16 min read
Jan 2024

Why I’m No Longer Calling Myself a Brand Purpose Consultant

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Why I’m No Longer Calling Myself a Brand Purpose Consultant

A Conversation With Francisca Larraín Marshall

Economics of Mutuality Practitioner Stories

Interview by

Oxford, September 2023


For over 12 years, Francisca Larraín Marshall advised corporate clients on how to articulate and communicate their purpose through their brand and marketing. After completing the Oxford Economics of Mutuality Virtual Executive Education Program, she decided she could no longer continue offering these services in good conscience.

We caught up with her on a recent visit she made to Oxford University’s Saïd Business School to find out why she decided to make this shift, how growing up in Chile under Allende and then Pinochet impacted her career trajectory, and what she’s doing now to put purpose into practice.


Let’s start at the beginning. Can you tell us a bit about your personal background and what led you to embark on this journey about the role of business in society?

My mother was English-Scottish, and she used to tell me about the difficulties she had living in England during the Second World War. She was very conscious about the important things in life and avoiding polarization and conflict. She taught me the importance of being brave, resilient, and positive overall.

Growing up in Chile under a dictatorship was tough but gave me lessons for life. Nothing justifies torture, assassinations, and abuse of power. No ideal from any side justifies brutal oppression and a culture of hate and fear. My mom’s post-war understanding that what happened to any of us affected everyone made me believe that we can sort out systemic solutions through strong and intelligent articulation of wills.

Peace and mutuality are so much more valuable when you have experienced situations where there is none. And maybe now generations are less conscious about that. I guess my origin leads me to feel frustrated when people do not understand the power we have when we really want to solve things – and the power we have when we really want to destroy the bonds between us.


Peace and mutuality are so much more valuable when you have experienced situations where there is none.


Over the course of your career, how has your perspective on purpose-driven and responsible business developed?

I worked in television for about 10 years in Chile until the industry became more focused on reality television and I started to feel my career wasn’t really contributing to society. So I decided to do an MBA. I thought that if you cannot change the world through beauty, aesthetics, and communication, you must change it through business.

I moved into advertising and branding, working as a Planning Director at BBDO and then at Havas Media. During my time at Havas, I spent four years doing consultancy for Meaningful Brands, which is research that integrates sustainability in branding. I worked with corporates across Latin America in telecom, beverages, retail, credit cards, etc. It was there that I discovered the possibility of linking business consciousness and value propositions with social, environmental, and economic impact. But I decided I had to go into more depth so, in 2014, I founded Dylema, a purpose and branding consulting firm.

After all that time working with brands and purpose, I discovered it wasn’t enough. We worked with companies to define their purpose but the companies were not able to actually deliver it. So then I decided, okay, I have to learn something else because this is not working. It was the how part that was missing.


You joined the Oxford Economics of Mutuality Virtual Executive Education Program in 2022 wanting to explore how to activate purpose. What shifted for you during the course?

The Mahindra First Choice case study and another case study about the DIY home improvement ecosystem were two “aha” moments because they gave me a very practical step-by-step view of how to activate purpose – and the difficulties and challenges in doing so.

When I worked with BCI, a Chilean bank, I wish I had known about the Economics of Mutuality step-by-step process of generating insights, discovering pain points, detecting opportunities, and then establishing a business model that profits from resolving specific problems. If I had known all of that, maybe I would’ve done much more. And, well, I hope I will do now!

Another “aha” moment was the word “orchestration” that stood out when reading the book Putting Purpose into Practice: the Economics of Mutuality. I discovered you not only have to listen to the pain points of your stakeholders, but you also must listen to the things they can contribute.


Since graduating from the Oxford Program, what has changed for you?

Companies today want to define their purpose. They create expectations among their stakeholders and clients that they are a good company that wants to build trust. But if they can’t actually follow through with this, they create a wound between business and people.

So I say, please don’t say you have a purpose if you do not know how to deliver it. Because, for me, doing so is very irresponsible. That is why I’ve decided not to offer my consultancy services at all. I don’t want to continue offering brand purpose services without knowing how to deal with the responsibility of having defined and having communicated that brand with a purpose.

If you are a client, you should ask your advertising agency, “What do you know about sustainability? What are the real things that would help my stakeholders to believe in me? What effort, sweat, and sacrifice have I put in?” If there’s no sacrifice, it’s really difficult to believe there is a purpose.

