From Pampers’ Unicef vaccination campaign to Durex’s ‘Someone Like Me’ partnership with MTV, fmcg is flying the flag for ‘social purpose’. And now Unilever has reported its brands with ‘purpose’ are growing at twice the speed of its others, business has proof that ‘doing good’ can mean ‘doing well’.

The key to this success is linking ‘social purpose’ to the emotional, even better functional, attributes of a brand, rather than creating a charitable bolt-on. A great example is Dettol. By helping educate 63 million children about hand hygiene, Dettol performed a valuable social deed while showcasing cleaning efficacy and caring brand values.

Businesses used to leave promotion of their good deeds to their CSR arms, but three factors now make it a more central business task: Firstly, the public now expect societal contributions from businesses. Secondly, thanks to social media, brands now operate in a hyper-transparent world. Thirdly, business is alive again to the fact that social purpose is an out-and-out value creator: motivational value for employees, help or empathy value for customers and financial value for shareholders.

Dove’s ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ hits all the criteria. It’s on-brand and systemised within the annual marketing plan. In contrast, Lucozade’s ‘Kit Out Project’ feels more half-baked; laudable but not core to the brand’s proposition.

Dove takes its social purpose seriously, treating it as an asset that delivers both social and commercial return. Whereas Lucozade’s ‘Kit Out Project’ arguably plays to the old CSR model - ‘we make money over here, so it’s our responsibility to give some back over there’. This is essentially negative: a cost of doing business, not an investment.

Social purpose is essentially positive: a value creator for all stakeholders, something to be communicated loud and proud by the marketing department.

In an age where product strengths can be rapidly copied, social purpose - when fitted precisely and authentically into the customer value proposition - can become a brand’s last legal competitive advantage.

Marc Cave is co-founder of Green Cave People