As brands strive for differentiation, relevance, and growth, a clear purpose brought to life in compelling ways can be the difference between successfully engaging with critical stakeholders or merely being part of the competitive noise. Brand purpose describes what a brand wants to change in the world and the role the brand envisions itself playing to achieve that change. It inspires people to come to work. It gives each person associated with the brand a reason to be proud. It calibrates and guides thinking. It’s the benchmark against which all actions are measured.
What is ‘Brand Purpose’?
The brand purpose may be defined as ‘a higher order reason for a brand to exist than just making a profit.’ An excellent place to start is Simon Sinek’s work around the ‘why’ of a brand.
According to Sinek, the fundamental difference between the “Apples’” of the world and everyone else is that they start with “why.” That is, Apple put its brand purpose out at the core of their work. Then the “why” is encircled with how they do it, and finally with what they do. The result is a stronger connection with everyone that engages with the brand.
To explain this concept, Sinek has developed what he calls the “Golden Circle.”
- Why – This is the core belief of the brand. It’s why the brand exists.
- How – This is how the brand fulfills that core belief.
- What – This is what the brand delivers to fulfill that core belief.
Unfortunately, many companies do their marketing backward. They start with their “what” and then move to the “how.” Many neglect to even mention “why.” Of more significant concern is that many are not able to communicate why they do what they do; their brand purpose may be unclear or non-existent.
Why is it important?
The brand purpose defines a brand’s reason for being and therefore, strategy. It aligns the headspace of your employees and how your company goes to market and competes. A noble brand purpose lays out an extraordinary intention that separates your brand from your competitors. It creates an emotional reason for your customers to connect with your brand.
Get your purpose right – and you have a cause that is powerful enough for employees to leap out of bed every weekday morning and get to work. The brand purpose is what drives them to make a change to the world they live in. Their commitment to and passion for your brand purpose will enable them to engage with your key stakeholders at an emotional level, and it is very much like the ripple effect of throwing a stone in a lake. Their commitment and passion impact positively upon those they engage with. That is if you have a clearly defined and communicated brand purpose.
The Body Shop is a long-established brand with a clearly defined brand purpose. Anita Roddick originally founded the Body Shop to help her family survive. However, it soon transformed into something much more. As her company grew, she began to see her business as a means to make a positive difference in the world. The Body Shop is a cosmetics company that specializes in selling all-natural products. They make their cosmetics without using the harmful chemicals that many other cosmetics companies use. The Body Shop’s brand purpose is “Enrich, Not Exploit.” It is committed to enriching its people, products, and the planet. The company has several lofty objectives:
- Help 40,000 economically vulnerable people access work around the world.
● Ensure 100 percent of our natural ingredients are traceable and sustainably sourced, protecting 10,000 hectares of forest and other habitats.
● Build bio-bridges, protecting, and regenerating 75 million square meters of habitat, helping communities to live more sustainably.
The people who work for the Body Shop are themselves aligned with the brand purpose of the company, and it invests their work with meaning. Christopher Davis International Director of Corporate Responsibility and Campaigns at The Body Shop comments on the sale of The Body Shop by L’Oréal in 2017 to Natura.
“the founding philosophy of Natura is built on the idea of providing for all stakeholders. When they founded the business 45 years ago, that was one of the things that was precious to them and is still now – the same way that The Body Shop was founded on similar principles – the DNA is one of the reasons why it’s a better home for us,” Davis said.
The Body Shop acts, accordingly, in ways that resonate with the brand purpose. Similarly, the customers who buy the Body Shop products are also drawn to the deeper ‘good’. Customers believe that they are enriching not only themselves but also the planet.
How to discover your brand purpose?
A concise, well-articulated brand purpose that everyone in the company knows and believes in is a fundamental principle of many globally recognised brands. Ex-P&G CMO Jim Stengel divided high-performing brands with distinct purpose into five main categories in his book ‘Grow.’
