Jessie Paul
Jessie Paul with the TCS Amsterdam Half Marathon medal

I’m questioning my brand purpose now that I’ve completed the Amsterdam Half Marathon with my husband. It is my first ever sporting medal. But first let’s talk about how I moved from zero to 21 km in under a year. Till December 2020 I had never run. But a cousin suggested that running would be good for me – he himself ran 10 miles a couple of times a week. Some googling produced the couch to 5K app. It made achieving the target super easy by breaking it down into short, achievable runs.

After a couple of solo runs, my husband agreed to join me – that made the running way more fun and we kept each other motivated. We graduated to the 5K to 10K app. Then moved to Runkeeper to try for 15K. Running opened up newer ways to explore places – Bangalore, Gokarna, Kolkata, Amsterdam, Athens, Sparta. I suddenly had things to talk about with triathletes!

When the TCS Amsterdam Marathon was announced, I signed us up for the Half Marathon.

Why? I really don’t know.

Good marathon marketing by Ashish Babu and the folks at TCS? A marathon of 42Km was out of reach, but surely we could achieve a half-ticket in 3 months? It seemed like a Big Hairy Aggressive Goal (BHAG in MBA speak), but achievable. Posting our goal on Facebook put a bit of pressure on ourselves (though friends might have noticed that closer to the date there were no updates whatsoever as we nursed injuries, hot toddies, and self-doubts.)

Also Read: Interview with John Lenzen, former VP & Global Head of Marketing, TCS

Cutting to the chase – we were possibly amongst the most unprepared of the participants, but we did limp across the finish line hand in hand to collect our medal. And we were super chuffed and proud of ourselves. And have spent the last week in a cloud of social media glory 🙂

How did we get to the finish line? It was the combined brand purpose of a number of companies.

The section below has a number of brand purpose examples.

First a hat tip to Amura.ai who ran the diet program that got me quite literally to the starting block. Their brand purpose is to guide you to a good life and reverse chronic diseases.

Second, a shout out to TCS for sponsoring this marathon. Their new brand purpose is “Building on Belief”, explained as “Every business is born out of belief. Belief you can make an impact. That you have an idea that matters.” I think TCS gets great branding benefits from the marathon, and they’ve built a truly global brand around it, but they’d need to work a bit harder to tie it in with their purpose. Every sporting endeavour is “building on belief” – believing in yourself, so maybe just stick with that and drop business from the wording?

Third, Nike. Without actually having anything to do with the marathon, the Nike fitness app and the Just Do It campaign helped me. Their brand purpose: Nike exists to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. *If you have a body, you are an athlete.

I have a confession at this point. I ran with Reebok shoes. I was on Brigade Road Bangalore in a bit of a hurry, Reebok was on sale and the shoes were comfortable…I still don’t know their brand purpose and it isn’t easy to find it. Their parent company, Adidas, says their purpose is “Through sport we have the power to change lives”. Which is cute but not snappy. But their mission is “to be the best sports brand in the world”. Not inspiring, unfortunately, to a wannabe marathoner like me. Adidas is under flak for choosing a Bollywood celeb, Deepika Padukone, as their latest brand ambassador. It’s both unoriginal – she used to endorse Nike – and uninspiring and has no tie-in to their brand purpose.

Which brings us back to a key question.

Should brands have a purpose? (Beyond making their shareholders happy.)

85% of 781 respondents said yes, in a poll I ran on LinkedIn. The comments are interesting as we explored what “brand purpose” means to us, as brand owners and consumers. Belson Coutinho, Chief Marketing and Experience Officer for Akasa Air says “While a brand promise may deliver a consumer’s expectation of the product or service, brand purpose should connect on a more emotional & socio-cultural level.” Suman Sasmal, Resident Mentor at IIM Bangalore, says a purpose solves a human problem. Priyank Shrivastava, Sr Director of Product Marketing at Adobe, adds a pragmatic note “While purpose is supreme, marketers still need differentiated value to sell their products and purpose alone is not enough.” There are many more perspectives on the thread and I encourage you to dip into the discussion here.

What is your brand’s purpose? What is the human need it is satisfying? And what is your own purpose?

I referred to this in my opening paragraph – as I trudged 21 Km, more than once I asked myself why I was doing this. At the time it was only the encouragement of those lining the streets and of course, my husband and running partner, that kept me going and I had no energy to answer this deep question. But 5 days of rest – and pondering – has given me a partial clue. If the goal of life is to control more and more of your destiny – and I’m a strong believer in both controlling your variables and having multiple options open – then fitness is a definite plus. Knowing you can run 21 Km gives you the inspiration that you can just do it and impossible is nothing!

What is the brand purpose of Paul Writer

As for Paul Writer, the company I founded in 2010, the brand purpose has always been to raise the bar for marketing in India. I believe that we have a lot of innovation and require marketing skills in order to achieve our full potential. We have to move from commodity sales to building globally respected brands.

Do write in with your thoughts on brand purpose – yours or your organization’s in the comments section.

Follow me on LinkedIn to respond to next week’s question. As always, selected responses get featured in this newsletter.

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Jessie Paul is the Founder and CEO of Paul Writer, a firm she founded in early 2010 to raise the bar for marketing in India. Previously, as Chief Marketing Officer of Wipro’s IT business and as Global Brand Manager at Infosys, Jessie has been recognized for her contribution towards putting the Indian IT industry on the global map. With over 18 years in services marketing, including a stint with Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, Jessie is considered an expert in brand globalization and has been named one of the most influential business women in the Indian IT industry.

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