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How Purpose-Led Retailers Are Winning the Market

M&M’S recent flagships showcase inclusive design




THERE IS INVALUABLE power in brand purpose. It creates deep emotional connections for employees and consumers alike – allowing people to feel heard and seen. Think of it as a rallying cry that gives people a reason to believe in you and,  more importantly, a reason to return.

So, why do brands need to successfully bring purpose to life in a memorable and meaningful way?

According to Forbes, defining a strong brand purpose has a prevailing impact on buyer behavior and loyalty. Consumers are four times more likely to purchase from brands they trust and four and a half times more likely to recommend them to friends and family. Surprisingly, only 37 percent of consumers believe companies deliver on a clear and strong purpose.

It becomes even more difficult for retailers because it is not just what you say – it is what you do. The retail industry is leveraging brand purpose far beyond its selling spaces, adopting a cohesive combination of physical, human and digital touchpoints to offer long-lasting value. Most are also turning to innovative technologies to create immersive experiences for shoppers in the moment. These peaks along the customer journey are built to create impressionable, lasting memories while paving a seamless path to purchase. The result is a healthy brand ecosystem that reaches beyond the four walls of a store.

Purpose can be activated through good behavior, leading to better business. Customers today expect brands to have a clear point of view and express their values. The ones that excel not only make a positive impact internally but also impact external communities. This mindset is particularly important amongst younger generations. Gen-Z and millennials support brands leading the way to a better future and create considered solutions for all, not just some.


And which brands are doing this best?

M&M’S is one example of how brand purpose can affect and influence culture globally. Part of its ethos is its mission to strive to build a more inclusive world for all “funkind.” “Funkind” is born from M&M’S belief that we can all belong to one community of humans that share a simple and powerful commonality: fun.

Over the past six years, with Landor & Fitch, M&M’S has brought this brand purpose to life across a fleet of flagship retail stores. The result has led to an award-winning retail program spanning 65,000 square feet across three stores in three unique locations, all while using design to embrace local communities.

As a retail experience that is rooted in shared principles of belonging and fun, M&M’S needed to be more than just a place to shop for the one of the world’s most recognized products – it needed to behave as a place to belong. Doubling down on fun, M&M’S created a unique in-store journey inviting guests through its spaces using colorful and intuitive environmental cues, immersive localized touchpoints and meaningful language that encouraged all “funkind” to participate.

While moments within flagships create an environment of fun-infused vibe of inclusivity, there is even more work that can be done to tap into an underserved community. M&M’S, among other like-minded retailers, are looking forward to transcending compliance and boldly questioning: “How can our brand contribute to the greater good of humanity?”

“Being able to personally connect with and align my personal values with my company’s purpose gives me so much energy and motivation to bring my best every day. I love being able to design beautiful spaces that have an impact on the world,” says Chip Cook, Senior Retail Manager of M&M’S.

So, what does this all mean?

Bringing brand purpose to life can lead to enduring competitive advantage in the market. It attracts and retains well-suited employees and fosters relationships with loyal customers to articulate the real impact a brand can have.

I will be joining forces with Chip Cook, Senior Retail Manager at M&M’S, to take the stage at the 2023 International Retail Design Conference (IRDC). Together, we will cover topics such as brand purpose, how we brought it to life and accessible design in a session titled “The Power of Brand-Led Experiences.” Join us this October 25.

How Purpose-Led Retailers Are Winning the Market


Ashley is a Design Director at Landor & Fitch with a curious and hungry creative mind based out of the Columbus studio. An understanding of the built environment and an appetite for collaboration help to round out her 10+ years of experience in the retail industry. She thrives when given the opportunity to push convention and the boundaries of the brands she works with – ultimately creating extraordinary experiences and environments. She has recently worked as a lead designer with M&M’S; helping them to realize their brand in retail and bringing 3 flagship stores to life. Ashley has also previously worked in Store Design at L Brands. In her 6 years, with Landor & Fitch she has designed for R.J. Reynolds, Best Buy, 7-11, T-Mobile, Lego, Tim Horton’s, Hilton, Cresco, Denny’s, Walgreens, Jenn-Air, and Ford.



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