How to Define Brand Purpose

The Answer is Purpose

‘What is brand purpose’, is a popular query so here’s a look at  how to define your brand purpose, why brand purpose is important and how yours can be a purpose driven brand for our times. The short answer is that brand purpose is pivotal and a purpose driven brand stands the greatest chance of going the distance.

Defining Brand Purpose

‘Because I need a job’ said exactly nobody who ever got a great gig, in response to the question ‘Why?’ Why do you want THIS job? Why us? Why you?’ In the same vein, there is a big WHY at the heart of your business and if there isn’t, if you hope to go the distance, there should be. While your local corner shops may not have purpose emblazoned on the shop door, their purpose is pretty clear and their position and importance in your life as part of it, doesn’t require much explanation. But they will always be local and serve a specific segment plus their principals may be largely fungible because your entire relationship relies on a need they serve and anybody could run it as long as they were not impossibly unpleasant.

When you are competing across locales and geographies and a range of offerings with a competitive market place though, the dynamics are different, Then, there has to be something beyond the mere features, the totally transactional. There is a ‘Why?’ for every connection, engagement, interaction and also for sustaining these as long as there are other choices. The more choices there are, the more differentiation and the greater the need for a compelling answer to why brand purpose is important.

What is Brand Purpose?

Brand purpose is the reason why your business exists beyond the profit imperative, what it hopes to achieve in the life of their consumers and in the world, and how that ‘why’ powers how you do business. When your busi9ness gets big and important enough, CSR factors will kick in but without your purpose, you will navigate those waters only superficially, possibly artificially, never authentically copying the fads and trends of what others do. 

What is brand purpose to you? What does it mean to your business? What does it mean for your people? Brand purpose will dictate a roadmap for how you work with and treat your employees and your customers. When these things fall out of alignment, the problems will come but then they will also be easy to diagnose.

Let’s look at your individual purpose. It got you out of bed to build or grow your business. Purpose is a driver – people can be galvanised by purpose and this applies as much to your employees as to your customers, so while we discuss differentiation for competition, the competition is not just for sales, it’s also for recruitment of the right people into the lifeblood of your business.

Sinek, an authority on purpose,  believes that people need to see more than just the transcactional elements in the things we do in life, especially the things we have to do, than just the need to do it.

Brand Purpose Definition

So, how to define brand purpose, taking together all the concepts above, especially with regards to creating an emotive element for connection between the business and its consumers? The following is our definition:

Brand purpose is the essence of the single driving idea, principle, reason, that links you to your customers on a level that transcends the transactional and rational, going beyond mere benefits and creates an emotional connection which depends on and relies on the positive, differentiated impact your business hopes and exists to make to your consumers and society at large. Brand purpose delineates ‘who; your brand is in the world and what it stands for, what it dreams and why. Lofty, no? Yes, and necessarily so.

A look at the brand purpose of some of the world’s most recognisable brands.

It’s instructive to take a look at a few of the purposes stated by what are arguably purpose driven brands.

– Promoting sustainability and community – Innocent

– Our ultimate purpose is to inspire and develop children to think creatively, reason systematically and release their potential to shape their own future – experiencing the endless human possibility – Lego – this one gets me every time!

– To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Google – I think most can agree Google is rocking its purpose all day long!

What brand purpose is not!

Having addressed the ‘what is brand purpose question’, it’s just as useful to look at what is not brand purpose. They are related to brand purpose and it does inform them but brand purpose is not your mission statement, your vision, your business strategy or any of the other important and more tangible things businesses are used to having to think about and document.

Per Sinek and other scholars on the subject, Purpose correlates to the Why, the What is your business operations and the How is how you get the job done.

We envision the relationship in a similar vein, with the Purpose the resounding and never silent Why, while Mission is the child of the What, the original What being your business and your mission to grow it (your brand promise is based on mission and your values), with the Vision bringing up the rear on Where that mission might take you, the big hairy ambition of your business being encapsulated in Vision. Guiding principles and values are the foundation of your How, in terms of your corporate attitude and behaviours, and help to define the culture of your business, and boy does culture matter! Your purpose is stillborn without it. Specific actions to reach the destination of the mission and vision, are of course encapsulated in Strategy.

