Purpose in the industrial sector

By Nell Walker
Independent marketing and communications agency, Radley Yeldar, has created a Fit For Purpose Index which is attracting attention across all walks of bu...

Independent marketing and communications agency, Radley Yeldar, has created a Fit For Purpose Index which is attracting attention across all walks of business. The company researched 15 industrial brands – eight of which feature in the top 100 of the index – and found that attracting great talent is a challenge across all of them. Many suffer particularly when finding STEM-trained professionals, and competition to attract skilled workers is increasingly fierce.

Here, Radley Yeldar describes some of the results in greater detail:

What you need to know about purpose in the industrial sector

We’re living in an ever-changing world where people expect more from the brands they work for and buy from. Businesses of all shapes, sectors and sizes are responding by using their unique position, expertise and capabilities to deliver on things that make a real difference to our world. The 2016 Fit for Purpose index celebrates businesses that are putting purpose at the heart of the way they do business. By having an inspiring purpose and embedding that across how they perform, behave and communicate, these brands are connecting with the people that really matter, on topics they care about.

The industrial brands feature prominently in the index. This includes Philips and GE who feature in the top 20. Here are some key findings on the themes and challenges of purpose in the industrial sector, and how it stacks up against others.

Key findings

-          The industrial sector ranks 6th out of 12 sectors in our Fit For Purpose Index

-          We researched 15 industrial brands; 8 of which feature in the top 100

-          Philips is by far the leading industrial brand, in 3rd place out of the top 100 brands across all sectors.

-          87% of industrial brands had a sense of purpose, with a human, social or environmental need at the heart of their brand.

-          Out of our 4 categories (Purpose and Story, Communications, Performance and Behaviours) Industrials;

-          Scored above average in Purpose and Story and Communications

-          Scored below average in Performance and Behaviour

-          We found purpose statements within the industrial sector often respond to a societal need.

-          When it comes to delivering, Philips is arguably the only brand that truly demonstrates the link between their purpose and performance.

1. Industrial brands are promoting their brand purpose to attract the next generation of talent.

Attracting the brightest and best talent is a challenge for all sectors. This is especially true for industrial brands, who suffer from a shortage of STEM skills and lower visibility overall, owing to the fact that they are mainly B2B businesses with less interaction with a wider, consumer audience. This means that competition for talent is fierce. Two leading industrial brands have purpose at the heart of their talent acquisition strategy. Rolls Royce leads its recruitment strategy with their "better power for a changing world" message. This aims to inspire and excite potential employees about the possibilities of a career at the business. GE presents its purpose in recruitment campaigns to build their employer brand. Through a lighthearted video series following employees Sarah and Owen, GE bring their purpose to life in a way that’s human and engaging.

2.  Most industrial organisations have embraced purpose as a keystone of their brand.

We examined 180 of the world’s biggest brands to create the Fit for Purpose Index. Of all the industrial brands surveyed, an impressive 87% had a sense of purpose. These brands actively highlight what is unique about their organisation to elevate their brand beyond what they do on a day-to-day basis. The leading brands have their purpose deeply engrained into their DNA, using it as a driving force for the future. Any competitors looking to shift their brand to be more purposeful will have to go beyond a statement; they will have to seriously consider the wider ramifications on their communications and culture.

3.  Most industrial brand purpose statements focus on innovation.

Industrial brands tend to focus on issues that are facing society because of their unique products and services. Consider Hitachi; to inspire the next generation is to focus their efforts on creating products and technologies that contribute to a better, more inspired society. This puts innovation at the heart of the brand, to invent a way to a better future. Rolls Royce, in contrast, have a more reactive purpose strategy; championing the vision of “better power for a changing world”. Both brands have innovation at their core and focus on improving society around us, but take two distinct approaches to it.

4.  The leading brands in the sector have found creative ways to bring their purpose to life 

One of Philips’ stories of meaningful innovation is the Breathless Choir – the journey of people with respiratory difficulties, who, with Philips support, sing on stage to a large audience. GE is another excellent example- often viewed as one of the most creative brands in the world. Much of this stems from their single-minded approach to purpose. Examples like Childlike Imagination – what my mom does at GE shows how a strong purpose can foster creativity and engage all audiences.

5.      The next big challenge for the sector is to connect their purpose to their performance through measurement and targets.

One of the areas where the sector tends to struggle is connecting purpose to business performance. Demonstrating your progress and impact over time is key to building trust amongst your stakeholders. One brand that excels at this is Philips, placing purpose at the centre of its integrated report and business model. This report details how Philips creates value for multiple stakeholders and provides year-on-year narrative on how they are progressing towards their 2025 target of improving the lives of 3 billion people around the world. It is the best example of a company placing a sense of purpose at the centre of its ethos and vision for the future, earning it the enviable 3rd place on the Fit For Purpose Index.


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