You could argue that every brand has a purpose. Since the Covid-19 pandemic especially, where some businesses had to step up and some had to halt trading, it has become more apparent what the real purpose of a brand is. Even on a personal level, lockdown has allowed for some to reflect and become more aware of their purpose and where they fit in in the world. So, what is brand purpose exactly and what does it mean for a business?
What is 'brand purpose'?
Brand purpose is why a business sells their product/service. The obvious answer is money, but brand purpose goes deeper than making a profit because it is the core belief of the organisation. This is echoed in absolutely everything that they do, from their business strategy, to their culture, to the product/service itself. The organisation simultaneously runs their business for profit and benefits the world by having purpose at the root of their brand. This is different to Corporate Social Responsibility in that what the business sells is directly related to their purpose, and mostly unchanged since the business started. However, your brand purpose can evolve as you will see with one of our clients – interface. This diagram from Simon Sinek demonstrates how brand purpose is at the core of your business.
The Golden Circle (Simon Sinek 2013)
Every organisation on the planet knows WHAT they do. These are products they sell and the services they offer.
Some organisations know HOW they do it. These are the things that make them special or set them apart from their competitors.
Very few organisations know WHY they do what they do. WHY is not about making money. That’s a result. It’s a purpose, cause or belief. It’s the very reason your organisation exists.
Here are two examples of businesses with a strong brand purpose.
“A better tomorrow is one where humanity thrives”
“TOMS has always stood for a better tomorrow”
While traveling through Argentina in 2006, TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie saw the hardships faced by children without shoes. This inspired him to create a for-profit business with giving at its core. The idea? For every pair of shoes the company sold, a new pair would be given to a child in need.
In 2009, TOMS invested in a team of international development, health, and non-profit professionals, now known as the Giving Team. Over the next 10 years, this team developed relationships with over 200 non-governmental and humanitarian organizations in 80 countries worldwide.
In 2011, TOMS Eyewear was launched, partnering with the Seva Foundation to help provide medical treatment, sight-saving surgery, and prescription glasses to those in need. And later, in 2014, TOMS launched Roasting Co®. In partnership with Water For People, TOMS coffee sales helped to bring sustainable water systems to communities that lacked access to safe water.
“But the foundation of our ideology hasn’t changed since the day we were conceived, like the compass that points due North, we continue to orient ourselves to the basis and universality of daily life”
MUJI was founded in 1980. It’s origin was a thorough rationalization of the manufacturing process with an eye to creating simple, low-cost, good quality products. Their brand purpose is to embrace the feelings and thoughts of all people, through simplicity and emptiness which yields the ultimate universality.
MUJI is based on three core principles, which remain unchanged to this day:
- Selection of materials
- Streamlining of processes
- Simplification of packages
Why brand purpose is important for your business
Consumer habits have changed
Having a brand purpose enables your business to connect your brand with consumers on a personal level. There has been a rise in political consumerism where modern consumers are more conscious of what they are buying and who they are buying it from. It is important that a brands position on social, environmental and political issues fits in line with their consumers beliefs. They want brands to use their power and influence for good as we are going through a new wave of social revolution/development. Research from Accenture Strategy (2018) found that 63% of surveyed global consumers prefer to purchase products and services from companies that stand for a purpose that reflects their own values and beliefs, and will avoid companies that don’t.
Example from a client we have worked with – DHL
“We connect people, improving their lives”
One of our clients, DHL recognise their duty to use their power and influence to positively impact society. Their purpose is not to be a delivery company that makes money, their purpose is to connect the world through global trade and improve people’s lives. As mentioned at the start when asking what brand purpose is, it is echoed all throughout the organisation. DHL portrays their brand purpose starting with their brand values of simplification; sustainability; globally local and commitment. It is extended further to their brand promise of “excellence, simply delivered” and even in their brand personality of an open and positive attitude to make their customers more successful and improve their lives.
It sets the brand apart from competitors
There is an abundance of products and services out there leaving the market heavily saturated, and this makes it ever more difficult for brands to set themselves apart and stand out. A brand purpose gives your product/service added value, making it more desirable than those of your competitors. This also helps to retain brand loyalty because consumers will repeat purchase on the grounds that they have a deeper connection with your brand, it has a greater meaning.
This is even more important if you are trying to market to Generation Z (those born after 1995) because they see brand purpose as an important factor when choosing products or services. A study by BBMG and GlobeScan found that Gen Z is three times more likely to say that the purpose of business is to “serve communities and society”. This generation and the ones to follow will be buying your product/service in the future too, so having a brand purpose is beneficial in the long-run.
Business’s with a brand purpose are more likely to have their brand shared on social media. This is because their story is more interesting and because it connects with the values and beliefs of people, and after all.. social media is all about sharing your views!
It provides a strong corporate culture
As well as consumers, having a brand purpose allows your brand to connect with employees on a personal level. Surveys show that younger people (Millenialls and Generation Z) want to work for companies that have a purpose other than profit. If you base your company around genuine non-tangible benefits and work for something that you and your employees believe in, you are more likely to see increased motivation, productivity and job satisfaction for yourself and your employees.
How to give your business brand purpose
It may be difficult to think of your brand purpose if you are an existing business where you have never thought about this before. Especially because your purpose needs to be authentic and not just following trends, so you cannot simply come up with one. Afdel Azhiz explains how you can discover the purpose of your brand with these 4 steps:
- An ‘archaeological dig’: A deep-dive into the history and heritage of the brand, the story of the founders, it’s reason for coming into existence in the first place.
- A brand evaluation: Looking at a brand’s strengths (what you are good at) and passions (brand passion points), and their intersection with how the brand can be of service to the world.
- 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.
This chart is also a good tool to assist in evaluating your brand.
While your brand purpose needs to be authentic and really mean something, it is important not to overdo it, so you have to think of how you are going to put this across to your target audience.
Research has shown that ‘high-emotional-intensity cause-related marketing advertisements create suspicion that the company truly might not be committed to the social cause’ (Journal of Advertising Research 2019). So, brands should avoid being overly emotional when putting across their brand purpose.
Example from a client we have worked with – Interface
The perfect example of how a well-established business can discover their brand purpose is shown by our client – Interface, a sustainable flooring company.
Their brand purpose ‘journey’ began in the early 90s when a customer asked “What’s your company doing for the environment?” When owner, Ray Anderson realised he couldn’t answer this question, he created a company task force to solve it. He described the experience as an epiphany that changed his perspective on business and sustainability. This awakened him to the urgent need to set a new purpose for Interface.
In 1994, Interface established ‘Mission Zero’ – the goal of zero environmental footprint. They are well on their way to accomplishing this mission by 2020 and have now set their sights on an even higher goal – ‘Climate Take Back’, to create a climate fit for life. So you can see how Interface’s brand purpose to positively impact the planet is at the core of their business – it is why they do what they do.
At SURE! we specialise in not only helping businesses find their brand purpose but also to effectively communicate this to their target audience. To get in touch email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01926 312903.
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