10th December, 2017

How a clear purpose can drive growth

Lorna Davis started our Fit for the Future Now forum in New York by talking about purpose and the effect it’s had at Danone. Lorna – who’s a Danone board member and Global Ambassador for B-Lab – talked about the importance of purpose in her role as Danone Chief Manifesto Catalyst and DanoneWave CEO, and how OxfordSM helped define that purpose.

What does Purpose mean?

"For me, it’s a pretty simple definition: it’s about having a point of view. For a long time, big companies haven’t taken a stand on things – they’ve just hidden behind giving the market what it needs.

I don’t buy that any more. All of us who are here to sell products and services need to have a point of view, and it needs to be something with real meaning. When you’re taking a point of view on a real issue it can be scary, but it makes you distinctive. It can drive meaningful action, which isn’t just about making the world a better place: it can also help you grow your business faster."

Which brands or companies inspire you most?


‘The obvious one is Patagonia – the outdoor clothing company. Their purpose is at the heart of everything they do: reducing the environmental footprint of the clothing they sell. This goes beyond looking at their supply chain, as they want people to use their products for longer and work hard to convince other companies to do the same.

"Campaigns with a really clear purpose include Channel 4’s Superhumans, Always’ Like a Girl and Axe’s Find your Magic."

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How can you make it happen?

‘When we were working through this with OxfordSM, we thought about the process as ‘the five Cs’ – the essentials you need to transform an organisation through purpose:

Context means your purpose needs to work with your brand’s history. We’ve worked hard to tie together our founders’ story, our last 50 years of progress, and the purpose which we’re relying on now. We’ve got over 100,000 people, and this needs to feel as authentic to our most junior people as it does to our most senior.

Content demands a level of rigour, using frameworks, tools and techniques to unlock the best thinking.

Competence means embedding the purpose throughout the business. It should be at the very heart of the brand positioning, and it should inspire your innovations. Marketers need to lead the way in this journey.

Collaboration with experts is essential: it’s something you can’t do on your own. For us, we’ve been working with OxfordSM to help find the balance between something that can inspire people but also give them pragmatic guidance.

‘And Curiosity is about seeing the world from the outside looking in, learning continuously and challenging yourself.’

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Why does it matter?

"There are three ways of thinking about this. Some people think of it as the right thing to do. Some see it as a competitive advantage. And others say if you’re not doing it, you’ll be left behind. For me, all three are true – and it doesn’t really matter what your reasons are as long as you’re taking a stance."

Written by

Carol Garbutt

Strategy Practice Lead

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