This week, agencies and major brands convened in New York City for the Holmes In2 Innovation Summit – exploring the innovation and disruption that continues to redefine influence and engagement. As the day continued, a common thread began to emerge. Although session themes varied from subculture marketing to the speed of change, all conversations inevitably turned to Purpose – and how brands are communicating their authentic roles in society in a rapidly evolving landscape of social issues and calls of injustice. Here are three takeaways for how brands are innovating towards greater Purpose:

  • Know Where You Stand Before You Take a Stand: A conversation among Chief Communications Officers quickly turned to a discussion on when and how brands should stand up for the myriad issues cropping up in the news today. Frank Shaw, Corporate Vice President of Communications at Microsoft, explained that when it came to weighing in on the immigration ban, it was relatively easy to see where the company stood. Microsoft looked to its aspirational mission of “empowering every person and organization to achieve more.” Because the brand held its Purpose “front and center,” it could quickly act in support of immigrants.
  • Celebrate the Journey And Lead with Authenticity: Ben & Jerry’s Sean Greenwood took the stage alongside Porter Novelli CEO Brad MacAfee and Cone’s own Alison DaSilva to discuss how to build authentic Purpose and address hot-button issues. Greenwood shared how it took Ben & Jerry’s 10 years to align on its three-part mission and since then it has taken actions to build credibility that enables it to stand for sometimes divisive issues. MacAfee echoed this sentiment, stating “credibility is driven by authenticity.” Greenwood also shared how this authenticity has allowed the brand to make mistakes and learn from them, “When you are coming from a place of caring your fans, consumers and the media are more open and give you the room to fail.”
  • Leverage Liked-Minded Individuals to Share Your Purpose Story: In a session entitled, “Why Micro-tribes & Subculture are the New Pop Culture,” Laura Brinker, Global Vice President of Influencer Marketing at CoverGirl shared the impetus behind the new campaign: “I am What I Make Up.” Brinker described how the brand stayed true to its DNA while also listening to others who shared how they saw makeup as a vehicle for self-expression and transformation. CoverGirl chose “multi-dimensional individuals” from ethnically diverse backgrounds and all walks of life to share this story from professional road racer Shelina Moreda to lifelong model and dietitian Maye Musk. Brinker continued by explaining how standing up for issues can help the brand connect with like-minded consumers, “If you stand for something, then hopefully people can identify with that and you can reach the culture that stands with those values.”

The main takeaway from the In2 Summit was abundantly clear: not only is the topic of Purpose top of mind for practitioners, it appears all roads lead back to the concept – from micro-tribes to #MeToo. And although most companies are still beginning to explore their unique role in society and how to articulate that Purpose to stakeholders, the journey is an important and exciting one.