Eliciting Joy: Zappos
Enabling Connection: Starbucks
Inspiring Exploration: Google
Evoking Pride: Mercedes Benz
Impact broadly: Walmart
Creating new brands with purpose at their heart is easy. But what if you’re a decades-old brand that has well-established attributes — but no clear brand purpose at its core? Here are a few ways to start.
An ‘archaeological dig.’
A deep-dive into the history and heritage of the brand, the story of the founders, the reason for coming into existence.
For example, Unilever was founded by William Hesket Lever in the 1890’s who started with Sunlight Soap, which helped revolutionize hygiene in Victorian England. Here’s what he wrote down as its purpose:
“To make cleanliness commonplace; to lessen work for women; to foster health and contribute to personal attractiveness, that life may be more enjoyable and rewarding for the people who use our products.”
Today Unilever is a multi-billion dollar company which has as its stated purpose “helping people to look good, feel good and get more out of life.” The Dove brand purpose focuses on “Impacting Society” Dove … exists to celebrate every woman’s unique beauty.
A brand evaluation:
Looking at what are you good at and what are you passionate about, and how the brand can be of service to the world.
Source: Brand Language Design
For example, Red Bull’s purpose is ‘to revitalize mind and body’ (expressed in the form of their tagline ‘Red Bull Gives You Wings.’ They are passionate about the world of action sports, and they have become extremely good at creating brand experiences and content that are of service to that community. The result? A company that allegedly makes more money from that content and experiences than the drink — and which dares to stage revolutionary marketing experiences like the Red Bull Stratos jump which brings the Red Bull brand purpose to life.
Ask your employees:
Finding out the stories of why they are proud to work for your company or brand often unearths the real value that they see in the work that they do.
Ask your customers:
Similarly, asking your customers (and associated stakeholders like retailers, suppliers, and other partners) can help unearth valuable insights as to the distinctive, own-able higher-order purpose for your business.
By integrating these sources of research and data, a brand can uncover a compelling brand purpose which can help it future-proof itself for generations to come.
How does it affect your business?
In 2015, a study sponsored by the EY Beacon Institute and conducted by the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services (HBRAS) globally surveyed 474 executives on what makes purpose effective for their companies.
Here are the key insights:
Motivates employee satisfaction: (Upload links to the Brandivine website)
- 89% of executives agree that a collective purpose motivates employee satisfaction, while 84% linked purpose with transformation, and 80% revealed that it boosts customer loyalty.
Increase customer engagement:
- 79% of customers prefer socially purpose-driven brands and prioritize purchasing products from such companies.
Drive revenue growth along with beneficial innovation:
- 58% of brand purpose prioritizers experienced more than 10% growth while others revealed declining revenue. Purpose affects your bottom line.
Defining brand purpose is the start of building a “remarkable” brand as described by Seth Godin. “All it means is that someone decides that you are worth talking about, that you are worth making a remark about. And it is not up to you. It is up to them. So, if people choose to talk about you, then the word spreads. And if the word spreads, you don’t need to buy Super Bowl ads and billboards and bus shelter ads, because humans are telling other humans.”
The influence of social media amplifies the value of “word of mouth,” making it one of the most powerful tools you can have in your arsenal of marketing tools. Humans trust other humans, but humans cannot talk about your brand and tell a compelling and consistent story if your brand purpose is not defined. Your brand purpose needs to be relevant, clearly articulated, and resonate with your team; only then can it stand out from the crowd. So, ask yourself these questions:
- Is your brand purpose clearly defined?
- Is it embedded in your brand strategy?
- Are your staff clear on what your brand purpose is?
- Does your brand purpose drive decision making in reference to the brand?
- Is your brand purpose reflected in the actions of your company and staff?
- Are your customers aware of your brand purpose and do they engage with your brand because of it?
If you would like to explore your Brand Purpose in more detail book a free 30-minute discussion with Litsa Barberoglou. Email Litsa at firstname.lastname@example.org