The Struggle for Brand Purpose -- Change or Die @ The ANA Masters -- Tom Troja

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Cover image for  article: The Struggle for Brand Purpose -- Change or Die @ The ANA Masters -- Tom Troja

Returning from the ANA Masters of Marketing in Phoenix last week, my head is still spinning from the ANA headline screaming “Change or Die.” The call to change for brands and companies heard most often is for each of us to dig deep and bring forth our brand purpose and weave it into everything we do.

Stories of Brand Purpose were a constant. The very well attended CMO Roundtable, held during the tennis and golf tournaments mind you, dug the deepest. The Roundtable presented the results of the Marketing 2020 study executed across 67 countries, 10,000+ participants and over 300 one-on-one interviews with CMOs.

The study revealed that 78% of marketers agree that, “being clear about the companies’ societal purpose is a key characteristic of winning companies.” They made clear this is bigger than marketing or causes, but a true connection and grasp of why they exist and how they help people. Bringing that to life everyday in meaningful ways is now a key challenge for every company and brand in this ever growing social world.


We heard stories of smart brands rebuilding internally, adjusting their supply chain and partnerships to create a socially sustainable organization. Truly sustainable brands not only withstand the heckling of the crowd, but position themselves as a forward thinking group of people whose best interest is creating sustainable value for people, the community, the country and the world. They grow.

Customers are in control like never before. People are always on, always there, always watching, always talking and are in the driver’s seat. People want brands that care about them. Brands must truly be socially consciousness and walk their talk. As people believe the brand is a source of value and good the brand’s business will grow.


In the Marketing 2020 Roundtable Joan Chow (CMO, ConAgra Foods), Antonio Lucio (CMO, Visa), James Speros (EVP, Fidelity Investments), Marc de Swaan Arons (Founder, Effective Brands) and Brian Terkelsen ( CEO, Media Vest) all talked of brand purpose and all agreed good execution around brand purpose was directly related to improved business results. All held a firm belief and shared insights and results to prove that, “companies and brands with purpose over-perform”.

Joan Chow told us how their brand purpose at Con Agra, “Deliver everyday food in extraordinary ways,” has been built upon tofight child hunger while also driving profit and creating competitive advantage. Con Agra’s purpose clarifies and unifies what they stand for as a company and has given birth to “Child Hunger Ends Here.” This effort activates the purpose and has become a rallying cry in every step of the food chain, motivating employees, partners and customers to do their part in ending child hunger in America. “Sales are up 48% all tied to our purpose,” said Chow.

James Speros told us that Fidelity’s purpose, “to help customers and clients achieve their financial objectives,” has been simplified into the “Green line.” He told us a story of his rainy night staring at his car’s GPS; a flash of insight created the “Financial GPS system through life,” all directly connected back to brand purpose interpreted in a simple way. Profits are up and Fidelity is on the path to becoming a true financial partner, while empowering employees to be more of a partner with all of their customers.


Stephen Quinn, EVP and CMO of Walmartsaid that he recognizes, “it's vitally important to Walmart that America be healthy." That in this ever-connected world Walmart’s purpose must go beyond just helping people save money to live a better life and Walmart needs to do more. "It's our role to be a catalyst," Mr. Quinn said, "because we are a big, convening power that makes change happen for good.” This is why Walmart announced it is supporting American manufacturing with $50 billion of investments over the next 10 years to help create jobs, strengthen communities and get dollars back in American workers’ pockets. Quinn also highlighted Walmart’s program offering jobs to every honorably discharged veteran from the past 12 months

Walmart is making a bold and substantial move that walks the talk in helping the people, the community and the country.Walmart’s purpose: “We save people money so they can live a better life” is made stronger, more real, broader, deeper, more meaningful and more defensible in this social world. Walmart is putting its money where its mouth is; It clearly believes in and is betting on purpose driving Walmart’s growth.


Brands with purpose over achieve. Facts back that up. In this social world where attacks and praise can come at any moment, you better be doing good and adding depth to your value proposition to sustain your business. With that, purpose can be your umbrella that drives everything the brand does while growing profitability.

With a true social purpose executed well, the positive power of the social word of mouth world is at your fingertips. Being in a truly helpful social position results in people saying good things about you because you truly help them and help their community. When they feel that you are contributing more and real value to them, they feel that value and want to spread it. Great news for brands in our increasingly social world!

As CEO of the Social Symphony, Tom Troja works with brands like Jack Daniel's and Red Bull to help them create and deepen relationships with people in social, implementing his SocialTom TrojaArchetyping™ that gets brands talking like a person, talking with people, natural, attractive, human and capable. Tom can be reached at

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