King’s Hawaiian Successfully Serves Up Purpose

Summer BBQ

King's Hawaiian


It’s a common question – how should brands handle purpose-driven initiatives in their advertising? A lot of the conversation around “brand purpose” assumes that charitable partnerships and initiatives should pervade everything a brand does.

Marketers who advocate for brand purpose argue that this connects brands and consumers better. Sceptics suggest it’s a waste of time, as good deeds aren’t important to real buying behaviour.

But looking at high-performing ads in Test Your Ad, it’s clear that this assumption doesn’t hold true for a lot of brands. They get involved in purpose initiatives, but don’t blanket their ads with them. Like Harry Enfield’s classic UK comedy characters Smashie and Nicey, they “do a lot of work for charity – but don’t like to talk about it”.

This week’s Ad Of The Week, a high 4-Star effort for bread brand Kings Hawaiian, is a great example. The brand is getting heavily involved with the No Kid Hungry scheme, a truly vital initiative given that in the wake of Covid-19 it’s estimated as many as 1 in 4 American children may go hungry this year.

It would have been easy for Kings Hawaiian to make an ad entirely focused on hungry children. This would have been purposeful alright – but it would have carried major risks. The subject is clearly an upsetting one, possibly leaving viewers with negative associations, and even with effective storytelling it would be easy for the Kings Hawaiian branding to get lost.

Instead, the brand made an aggressively upbeat ad focusing on its customers’ favourite BBQ and sandwich recipes, with lots of footage of happy families (though not socialising in big groups – it’s a Covid-friendly ad!). Food and family work to build positive feeling – and then at the end, the brand slips in the news that all this is helping kids too.

Structurally, the ad uses brand purpose in the same way and the same place as a storytelling ad would use a final twist or joke. It’s a bit of bonus content that fulfils the ‘peak-end rule’ and sends viewers off feeling good.

This isn’t an original technique. Hundreds of ads do it – in fact it’s one of the main ways American ads use brand purpose. It suggests both friends and foes of “purpose” need to take a look at how brands actually communicate their good deeds before making judgements!

Because while this ad will never win awards for ideas or even craft, it’s highly effective – a barrage of stimulating images with a charity kicker. It gives Kings Hawaiian its highest scoring ad since 2017, and a sky-high Spike rating too. Even the most ordinary seeming ads have something to teach us.