The concrete change I’m applying is that I have created a new brand, Fe Consulting, which I created while I was doing the Economics of Mutuality Program. I’m now focused on purpose consultancy and helping companies to deliver change, with practical tools and cases as well as storytelling and story making.


So I say, please don’t say you have a purpose if you do not know how to deliver it. Because, for me, doing so is very irresponsible.


What are the new challenges and opportunities that have emerged following this change?

In Chile at the moment there is a lot of interest in ESG, purpose, and stakeholder needs – but no one really knows how to do this. Other consultancy firms including the ‘big four’ are beginning to offer purpose services, but it’s difficult to believe when yesterday they were selling something opposite of what we are now trying to build.

So I’m currently in the process of getting certified as an Economics of Mutuality practitioner to signal my affiliation with the movement and with Oxford, and to differentiate myself from other consultancies. I’m in the process of forming a team, and what we’re trying to do is build a community, an ecosystem, around the Economics of Mutuality in Chile and Latin America.

The question for me is, “How can we bring people together who are willing to accelerate the process of change?” Because I think there’s no more time to lose. And this doesn’t depend on a client or myself, it depends on a whole community. So we are knocking on the doors of mining companies, banks, retail companies, energy firms, universities, and the media to ask, “Are you really committed to help us deliver change?”


“Are you really committed to help us deliver change?”


Why are you keen to embed the Economics of Mutuality into your new consulting offering? What sets it apart as an approach to purpose-driven business?

I think the Economics of Mutuality is two things. One is a very serious declaration that a new capitalism is possible. That is very profound and paradigm-shifting. I mean, it’s huge. And it has to do with policies, with governance, with how we understand capitalism and how we understand business today and for the future. But this cannot be possible if we do not have the management tools. Therefore, Economics of Mutuality is also a set of management innovation tools. And so it works at these two levels.

“Mutuality” is a fascinating concept. I think it has to do with being conscious of our interdependence – understanding that how you behave sooner or later is going to come back to you. I just try to think what others would like me to do if I was them. It’s that simple. Sometimes you just need to make the effort, like asking, “What does he want?” or “What does she need?”.

Some believe that people are more selfish than collaborative. I absolutely believe that’s not right. We are collective beings, and we are much happier with ourselves when we are part of that collective community effort.

If you go to a festival, each person is not in their own festival, it’s everyone all together. We need to bring that experience to businesses: the power of feeling that we are one big strong unity sharing something. You know, like when you’re in a music hall and you want to fly because you’re so excited by the music, and people are feeling happy and dancing and flowing. Wow! What if business leaders could feel that they have that power of “orchestrating”?


We need to bring that experience to businesses: the power of feeling that we are one big strong unity sharing something.


A shift towards more purpose-driven and responsible business seems to be taking place, but there is still a long way to go. What do you think the world will look like in 2050?

Well, Ray Anderson from Interface said that business people like him would be in jail in the future. I prefer to think that future business leaders will be admired for how courageous they were in deciding that their big companies could make a huge contribution to very urgent and challenging issues.


Are there any resources you would recommend to others wanting to put purpose into practice in their business?

Well, I have lots of things to recommend! The first is 10 Things You Should Know About Stakeholder Capitalism, which is a podcast produced by Amanda K. Pascale and Nathan Havey, who also created the Beyond Zero film.

Appreciative Inquiry helps you understand all the potential talents people in your company have to solve problems. Otto Scharmer’s Theory U is also useful. It involves a conversation where you listen to others in a generative way – trying to find the ideas or the imagination to solve things in the future.

And finally, I would suggest the Australian Harvard professor, Leith Sharp, who founded the Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership program at Harvard. She’s an incredible woman who says we need to help different organizations to work together. She talks about different structures of organization: top-down, bottom-up, and constellation-like structures, and how they can work together to solve things.


This interview is part of the Economics of Mutuality Practitioner Stories series, which features individuals who are advancing and implementing the Economics of Mutuality in their context. 

To learn more about Francisca and her work, you can visit her LinkedIn profile and website. Click here to find out more about the Oxford Economics of Mutuality Virtual Executive Education Program. If you are interested in discussing how we could support you with implementing the Economics of Mutuality in your context, please email hello@eom.org

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