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5 Reasons Brands Need a Higher Purpose

David Aaker

It’s not enough to have a value statement, brands must advance a cause that will resonate with employees, customers and investors

Milton Friedman famously said that the “social responsibility of business is to increase profits.” To many observers that is the accepted paradigm. 

With few exceptions, most businesses throughout the world take a different view. Just look at the missions and value statements in annual reports. In most cases, firms have a social or environmental purpose alongside their mission of creating and marketing a functional offering and increasing sales and profits. 

Walmart, for example, has an offering-driven purpose to “Save people money so they can live better.” The firm also has a second purpose: “to use Walmart’s strengths to support and improve the social and environmental systems to increase economic opportunity, enhance sustainability and strengthen local communities.” Toward that end, Walmart has dozens of programs that aim to make its operation run on renewable energy, influence suppliers to make products and packaging more sustainable and encourage 2.6 million associates to directly help communities.

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David Aaker is vice chairman of Prophet, the author of Aaker on Branding and a member of the Marketing Hall of Fame.