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What do fried mozzarella sticks, potato skins and stuffed mushroom caps have to do with doing good in the world? I asked myself the same question after hearing about TGI Fridays new campaign for its Endless Apps promotion. “A Place for People of All Stripes” is the platform the brand is building in its television commercials that incorporate, as you would imagine, a diverse mix of people getting together, being themselves and having a great time. As the campaign theme suggests, TGI Fridays is leveraging the stripes in its brand identity to communicate that the brand stands for something—an open invitation for People of All Stripes to come in, sit down and enjoy themselves.

At a glance, I thought that this might be a reach for a restaurant like TGI Fridays because no one probably thinks of the brand as overtly purpose-driven. At least I don’t. But after watching the commercials and reading more about the intent of the work, I came around or least believe it is worth watching to see if people respond and the brand increases business based on the empowering platform. I think TGI Fridays does demonstrate something we’re seeing a lot more these days from brands. Brands are looking at creating purpose platforms as a way to take a stand and build greater relevance and emotional connections with their audiences. At 20nine, we call this becoming a purpose-first brand. I’m not suggesting that this is what TGI Fridays is doing, but it certainly looks like it’s moving in that direction with this latest work.

A statement from TGI Friday’s CEO, Ray Blanchette, outlines the brand’s intent in a press release: “We’ve always been dedicated to giving People of All Stripes a Place to unite. Our key message is that TGI Fridays welcomes everyone with open arms no matter where they come from, what they look like, how they’re dressed, where they stand on the issues or who they choose to love…we celebrate all the people from all different walks of life who come together to make TGI Fridays such a unique and special place.” Here is a grab of some of the copy from the spot:

“What if there were a place for people of all stripes? Where everybody is different but no one is divided? A place where debates end but the apps never end? Where the world comes together in peace and love…and potato skins?”

TGIFridays Endless Apps Commercial —

Blanchette goes on to say that the concept is both a rallying cry and a reminder that no matter what divides people in the outside world, the only thing that comes between people at TGI Fridays is a table filled with delicious food, a bar filled with amazing drinks or memories made together while having a great time. The timing of the campaign, we discover, is to coincide with World Kindness Day.

Obviously, this message of inclusion is not something you hear every day from a quick service restaurant like TGI Fridays. Of course, time will tell if this message resonates with people and whether the brand experiences an uptick in business.

Purpose-First brands don’t have to save the world to create meaningful impact in people’s lives.

An important thing to note about Purpose-First Brands is that they’re not out to necessarily save the world. They can but don’t have to start with that in mind. Purpose-First brands simply want to create an impact in the world beyond the goods and services they sell and create meaning in people’s lives instead of just creating more meaningless marketing. While it’s debatable whether TGI Friday’s “People of All Stripes” is believable for the brand and resonate with people, you can’t ignore that it’s a bold move. There’s more evidence that shows consumers seek out brands that take a stand on important issues in the world and choose to make a difference, and not simply make more stuff to sell. According to the 2018 Edleman Earned Brand report, people now believe that brands have more power to solve social ills than governments do. In the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey, when Millennials were asked what the primary purpose of business should be, 63% more of them said “improving society” over “generating profits.”

TGI Fridays isn’t out to save the world. It does seem to want to do some good in it. The good news is that even low-interest brands like detergent and deodorant can aspire to do more in the world than simply keep clothes clean and armpits fresh-smelling. We continue to see that intent is a competitive advantage and brands that do it well can experience greater connection and growth. What does your brand sell? Is there some good inside that you can build on and build into a purpose-first platform that raises the stakes and makes your brand more relevant and impactful…even in some small way at the start? Would putting purpose first give your brand greater clarity, confidence and create greater opportunities to emotionally connect with customers and your employees?

I want to leave you with this. A brief story about New Jersey’s own Jon Bon Jovi. Jon and his wife, Dorothea run JBJ Soul Kitchen, a farm-to-table community kitchen in Red Bank, New Jersey that serves meals to the needy five days a week. It’s a donation-based kitchen run by volunteers intent on creating good—and delicious food— within the local community. It’s a source of fulfillment for the rocker and his wife and continues to expand to other parts of the state. On the idea of companies doing good while doing business, Jon gives today’s brands an insight into building a sense of purpose: “The way to feel good is to do good…find your good and DO IT!”

What good are you? Take the time to figure it out… then do it. This sounds like good advice for any brand marketer in 2020.

By Gary Kopervas

Gary is a self-proclaimed “creative misfit” in that he doesn’t fit neatly into any one compartment or department. He’s an insight spotter, brand strategist, writer, content creator, creative facilitator, product innovator and a nationally syndicated cartoonist.

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