Five kinds of purpose washing and the brands guilty of doing it

Aaron Kwittken, CEO and founder of KWT Global, sounds the alarm on the danger of turning the purpose economy into a "purpose echo chamber."

Five kinds of purpose washing and the brands guilty of doing it

CHICAGO: The purpose economy may soon turn into a purpose echo chamber thanks to five pernicious trends, according to Aaron Kwittken, CEO and founder of KWT Global.

Kwittken referred to these trends as "The Five False Equivalencies."

1. Purpose vs. Product: A brand declares it's purposeful because it has a meaningful product. A product that sells just means it’s a good product, not that the brand itself is purposeful.

Some examples: OkCupid’s Trump and climate change filters, Hasbro’s Ms. Monopoly, Mattel’s braille version of UNO

2. Purpose vs. Mission: "Do we think Snap is improving the way people live and communicate?" Kwittken asked. "Do we think Peloton is changing lives around the world? I think it’s nice they’re reaching this far, but does that make them purpose-driven? I think they’re conflating purpose and mission."

Some examples: Snap Inc., Peloton, Uber

3. Missed opportunities: Opportunity drops into the lap of a brand to articulate its purpose and fails.

Examples: Wayfair's response to its employee walkout, FedEx’s response to the Pittsburgh shooting

4. Wannabes: For this category, Kwittken referred to Dodge’s Super Bowl commercial, which used audio from a Martin Luther King Jr. speech to sell Ram trucks.

"It was tragic, it was awful," Kwittken said. "You should watch it again on an empty stomach. What made me really upset is that Ram does a lot in what they serve. They did themselves a disservice." 

5. Purpose Washing:

Secret Deodorant’s endorsement of the U.S. Women’s National Team, Nike’s Colin Kaepernick campaign ("I did not like this campaign. They used CK once."), Starbuck’s Race Together campaign ("a campaign to combat racism with a racist campaign")

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