Creating Tomorrow: products (and people) with purpose

In the past six weeks, I’ve listened to two brilliant speeches on the subject of purpose. The first was from cognitive behavioural psychotherapist Ian Martin, the second from Unilever CEO Alan Jope. Two very different individuals. Two very different talks. Two very different settings in fact – one a leadership away-day on optimising self and teams, the second at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity – but essentially the same message: everybody needs purpose.

When Ian spoke, it was to help the assembled MDs and CEOs understand anxiety and depression better; the absence of purpose being a major contributor to both conditions. When Alan spoke, it was to evangelise about the impact purpose can have on a company’s bottom line (and given his job, the bottom line at Unilever).

Why are we so obsessed with purpose all of a sudden?

Has life got so bad everyone’s searching for something to distract them from the day to day?

For business you can see the rationale. Shamelessly plundering Alan’s notes for the facts:

·     64% of consumers claim to choose brands because of their stand on social issues

·     91% of Millennials would switch brands for one that champions a cause

·     Brands recognised for their strong commitment to purpose have grown two times faster than others over the past 12 years

Those numbers fit with the predictions we’ve been making at WGSN for some years now, but I’m really interested with how that chimes with our mental health and our need for personal purpose.

Ian spoke eloquently about the trigger for multiple midlife crises being individuals’ coming to the end of purpose: the house already bought, the big job achieved, the kids had… now what?

It makes sense, but we know it’s not just those in their 40s and 50s struggling with mental health issues. In my own talk at Cannes Lions I referenced the growing rates of depression among Millennials, which outstrip those of other generational groups.

Whatever age we are, our search for personal purpose and meaning is growing.

At WGSN we’ve identified an emerging consumer tribe called the Kindness Keepers who, driven by the casualisation of hate culture, income inequality and narrowing intellectual viewpoints, are fighting back with empathy, local action and, importantly for brands, their wallets.

Kindness Keepers are twice as likely to invest in social impact, and a third of young Kindness Keepers have boycotted brands they’d previously bought from due to a misalignment of beliefs, which chimes with the Unilever research above.

Man, I love a buzzword. Throw it out there. See if it sticks. Pontificate. Move onwards.

But it’s different when it comes to purpose. It’s a need rather than a buzzword. People have always needed it. Now businesses need it, too.

It’s not enough just to want to flog some stuff. The people who used to buy that stuff have more options than ever before and take those buying decisions purposefully. And as we as individuals – Kindness Keepers, in particular – seek purpose that benefits not just ourselves, but the world around us as well, we’re turned on, or off, by businesses who take the lead or share our own purpose.

If you fancy yourself as a Kindness Keeper, or want to discover more on the other consumer profiles we’re tracking, download a copy of our full Future Consumer 2021 white paper here.

Product of the Week

We aren’t short of beauty brands that now tick the vegan box, but I’m particularly taken with Lani. Handmade in Nottingham, UK, in small batches, there are just a handful of products available via founder Viola’s website.

The commentary on the site is refreshingly straightforward, which is how I know that there are only 10 ingredients in my Blue Mint Facial Cleanser and that 5% of the profits are being donated to Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary.

Destination of the Week

Bikini Island & Mountain Hotel – weird name, amazing hotel. My first trip to Sóller in Mallorca and the combination of sun, street markets and this gorgeous hotel translated into about a million Instagram posts and a return trip guaranteed. You can read my full review of Bikini Island here.

Follow me on InstagramTwitter and LinkedIn.

For the latest trends, follow WGSN on InstagramFacebookLinkedIn and Twitter.

Know what’s next. Become a WGSN member today to benefit from our daily trend intelligence, retail analytics, consumer insights and bespoke consultancy services.

WGSN Insider Bulletin

Get more with a WGSN membership. Click for a demo.

Related Stories

Creating Tomorrow: we are all in this together

Yves Saint Laurent Pop-Up

Beauty Directions for 2020

Clean beauty or tweakment in the beauty industry

Creating Tomorrow: clean beauty, tweakment, or both?