Purpose-Based or Purpose-Faced?


If you have driven down Route 15 in the last year, I am sure you have stopped by Panera Bread for a delicious sandwich, soup, or salad. As someone who has certainly done this a few times, I am always astonished by the speed at which they can deliver their freshly made food. It is a unique quality I attribute to Panera and part of the reason I am a returning customer. In marketing terms, I would say I appreciate that the company and I share the values of time and quality.

In today’s increasingly informed and transparent world, however, this simple connection is not enough. Should I find out that Panera’s speed and freshness come at the cost of harming the environment, I would feel betrayed and would most likely not return. In this sense, companies are now responsible for acting in accordance with the values they share with their customers. As more consumers become considered “socially conscious consumers” this responsibility only grows (nytimes).

To communicate that their behaviors are indeed inspired by their core values, companies are turning toward “purpose-based marketing,” in which their messages are integrated with a mission they strive to achieve (nytimes). In Panera’s new campaign, for instance, they have adopted the slogan “Live Consciously, Eat Deliciously,” which boasts both their tasty food and commitment to a cause other than increasing profits. Please take a moment to watch the commercial below:

After watching Panera’s new campaign, how does it make you feel? Are you satisfied with the claims they make? For those of you who answered yes, how are you prepared to determine if Panera is telling the truth?

Panera has actually made considerable efforts to deliver on their promise of ending hunger through organizations like Panera Cares and foundations like the Panera Bread foundation. My point is not that all companies are liars, but that once purposed-based marketing becomes the only way to legitimize a company’s mission in the eyes of consumers, each company will have to create campaigns that display their commitment to something larger than themselves. With companies clambering over one another to prove themselves, how will we measure which claims genuine and which are nothing but empty promises?

Photo Courtesy of Forbes

Works Cited: nytimes

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4 thoughts on “Purpose-Based or Purpose-Faced?”

  1. You say you would be dishearten (and potentially stop going to Panera) if you found out their quick speed and quality come at an environmental cost. What about other costs associated with the food industry? Would you stop going to Panera if you found out their supplier of chicken was Purdue or Tyson? Both of these large scale companies have major control on the chicken industry and use unethical and questionable practices towards animal welfare. Additional costs could also be low employees wages or lack of healthcare benefits for employees.

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  2. Jess, “environmental harm” was simply an example for any of the other problems you described. My point is that if any of Panera’s business practices went against their core values, customers would feel betrayed. For this reason, companies have a responsibility to not only have core values that appeal to their consumers, but to act in accordance with those values as a corporation. If they don’t, they will surely be exposed due to the increasing transparency in our modern world.

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  3. I think you make a great point that if purpose-based marketing takes hold every company will have to project that they stand for something larger than themselves. I think that this would be seriously detrimental to our society because I doubt every company would truly care about the cause they were forced to support. A great example of a company who truly chose to support a better cause is Tom’s shoes. Their initial plan was to donate a pair of shoes to a third-world country every time they sold a pair of shoes. This set them apart from all other shoe companies and it was easy for consumers to check the validity of their claims. However, if all companies are forced to create a mission to support a greater cause, it will diminish the value of Tom’s mission. Support for a higher purpose will become just another expense on the income statement of large corporations that they will try to minimize as much as possible. If everyone is unique, nobody is.

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  4. This seems awfully familiar to BP’s employment of greenwashing. How are we to determine whether or not these companies are truly acting in accordance to their claims? Panera can create a commercial like this, just as BP spent millions of dollars on a “green” logo, but how do we know whether or not the firm is living up to its claims?

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