What’s your brand’s higher calling? It’s a good question – and often a very tough one. Brand is habitually thought of simply as a company’s logo or colors or tagline, but a brand is so much more than that. Your brand is what exists in the minds and hearts of your consumers. Jeff Bezos said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” In this age of hyperconnectivity, the consumer is in the room 24/7, not only listening, but joining in on the conversation and inviting their friends to join, too.
Chances are you’re not the only one selling your particular product. When it comes to buying a product, consumers often have multiple choices and the freedom to be picky with the way they spend their time and money. They’re going to give their business to the company or organization that aligns with their worldview and supports social issues that are important to them. According to a study by Kantar Consulting, 76% of marketers believe their organization has a defined purpose; however, only 10% of those marketers believe that this purpose goes beyond their product or service to include an actual societal commitment.
In 2020, your brand cannot just be your logo. Your brand is first and foremost your company’s purpose, and out of that purpose comes your company’s values, mission, and vision. Having a brand purpose doesn’t just make you memorable, it makes you more authentic and authoritative among your competitors. So, if your company doesn’t have a brand purpose – or your purpose isn’t well defined – consumers are going to look past you.
Every successful brand has a compelling purpose behind it. Simply put, your Purpose (with a capital P) defines how your company intends to function. The role of a stated brand Purpose is to unite leadership, employees, clients, and the public in general, in pursuit of that intention. Essentially, it’s your company’s “WHY” statement, and knowing WHY your company exists provides the foundation on which you build everything else. Your Purpose lets consumers know that [insert your company name] stands for [insert cause]. That Purpose is then used to define your company’s values, mission, and vision. Your values are the ethics and behaviors you’ll use to sell your product or service. Your mission outlines what you need to do to reach your goals. Your vision is where you want your company to be in the future.
One of my favorite illustrations of good brand Purpose is from President John F. Kennedy. He told a story about a time he was touring a NASA facility and approached a janitor who was holding a broom. When the president asked the janitor what he was doing, the man replied, “Well, Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.” This story powerfully demonstrates how NASA’s purpose had spread into every aspect of the organization and was driving the organizations values, mission, and vision.
A truly powerful brand purpose relates directly to the product or service you offer. You want to build a brand platform in which every interaction is a shared experience with the consumer. Two brands that do this well are Patagonia and Dove.
Patagonia is an outdoor clothing company created by rock climbers and surfers. They started infusing purpose into their brand as early as the 1970s, when their top executives would attend local government meetings to promote climate change activism. Now, that same level of activism is literally written into their company’s core values – “Use business to protect nature.” They’ve even gone so far as to instate a self-imposed 1% “Earth tax” to provide support to environmental-based nonprofits. When a consumer buys a Patagonia brand jacket or pair of shoes, they know that a part of their purchase is directly supporting environmental activism.
In a similar vein, Dove developed their brand Purpose in the mid-2000s after recognizing the direct correlation between women’s self-esteem and beauty products. Dove’s stated Purpose is “to redefine beauty standards and help all women experience beauty and body image positively.” Dove carries this Purpose throughout their values, mission, and vision, and they have used this Purpose as the basis for all of their campaigns since 2004.
We are living in the era of brand Purpose. Fostering a Purpose that resonates with your consumers reinforces the relationship that is at the heart of a truly successful brand.
To begin building your brand purpose, start by drafting a concise purpose statement. Your statement should be short, memorable, strategic, intentional, and answer your “WHY”. Begin with these four questions:
Don’t be afraid to ask for answers to these questions from multiple recipients – leadership, middle-management, entry-level employees, even clients/customers. It’s good to get input from different points of view and see where your company perception (or misperception) is aligned. From this input, define your purpose as an isolated statement. Limit your statement to one sentence that clearly lays out an isolated tactic. Some examples of viable brand statements include:
Once you have a concise written purpose statement, you can begin to develop your purpose-driven brand. Kantar Consulting’s Purpose 2020 Study created a three-phase blueprint for turning your isolated brand statement into an actual business-led movement: Articulation, Infusion, and Amplification.
Take your isolated brand statement and put it to the test! The Articulation Phase is about defining what you stand for and the role you want to play. Test your new brand statement against these five characteristics in order to establish whether or not your statement hold up as a viable brand purpose:
If you answered YES to all of these questions, congratulations! Your statement is ready to become a full-blown societal brand purpose. You’re ready to begin infusing your purpose into your company culture.
In the Infusion Phase, your purpose statement becomes the foundation for every aspect of your business. Your website, your corporate identity, your content tone, even the way you interact with your clients, should all harken back to your purpose statement. Infusion is the key to ensuring your brand has impact. Your purpose should be:
Infusion is the stage where you use your purpose statement to form and define your company’s values, mission, and vision. Once you completed the Infusion process, your brand purpose will become a company-wide strategy.
Amplification is about taking your purpose beyond your company. It is the phase where your purpose goes from being a tactic to being a movement. There are three key drivers to Amplification:
Ultimately, brands that do well in Amplification will create a movement that endures.
Is there really any benefit to being recognized as a purpose-led organization that shapes both its internal and external environment? The short answer: YES. Here are a few examples of amplified brand purpose in action:
Near the end of 2011, Patagonia ran a full-page Black Friday ad that read in large block letters, “DON’T BUY THIS JACKET.” The ad went on to explain the environmental cost of making one of the company’s best-selling fleece jackets and asked customers to consider buying a second-hand Patagonia product instead. Despite of this (or perhaps because of this), Patagonia saw its revenue grow almost 30% in 2012, followed by another 6% growth in 2013.
In 2014, in an attempt to be a role model in their industry, CVS stopped selling cigarettes at all its stores. According to their executive vice president, the ban ended up costing CVS $2 billion in revenue, but the longer-term benefits have been worth it. Hiring and has become much easier because more Millennial workers are rallying behind their cause. CVS has also been able to sign on more business partners in human resources and insurance, since these industries recognize that hiring employees who don’t smoke is ultimately less expensive since they have fewer medical issues over time. Despite the loss of cigarette revenue, by the end of 2014, CVS posted an almost 10% increase in annual revenue and their operating profit went up by more than 4%. In 2016 – just two years after making a major brand purpose shift – CVS’s stock price was up 66%.
In 2018 Unilever announced that its 26 sustainable living brands (the brands to which Unilever gave defined societal brand purpose statements, like Dove) grew 46% faster than the rest of its businesses.
Whether you like it or not, we’re living in the era of brand Purpose. You must be able to answer your company’s WHY, and the consumer needs to be made aware of it. Find out what your organization is passionate about. Identify ways to draw parallels back to your product or service. Make your purpose the cornerstone of your culture. Be a role model for your purpose. Give your brand a higher calling. And get people excited about it!
Your company’s purpose isn’t to save the world, but modern consumers do expect you to prioritize social responsibility. Brands that endeavor to do good are destined to do better. Doing good starts with identifying and rallying behind your brand’s higher calling – your brand Purpose.