LONDON — In a time of division and polarisation, brands should be seeking to bring people together, said Amnesty International communications director Osama Saeed Bhutta at the In2 Innovation Summit in London yesterday. 

Bhutta noted that once a company finds its purpose, it can be used to bring people together. "Find ways to contribute that kind of good. Being relevant and speaking to contemporary issues is to be commended rather than being fearful of addressing them," he said. 

Bhutta was speaking during a panel entitled 'Purpose Driven Brands in an Era of PR Nightmares' sponsored by Text100. Moderated by Paul Holmes, the panel engaged in a lively debate on the effects of purpose driven branding on consumers and employees, and methods of unearthing a brand's purpose. 

"Purpose is more important than ever," said Tara O'Donnell, Text100 UK MD. "But brands need to remember the difference between purpose and external brand positioning. I think they're easily confused."

In addition to O'Donnell and Bhutta, the panel featured Gareth Hopley, head of communications, Pizza Hut; and Eric Hollreiser, VP of corporate communications, online poker brand Amaya.

"We all need to have a purpose in this, from customer values to internal mission values. Hopefully most organizations have that whether they're in communications or not," said Hollreiser. He added that evolving a company's purpose, particularly in a  time of internal challenge and change, can lead to a better understanding of an organization's core values.

The panel discussed various ways to unearth a brand's purpose, with each panelist sharing their experience from within their companies. They all agreed that finding purpose must start internally with employees before being applied externally. 

"The purpose has got to be genuine and start internally. You can't start with the image you want to bring to customers, people see right through that. You can have 101 different marketing ideas and campaigns, but you've got to connect back to the true purpose," said Hopley. 

O'Donnell said that after helping clients hone in on their purpose, it was an interesting and revealing experience to apply it within the agency. She said it gave them a lens through which to make decisions confidently. 

Hollreiser, who helped Amaya review its mission and values approximately a year ago, pointed out that a brand's mission and values need to reflect not just who the company is, but the employee base as well. "To bring purpose to life we must start internally, find the genuine heartbeat and from there you go to the creative agency and say, 'how do we help customers understand that?'" he said. 

Holmes asked the group how a brand incorporates purpose within products that don't seem incredibly purposeful. "You mean how do you create a purpose around pizza? Well, we didn't make it just about the pizza," said Hopley.

He explained when Pizza Hut went through a "near rebranding" five years ago, they searched for their purpose. "We went through a ton of ideas, and finally realized we just want people to love eating and working at Pizza Hut, and boom, we discovered that was our purpose," said Hopely.