Weber Shandwick Explores Purpose-Driven Brands at Fast Company Innovation Festival 2016 

At this year’s Fast Company Innovation Festival grounded in the theme to “Find Your Mission. Deepen Your Purpose,” Weber Shandwick curated an important conversation with experts and leading brands on communicating purpose.

Weber Shandwick Explores Purpose-Driven Brands at Fast Company Innovation Festival 2016

The session, “Can Dolls and Watches Save The World? A Study in Purposeful Brand Transformations,” Mattel SVP & GM Lisa McKnight, Shinola President Jacques Panis, and Weber Shandwick EVP & Global Lead for Social Impact Paul Massey examined how legacy and start-up companies alike can transform their brands and communicate their purpose in a noisy and highly-critical world where authenticity wins.


McKnight reflected on the evolution of Barbie and a return to the brand’s mission to enable imaginative play and empower girls. She noted that while there has never been one definition of beauty, Barbie needed to diversify its dolls in order to appeal to today’s marketplace. In January 2016, Barbie introduced three new body shapes — petite, curvy, and tall — and seven new skin tones. The brand has received overwhelmingly positive feedback, on Barbie’s new-look from consumers and retailers alike.


Panis discussed how the Shinola watch brand approaches its purpose of bringing jobs back to Detroit. He emphasized the role Shinola has on its employees’ lives by providing an above average living wage for hourly workers, and thus provides families new opportunities, such as moving into better neighborhoods and access to better schools. Panis noted that he believes “purpose-before-profits” will become an increasingly significant conversation among the C–suite moving forward.


As more and more brands look to identify and communicate purpose as part of their business and marketing strategy, Massey emphasized the importance of authenticity. He noted that a purpose story must be in the DNA of the company and that brand purpose can’t simply be decided in one sit-down conversation in a board room.


The conversation provoked several questions from the audience, including inquiries on balancing profits with risk and the importance of a “founding” story in brand narratives.


Here are Weber Shandwick’s five tips for communicating purpose. For more insights into how organizations can make an impact, visit Purpose Decoded at