May 13th, 2020



New Book by Leader Who Spearheaded Global Handwashing Day Offers Model for How Brands Can Get People to Embrace New Behavior Such as Hand Washing, Mask Wearing and Social Distancing

Brands on a Mission: How to Achieve Social Impact and Business Growth Through Purpose by Dr. Myriam Sidibe, Senior Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School

(May 2020, Routledge)

Who has the power to incite billions of people to embrace social distancing, wash their hands regularly and wear masks?

To Dr. Myriam Sidibe, who helped shift the hygiene habits of millions by spearheading the U.N.-recognized Global Handwashing Day, the answer is simple:


Through the right marketing, brands are in a unique position to spark the type of lasting mindset and behavior shifts that mask-wearing, social distancing and regular handwashing require, Sidibe says. But doing so effectively requires constructive partnerships with the public and nonprofit sectors.

In her new book Brands on a Mission: How to Achieve Social Impact and Business Growth Through Purpose, Sidibe—a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government andone of the world’s leading experts on marketing for social good—shows how. 

Drawing on her personal experience forging initiatives that have taught one billion people about hygiene and created lasting behavior change for millions of people worldwide while working at Unilever, Sidibe illustrates how brands can not only create impactful social missions that improve public health and safety, but can accomplish this while driving profitability and growth.

With their often-vast reach and power of persuasion, brands act as trendsetters and can drive healthier, positive behaviors, the book explains. A popular beer brand combatted domestic violence in South Africa through its #NoExcuse campaign against alcohol-fueled violence against women. Toothpaste brands have tackled school absenteeism and oral hygiene, and Durex, a condom brand, has helped reduce HIV infections worldwide.

Such programs can benefit companies as well as consumers: whereas quality was once the primary differentiator between brands, today, embracing a social purpose has become a key way for brands to set themselves apart in the marketplace and sustain profitability. 

Citing interviews with over 100 CEOs, thought leaders and brand managers, Brands on a Mission presents an emergent model that organizations can follow to build purpose into their growth strategy, and shows how to bridge the gap between “Brand Say” and “Brand Do.” Readers will learn from experts including Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever and Emmanuel Faber, CEO of Danone and from the case studies of Durex, Dove, Discovery, LIXIL as well as many other brands on a mission. This is how to reimagine capitalism in these very turbulent times. The book also offers hand-holding exercises to help brand managers navigate the journey of embedding a social purpose. 

Questions Brands on a Mission answers include:

  • Why are innovative public-private partnerships key to bringing sustained funding and superior approaches to behavior change?
  • What are the five pillars of the “Purpose Tree” and how can brands leverage them to drive behavior change?
  • How can cues, behavior and rewards motivate people to change their habits in a positive way?
  • How can brand managers create leadership buy-in for purpose-driven initiatives?
  • What are the seven steps to building a movement and how can we measure success?
  • How can brands integrate behavior change into the marketing process?

Contrary to popular perception, Sidibe argues, businesses are highly capable of playing a positive role with regard to social challenge.  But both the private and the public/nonprofit sectors must work to overcome mutual biases and misconceptions and seek meaningful partnerships that draw out the best of both sectors.  After all, even the strongest public sector in the world will never get more people to wash hands than the world’s largest soap company. 

Praise for Brands on a Mission

Professor Peter Piot, Director & Handa Professor of Global Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine: “Dr Sidibe’s work provides an extremely valuable contribution to public health, and the role all parts of society need to play – from governments, to local communities, to NGOs, to business and academia.”

Dr Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund: “In this fast-paced book, Dr Myriam Sidibe conveys the ‘how’ of successful branding through purpose. This notion is generating intense interest, especially among young people of the ‘Sustainable Development Generation’ the world over, who identify with the principle of taking action towards the social good. The real-life examples are practical, useful and inspiring.”

Paul Polman, Co-Founder and Chair of IMAGINE, and Co-founder of the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, Former CEO of Unilever: “A must read for any leader who wants to ensure that their business model stays relevant for the turbulent decades to come. Practical examples on how to position your brands to be a force for good and keep relevance.”

Professor Richard Zeckhauser, Frank P. Ramsey Professor of Political Economy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University: “This sprightly volume introduces Mother Teresa to Mad Men.  It shows how product branding, so often maligned, can bring substantial social value.”

Caroline Harper, CEO, Sightsavers: “Partnering with both the brand Lifebuoy and the company Unilever was a tremendous boost to our fight against trachoma.   This book is an admirable guide to how to create such partnerships effectively in pursuit of the Global Goals.”

About the Author:

Dr. Myriam Sidibe, one of the world’s leading experts on brands that drive health outcomes through mass behavioral change, conceived and established the award-winning UN-recognized Global Handwashing Day–now celebrated in over 100 countries. She is at the front lines of innovating public health response to COVID-19 as co-founder and Chair of Kenya’s National Business compact on Coronavirus and a board member of Safe Hands Kenya. She was recently called to lead efforts of a joint coalition of business networks made of Business Partners for Sustainable Development (USCIB), Business Fights Poverty, in driving local action and global learning on what the role of business should be in responding to Coronavirus. A Senior Fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government of the Harvard Kennedy School and Former Social Mission Director at Unilever, Myriam has been recognized as one of the top 10 Intrapreneurs in the world for her approach to pushing boundaries and challenging the status quo — which has proven pivotal to leading a paradigm shift in the way public private partnerships for health/well-being are managed and funded. Her foresight in establishing Lifebuoy’s social mission has been replicated across Unilever as an example of a best practice for brands looking to positively impact the world whilst driving market share. Myriam is also a trustee of WaterAid, the world’s largest civil society organization on Water and Sanitation and was a commissioner for the Lancet on the future of health in Africa. Originally from Mali, Myriam and holds a doctorate in Public Health from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and is an Engineer from McGill University, Loughborough University, UK.

Title: Brands on a Mission: How to Achieve Social Impact and Business Growth Through Purpose

Author: Myriam Sidibe

Publisher: Routledge

Print: 226 pages

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0367428334

ISBN-13: 978-0367428334


Sign Up and get a free 7 day Train it Right HIIT Program!