• Tatiana Swedek

Leverage Brand Purpose to Push Through Crisis

As brands struggle to stay above water during the current COVID 19 crisis, many are at a loss with how. Either there is a lack of bandwidth or they’re void of a meaningful purpose. Ok, you’re a t-shirt company. We get it. But what is your brand purpose? Those who can answer this question will be the ones to come out stronger.


What it is brand purpose?

  • It’s ‘a higher order reason for a brand to exist than just making a profit’

  • It’s the ‘why’ of a brand


What it isn’t:

  • It’s NOT a business supporting a particular cause. It’s deeper than that.


Finding your brand purpose takes time, especially if you didn’t identify one to begin with. At the last company I worked with, the Founder asked us to come up with our ‘Why.’ This is much harder to do 6 years into a company than it is on day 1 of inception. It takes time. If you’re in branding, you’ve absolutely watched Simon Sinek’s TedTalk ‘Start With Why.’ If not, see below.


On R/GA’s FutureVision podcast episode on April 20, Chief Strategy Officer Tom Morton and US Chief Creative Officer Tiffany Rolfe explored how brand purpose is often misunderstood. They note that brand purpose isn’t just something you can tack on to your brand as an afterthought. Don’t underestimate your consumer – they can spot insincerity.


Rolfe notes:

“We’re seeing the brands that had a clear purpose are coming out of this quickly, knowing what to do and how to act swiftly, and if not, they’re having to take this moment to assess."

Still Lost? Here’s An Example

One of my favorite holistic hospitality companies with a clear brand purpose and form of execution is Eaton Workshop. Eaton is far more than a hotel brand. With one location in D.C. and one in Hong Kong, it incorporates co-working, lodging, F&B, and ultimately serves as a platform for progressive thinkers to gather. It is a global purpose-driven company and attracts like-minded people for that reason.


In a 2018 conversation with Vogue, Eaton Founder Kat Lo says:

“the brand is an extension of my values, and we don’t shy away from that. It’s attractive to guests who want to feel like their dollars make a difference.”

Two words: impact driven. Eaton puts social justice issues at the forefront of its radio station. Its programming brings in and supports local artists and musicians.



During the current COVID 19 crisis, Eaton DC stepped-up for the DC community. In late March, it launched a drop off for donations of hygiene products and household supplies for elders in Chinatown. Eaton DC also provided a local high school student who is creating 3D printed PPE supplies for medical personnel with a headquarters in the hotel’s maker space. I never even saw a press release for this.


People don’t forget how you act in a crisis.


Future of Humanity: Focus on Culture & Service

Think beyond the short-term. The reality is that the individual human psyche is forever changed. We cross the street when a runner is approaching us. We’re hyper aware of hygiene. Our views on essential and non-essential workers has shifted. 26 million people in the U.S. have filed for unemployment. History is being made.


To the tone-deaf companies trying to sell products right now: STOP! You’re being insensitive. It’s a turn off.


In a WWD interview Patrizio Miceli, head of luxury creative agency Al Dente, noted an important ideology in the realm of luxury:

“Luxury brands have a phenomenal global cultural aura that goes way beyond products. You might not be a customer of a given brand, but you might still like its philosophy and brand culture."

It’s true. We all have elevated brands we are drawn to which are simply out of our reach. For instance, mine is Mercedes Benz. You may follow them on Instagram. You may swoon over the aspiration of attaining the brand image or even identify with the philosophy of the brand itself.


Leveraging that connection through digital communication is key. Strengthen relationships with not only existing customers but followers and advocates as well. Don’t turn to ‘influencers,’ but rather to meaningful interaction. People want to feel heard. Have that conversation. This will propel you forward.


“There should be less focus on products, and more on services,” says Miceli.


Who will survive this crisis? The brands who have their ‘why.’ Take this time to think deeply about your impact on the world. What purpose do you serve?

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