason why they don’t see ROI in force-fitting purpose to products: GenX women.

In a piece from 2021 titled, “Why GenX Women Will Not Be Aging Quietly,” which I have shared a few times for the wealth of info within, we learn about the powerhouse demographic that GenX women compose.

More specifically, “40 million 50+ American women represent over $15 trillion dollars in purchasing power and are the healthiest, wealthiest, and most active generation in history.”

The last connection I want to make is how these two are connected: GenX is not out to change the world.

Among the generations alive today, Boomers, Millennials, and GenZ share one – and maybe only one – belief: to change the world into a better place than they found it. They embrace big concepts that they see as world-changing actions and ideas.

But not GenX.

See, if we go back to when GenX were youngsters, it was the Greatest and Silent Generations that were the elder adults and while GenX’s Boomer parents were out of the home chasing careers and wealth, it was the Greatest and Silent Generations who co-parented GenX kids.

And the one attribute Greatest and Silent Generations shared was that they did not set out to change the world.

The Greatest Generation is called so because they answered the call to enter a war they didn’t want to be part of. When WWII ended, the headlines read of how the war was over, not of how they won. They were happy to just get back to the quiet life they wanted in the first place.

And the Silents were the logical outcome or next step from the Greatest, in that they just wanted to live a quiet/silent life that was enjoyable for their little sphere of the world.

I’m a visual guy so I see visual patterns when I learn stuff like this.

If Greatest/Silent/X = 🟠 and Boomers/Millennials/Zoomers = 🔵, then the pattern would look like this:

🟠 🟠 🔵 🟠 🔵 🔵

Greatest / Silent / Boomers / X / Millennials / Z

Half do not want to change the world, half do. 

GenAlpha is TBD. They’re too young.

So if the “the healthiest, wealthiest, and most active generation in history,” GenX Women, are not out to change the world, then it makes sense that force fitting purpose to brands won’t work.

In short, the demographic with the most power and wealth doesn’t care about purpose in brands.

What can we learn and use from this?

Enjoy this short break because while GenX is currently powerful, it’s also very small and with Millennials already in their early 40s, they will be bringing a strong interest in purpose to brands back in force in just a few years.

You can use this time to strengthen your brand and the value it offers its customers so that when adding purpose to brands is back in favor, adding it to your brand won’t diminish its core value.

We can also see this as a strong reason why paying attention to broader generational preferences is vital to reading the room and gaining a basic understanding of what your customers want, especially if you struggle to gain clarity about customer wants in this current confusing era of economic chaos.

Unilever CEO: We will stop ‘force fitting’ purpose to our brands

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