Brand purpose for business growth: ellaOne

Post by David Nichols, Group Managing Partner and Head of Brand-led Innovation

Many companies we talk to today are interested in brand purpose. The challenge is to ensure that any brand purpose work is rooted in reality and helps deliver the ultimate goal of all marketing, which is to SMS: sell more stuff. The risk with brand purpose work is becoming so obsessed with ‘culture shaping’ that you lose sight of the product altogether, such as the recent Gillette example we posted on here.

So, how to ensure that your brand purpose serves your business purpose?

We use a technique called ‘The Triangle of Truth” on brand positioning projects, to help blend three different forms of insight: cultural, human and brand. We illustrate below how this worked on a recent brand re-launch project we worked on with HRA Pharma on ellaOne, a leading brand in the $1billion ‘morning-after’ contraception market.

1. Brand Truth

The great news on the Ella One work was that the brand had a brilliant product truth on which to build: the most effective morning-after pill you can buy in a pharmacy without prescription. The team decided to stay focused on this single, relevant and persuasive brand truth, rather than taking the common approach of pharmaceutical brands to try using a long list of medicinal benefits and supporting evidence.

2. Cultural truth

Ella One’s previous marketing focused on the embarrassment of buying the morning after pill. This embarrassment was very real, but there was an opportunity to be more inspiring and distinctive by tapping into popular culture. The role of women in society has changed a lot in the last few years, with the pace of change accelerating in 2017 and 2018 with movement like #metoo. A number of issues have been tackled head on, including the gender pay gap, sexual harassment, Women in STEM careers…the list goes on. Cultural insight work revealed that young women felt they were “in the spotlight” of this shift in opportunity.

3. Human Truth

Digging for insight on the user ensured that Ella One didn’t get carried away and ‘do a Gillette’ by focusing too much on female empowerment at a general, cultural level.

Working with psychologists, not just consumers, was the key here. We found that it wasn’t so much pregnancy itself that was feared, but rather the loss of possibilities that they felt were previously open to them.

The positive insight was that young women today want to stay in control and keep their options open. And it’s not about pregnancy derailing some grand  lifeplan; women today expect life to be full of twists and turns, not a linear path like that taken by their mothers. Rather, it’s the loss of possibilities that matters.

4. Bringing it all together

Blending the three sources of insight in the Triangle of Truth led to a brand purpose about inspiring women to take control of their morning after and so keep their options open. This inspired and guided a new communication campaign, ‘My Morning After’, which looks and feels much more in tune with the Millennial women the brand is talking to. It has a positive, confident voice celebrating women getting over the initial worry of an unintended pregnancy and being in control of their own bodies.

The campaign by Havas nicely brings to life the idea of keeping your options open, which can include having a baby when the time is right. When a young women sees a lady with a baby, she doesn’t react by flinching or look worried. “A baby. Maybe. One day. We’ll see“.

The re-launch also includes an online community,, where young women can share their experiences of taking the morning after pill.


The ellaOne example shows how using the Triangle of Truth can help blend cultural, human and brand truth to identify a brand purpose that is culturally relevant but also rooted in reality, inspiring and guiding a relevant and distinctive marketing mix to drive growth.

To explore BRAND PURPOSE in depth we offer a short, on-demand course on our brandgym Academy platform here. The course is only £95+VAT and is fully refunded if you go on to take the full brandgym Mastering Brand Growth program where we explore a comprehensive and practical 8-step program for creating brand strategy to inspire business growth.

To get our latest research paper Making Purpose Pay, just pop your email in the form.

For more on brand purpose, see this other post which looks at the Airbnb case study.