Purpose shouldn't lie only in communication, it has to start from the product: Varun Alagh

At the Pitch CMO Summit 2021, Alagh, Co-founder & CEO, Honasa Consumer Pvt. Ltd., discussed why consumers connect with purpose-driven brands

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Mar 25, 2021 2:35 PM

At the Pitch CMO Summit 2021, hosted by exchange4media, witnessed some interesting discussions by some key industry leaders on the theme: Brand Purpose- The Game Changer in the New Normal.  The summit which held on March 24, 2021, saw a riveting standalone session on 'Why consumers connect with purpose-driven brands?' by Varun Alagh, Co-founder & CEO, Honasa Consumer Pvt. Ltd. (Mamaearth & The Derma Co.)

While speaking about the purpose-driven brand, Alagh shared the story of how he started Mamaearth and their belief in purpose-based brands and why they matter to millennials. 

Alagh said that it was in 2014 when the couple (Alagh and his wife) were blessed with their first child and when the platonic relationship with personal care became a little more serious for them.  “Before that, while I've worked with Unilever selling shampoo, conditioners, lotions, etcetera, but never really cared to check the ingredients that go in there.” 

He further added, “ Kids have two times the transdermal absorption compared to adults and they're at even higher risk from some of these chemicals and that made us think and we started ordering stuff from abroad. We tried to figure out a way around this problem that we were facing but we realized it was really painful and expensive as well. So we finally started talking about this idea that someone should solve this problem which was creating not only toxin-free products but also great personal care products, meant for India and Indian problems.” 

Alagh stated that they wanted to build a brand, which would understand these pain points of consumers rather than assume what do people need. “These problems became a passion and that passion became this brand and 2016 is when we left our full-time jobs and started working on it. And at the end of the year, we launched Mamaearth. Asia’s first made safe certified brand started with baby care products.” 

Since the beginning, one of the core things apart from listening to consumers is being digital-first. “This century belongs to why-based brands and not what-based brands, which is actually my segue into purpose-based brands. We believe that in the last century, a lot of brands that were created were largely category creations and when you try to create categories then ‘what’ that matters. But now people are not as bothered about of ‘what’, rather they more bothered about the ‘why’. 

For instance, Apple is a great example of a why-based brand. When a consumer buys into Apple's design philosophy, they buy into whatever Apple sells it does not just phone they buy into that ecosystem.

Similarly, what Patanjali was doing was again a great example of a why-based brand. “Whichever households were buying Patanjali were buying across categories and that's a strong belief that we have that millennials will want to find differentiators beyond ‘what’ and that differentiator is going to lie in the ‘why’ and how brands are other than what they are selling.”

He added, “Why and How, becomes more important in making some of these brand choices, and is where purpose comes into play. And that's what we've been married to since we started when we have been building a purposeful brand. "Goodness inside' has been that the culmination or encapsulation of that purpose and Mamaearth is born out of that purpose.” 

Alagh also talked about building and communicating the purpose-based brand which is based on three Ps. The first P is the product. How does the brand live its purpose through the product? “If goodness inside is our purpose philosophy, then at a product level it basically means that there are no nasties in this product and it's only goodness inside. The purpose shouldn't lie only in the communications, it has to start from the product.  

Another P is the processes. “We have multiple pieces which point back to the goodness inside the way of life that Mamaearth believes in. We are a PETA certified brand,  we don't test on animals, and we are a plastic positive brand, we recycle more plastic than we consume. We have a first in the world initiative called plant goodness, where every time consumers place an order on our website we actually link it back to a tree that we have planted, and we send a picture and geolocation of that tree to them in email.” 

The third P is perspective, where the ‘why’, sort of lies, and this is where the brand brings forward its cultural point of view into the world.  “We believe goodness is an action and a choice.  For us, beauty is a verb, and hence beauty is what you do that makes you beautiful rather than how you look or how you feel. And that's the big perspective and point of view through which we want to communicate, our purpose and connect emotionally with our consumers.”

Alagh believes that in the next couple of decades, it the time for purpose-based brands to take shape and do exceptionally well, and especially with the onslaught of social media and, which is, which is really all about storytelling. It is social which has turned into media, and earlier avatar -social used to live in form of word of mouth, which used to be conversations about worthy stuff and that's what social media helps you to do. 

He concluded, “We have seen the influencer ecosystem, the social ecosystem shaping rarely well to again support these purpose-based brands and to provide impetus to how they will take shape in the future. We have closely used some of these, engines, to get our story out there, to spread it in the right manner, and, we will continue to do more of that as we sort of getting into the future.” 

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