Purpose: Profit, Power, and People

December 10, 2015 | Dirk van der Beek
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We are all here to achieve something, to give meaning to our lives. We want to live and not just simply exist. In a time where those with money have the world at their fingertips, simply consuming is not satisfying enough- we wish to give back too. This is where purpose branding is born, with people and ideas. It is our innate need to fulfill more meaningful lives and brands provide a platform through which we can make this possible. Brands can become the vehicle, or catalyst, that provide us a means to go beyond product or service and tap into a more meaningful exchange that enables new ways of living.

When adopted intrinsically, purpose branding transforms teams and allows them to put their assets at the service of societal issues. By daring to care, these brands are putting issues on the agenda, challenging our behaviours, and driving these behaviours to change in a positive way. It is not to say that purpose is the sole driver in purpose branding. After all, a brand is still a business and the pursuit of purpose goes hand-in-hand with the pursuit of profit. It is not a game of putting one before the other but rather marrying the two pursuits. You simply cannot have purpose branding if you aren’t making money. We are not solely philanthropists at the end of the day and so one needs to treat purpose and profit as an integrated ecosystem: when there is money, one can use their resources as a powerful and sustainable force for change.

Bringing this home to the Netherlands, my favourite example of purpose branding might be overused, but for good reason. It all started with a passionate journalist, Teun van de Keuken putting the unmet promises of Dutch chocolate companies onto the agenda. These chocolate brands were involved in a collective commitment to improve the lives and working conditions of the cocoa growers. This endeavour, although thoughtful and purposeful in its promise, was not being met. The chocolate brands argued that it was impossible to pursue such efforts while still trying to make money. This is where Tony’s Chocolonely was born. The same journalist set out to disprove the chocolate companies by creating a chocolate brand of his own. One that was as delicious as it was purposeful. What started as a simple idea is now, ten years later, the leading chocolate marketer in the Netherlands.

Through purpose, Tony’s Chocolonely has disrupted the Dutch chocolate market by making a product that pursues purpose in a way that does not jeopardise the quality of the product itself. In fact, the chocolate standard is arguably the best in the Netherlands. Even down to the chocolate bar’s iconic design, purpose is present. Unlike the ordinary equal blocks on the chocolate bar, Tony’s Chocolonely is divided into unequal parts thus creating a physical metaphor symbolising what the brand strives to change. Through eating this remarkable chocolate you are reminded of how the chocolate, and its rewards, are divided equally amongst people. This beautiful example of food for thought is now the poster child for purpose in the Netherlands. Tony’s Chocolonely has successfully proven that you can be a market leader while still caring- the balance is not only possible but highly beneficial.

It is clear that a brand can be top of mind while still caring. After all, those who dare to care will thrive and what begins with honest human connections and ideas can become a powerful force of business and social progress. It’s incredible to see how a little empathy goes a long way. When we truly understand life in more of a people-to-people framework, we can unlock the true potential of the human centred business. This is where purpose branding is born.

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Dirk van der Beek

Being born and raised on a farm on the Dutch island of Texel has coded Dirk’s path. At the age of 7, his dream was to be a farmer. Educated at the Wageningen University of Agriculture, Dirk forwent a farming career and began one in marketing instead. At Campina, Nestlé and Friesland Foods, he embraced psycho-dynamic thinking in guiding his brands. He continued his career in the marketing services industry at Censydiam and Lowe Advertising.

Founding Innate Motion and becoming a business humanizer signifies a fundamental shift in his life journey. Building our no bricks, no borders, no bosses company is an exciting challenge. Serving leaders to transform their businesses and brands by putting people first offered opportunities to travel across continents and cultures. Growing capabilities in engineering behaviour change, building brands as idea centric movements, contributive design and company change journeys.

At home the nest is empty. While Floris, Maurits and Lisanne are pursuing their own journey Dirk enjoys this new life stage with his wife and fellow entrepreneur Petra.