Brand purpose, simply put, is the reason why a brand gets out of bed every morning. It’s your brand’s core beliefs and the impact it wishes to have in the world, shaping both how your employees and customers perceive your brand.
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For businesses, it’s never been more important to think long term and plan how your brand will navigate these headwinds. But that does not mean tightening your belt is the only way.
Gone are the days of one way communication between a brand and the customer. Modern consumers are looking beyond a brand’s products or services and are interested in the bigger picture. They are assessing what your brand does, what it stands for and its behaviour. In fact, according to Accenture, if a company’s brand purpose doesn’t align with their beliefs, 47% will walk away from the brand and 17% will never return. And it’s even more important for Gen Z and millennials, with more than 60% of these demographics believing it’s important for brands to comment on issues such as human rights, race relations or LGBTQ equality.
Now more than ever, brands must speak the language of their audience. Your brand purpose should reflect this too – so, let’s get to work. This article sheds light on some key concepts, the right questions to build (or re-build) your brand purpose and some great examples of brands to leave you inspired.
Brand purpose, promise and CSR: How are they different?
While they’re often clubbed together with brand purpose, brand promise and CSR (corporate social responsibility) should be dealt with separately. Here’s how:
Brand purpose refers to the beliefs of a brand and the meaningful actions they take to execute those beliefs, something that is usually connected to and communicated in your brand’s mission statement. Don’t confuse it with a vision statement though. A vision statement speaks about what your brand would like to strive for in the future, but the mission statement should tell you why you exist in the present.
Brand promise is the guarantee or value you create for a customer every time they interact with your brand. Basically, this is what they expect when they’re buying or using your products and services.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR), on the other hand, occurs when a company reaches a certain level of economic success and reflects upon the socioeconomic and environmental impact it has, plus its ethical and moral responsibilities. Executing your CSR then requires a company to take action on these reflections, setting up initiatives and supporting causes to create a positive impact. For instance, your brand could replace plastic with eco cups at the office or donate to charity. However, your CSR activities should take into account the brand purpose. In fact, according to Forbes, “CSR is usually a key part of an organisation’s operating ethos, its values and purpose.”
Keep it simple and memorable
Make sure your purpose speaks the language of your brand. “The purpose of a brand is the reason why it exists in the first place. and that it is the underlying essence that makes a brand relevant, so. So, keep it simple and memorable,” explains our Brand Strategist, Erika Schuller.
“Your brand purpose should be bold and tell all your key stakeholders who you are in a sentence or two — and inspire them to share this purpose everytime they talk about your brand.”
How to find your brand purpose
Now let’s get to the issue at hand: defining your brand’s purpose. It might seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be, Trust us: The simpler, the better. It’s important to take a step-by-step approach, involve key stakeholders and get creative.
The golden circle: take a dip!
Let’s get started. It would be a grave mistake to consider brand purpose without referring to Simon Sinek — the man who created the concept of brand purpose as we know it today. His book, Start With Why, urges brands and marketers alike to ask themselves a simple question: Other than the money, why is it that your brand does what it does? Answering this one simple question could help you get started with creating your brand purpose.
Ask the right questions
You will never get the right answers if you ask the wrong questions. Ask yourself these crucial questions, and they will make the route to building your brand purpose much easier.
- What made you start your business in the first place?
- When you thought of your product or service the first time, what change did you wish to bring about in society?
- What values does your target audience believe in and what are the big changes they wish to see?
- What sets you apart from the competition? What does your brand do differently?
- How would you like to be remembered by your audience? What do you want them to know you for?
Take a stand, and stick by it!
Whether it’s your employees, customers, media or potential talent, everyone is interested in knowing what your brand really stands for. It’s important for them to know how your brand reacts when things get tough: Whether it’s admitting your mistakes or giving your stance on social issues and events close to the beliefs of your audience. Do you take the generic ‘no comment’ route or do you take a stand, commenting on issues that matter to your audience? This is the right way to go in a transparent, accountable and increasingly politicised landscape, where staying silent isn’t an option.
Listen to your customers
Gone are the days of one-way communication between a brand and its customers. Opening your brand’s social media channels and the comments section will possibly tell you the good, the bad and the ugly of how the world is responding to your brand. Listen and learn from this feedback and use it to frame your brand’s purpose. Don’t just look to your customers, though. Asking your employees why they love working for you is also great input for building a strong purpose.
The impact of brand purpose
Once your brand purpose is ready, you can utilise it for the following:
- Making your current customers happy! It’s important to make your brand a customer-centric one that addresses their feedback, stays grounded and always tries to be better.
- Improving employee satisfaction and engagement. Once your employees understand the purpose of your brand and their own value, it helps them to both flourish internally and speak highly of your brand externally too.
- With the right approach to brand purpose, it will also help with both attaining new customers, as well as attracting great talent.
- Managing all stakeholders effectively. Your company has a responsibility towards society, your employees, local community and the environment — and a strong brand purpose should successfully appeal to all of those stakeholders.
Top 3 Brand Purpose Wins:
Once your brand purpose is ready, it is time to start actioning it. Here are some of our favourite brands who are championing brand purpose.
- Nike: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”. In 2018, Nike released an ad to display their support for the American footballer Colin Kaepernick. This ad came in response to the NFL’s harsh reaction to the athlete’s kneel (in support of Black Live Matters) during a pre-game anthem. Following protests across the US in support of Kaepernick, he revoked his contract with the NFL and his American football career never recovered. Nike stoody by him, while the NFL didn’t. This was a clear evocation of brand purpose, as Nike not only supported the human and the cause behind the controversy but also showcased their brand’s strong beliefs and integrity too.
- Patagonia: Patagonia reflects its brand purpose not only in their business model but also in their public messaging. For instance, to speak up and raise awareness about the Refugio Oil Spill in 2015, they launched a campaign titled #CrudeAwakening to highlight the harm caused to the marine environment. Brand purpose can also have a big impact: this campaign also arguably led to the US subsequently passing three laws for protecting marine life against oil spills.
- Dove: Some brands have been doing this already for a while. Back in 2004 with their Real Beauty campaign, cosmetics brand Dove sent out a clear message: that they want to empower all women to feel beautiful and proud in their skin. It was arguably the first time television audiences had seen women of all shapes, colours and sizes in comparison to the otherwise unrealistic standards of beauty seen in advertising in general. Since then, Dove has become more than a brand of soap and is now a brand connected with empowerment.
Another brand that has placed brand purpose at the centre of its business is DCMN client Swappie, the leading refurbished phone company. Watch our SCALEup webinar below to learn how they moulded their marketing strategy with their brand purpose – and convinced consumers that refurbished is just as good as new.