Pursuing Purpose? Or Just Propaganda?

Most firms articulate a business purpose that makes for good annual report copy but doesn’t translate into tangible action.

U.S. pharmacy chain CVS recently announced that it would no longer use “materially altered” imagery to market beauty products in its stores. That means no more perfect, digitally modified wrinkle- and blemish-free photographs to sell everything from moisturizer to lipstick. Instead, consumers will see more realistic pictures of models, complete with crow’s feet and birthmarks. Why did CVS make this change? It all has to do with the company’s brand purpose, the “reason for being.” In a statement announcing the change, CVS noted the connection between the propagation of unrealistic body images and negative health effects, particularly for girls and young women. Given that the company’s stated corporate purpose is to “help people on their path to better health,” the use of airbrushed images in promotional materials seemed contradictory and ill-advised. This isn’t the first time CVS has made a bold move inspired by its brand purpose. A few years ago, the firm stopped selling cigarette and tobacco products, forgoing an estimated $2 billion in revenue. That decision, too, was triggered by the inconsistency between the company’s purpose and the well-documented health effects of those products. What CVS is giving us here is a master class in the difference between corporate purpose and corporate propaganda. Most firms practice the latter – articulating a business purpose that makes for good annual report copy but doesn’t translate into tangible action. It’s nothing more that corporate window dressing. See also: How to Apply ‘Lean’ to Insurance   Far less common, but much more notable, are firms like CVS that don’t just define a brand purpose but actually live by it (even when it requires really tough decisions, like walking away from a $2 billion business). Such actions help pave the way for a better and more distinctive customer experience because, in the eyes of consumers, it makes the company more appealing, more genuine and more authentic. Kudos to CVS for taking yet another bold stand that helps make their brand purpose more than just a piece of corporate propaganda. Those kinds of decisions can spruce up a company’s brand image far more effectively than even the best airbrush. This article was originally published on WaterRemarks.

Jon Picoult

Profile picture for user JonPicoult

Jon Picoult

Jon Picoult is the founder of Watermark Consulting, a customer experience advisory firm specializing in the financial services industry. Picoult has worked with thousands of executives, helping some of the world's foremost brands capitalize on the power of loyalty -- both in the marketplace and in the workplace.


Read More