When it comes to how to define your brand purpose, there is a place and a purpose for all of the above.

Sinek, an authority on purpose,  believes that people need to see more than just the transcactional elements in the things we do in life, especially the things we have to do, than just the need to do it.

The Golden Circle Presentation | Simon Sinek How to define brand purpose

Copyright Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek’s golden circle simple and clearly shows that purpose while at the heart doesn’t refer to the how and the what but I like to think that the the ‘why’, the purpose, emanates outward, shaping and informing the what and the how.

Why Brand Purpose is important

Why a purpose driven brand? Well, you say, this didn’t seem to matter before so much, why is brand purpose so important? The biggest, strongest and longest standing brands ALL have well defined brand purpose. If with all their hundreds of millions of dollars in ad spend see the importance of it, it must be important indeed. It’s increasingly important as consumers today are quite different from consumers even 20 years ago. They are compelled quite differently in some ways than people seem to use to be. They are looking for, they need an added dimension. People are genuinely interested in the beliefs, ethics  and practices of businessesConsumers are no longer just looking for value in the products, they are looking for values in the purveyor too. This is never more true than where they feel they have many choices. This is why brand purpose is important.  It sets up uniqueness, differentiation and in its wake, loyalty and love.

How to Define your Purpose Driven Brand

We are none of us machines and there is no cast iron process that answers how to define brand purpose. The Why is a great question once it is installed as our Purpose but when it comes to defining the purpose in the first place, then all of the other Ws are just as important – what, who, how, when, where, when. 

What’s the problem you help solve or relieve? Why are you best placed to solve it? How could you be better placed to solve it? What’s the joy/gain/help you bring? What is your remarkable difference? Why is it remarkable?

What do you as a business, as a brand believe in? Why? What do you stand for? What will you never stand for, and this is just as important? Who do you as a brand make or deliver your offering for? Why them? Why those offerings? How do you do it, and why? Why do you love it? How could you love it more? How could they love you more? Why? Is it all aspirational? If it’s not, what’s limiting it?

Are you satisfied your products are seen beyond features and as benefits? If not, which pivots might get you there? Where is the satisfaction? Where does dissatisfaction rankle? 

Write it all down – in a granular way and workshop it with your teams. Themes will start to emerge. A picture will start to form and if it’s one that resonates you are on the home straight. If it does not feel or sound right, keep going until it’s recognisable, relatable and resonant.

It may be that your purpose is already evident in some of the things you do and some of the ways and it needs to be elaborated on. It may be unclear or muddled but the beginnings of it are undeniable. Grasp and embrace that and begin to build it, then live and work by that why visibly and with clarity and honesty.

Then it’s time to go to church, so to speak.

Research for Purpose Clarity, Positioning and People

You’ve workshopped it, you’ve brainstormed it, now it’s time to underpin it, assure it and prove it. Yes, in order to fully define your brand purpose, it’s time for research!

What is the purpose of competitors in your field and even of others in the same value chain? How does your purpose stack up in terms of uniqueness? How can you be sure that your purpose will attract the people you want to do business with? Will the purpose show your uniqueness?

Get the answers, rework until you get to the right answers and then power everything with the clear view of your purpose, from your positioning to your people.

How to be a Purpose Driven Brand in Practice

Create a Brand Strategy

Once the purpose is locked down, it is the time to share this widely in the organisation through seminars and training. Then create your brand strategy. This will bring your purpose alive in the business and keep you honest!.

Match strategies and actions to values and principles.

Live your brand purpose and values in your operations and process, especially with regard to how you treat and nurture your people.

When it comes to business change or a new marketing campaign, always have recourse back to your purpose. Always consider how you protect your brand. Always consider how you support your people to support the campaign or the transformation. Be aligned to your brand strategy because that should always depend on your purpose and is built on it. Walk your talk and leave no room for hypocrisy – if there are gaps in your capability or diversity and inclusion that belie your purpose, well, they will let down your brand. Fix that!

Have a Brand Risk Management Framework

For adverse events, blind spots, reputational damage and crisis, have a robust and test plan for crisis communications and risk mitigations for whenever the brand deviates from its stated purpose in a way that is likely to go public and have a negative impact if it does. What might bring these types of adverse events about? How can they be avoided? How can they be resolved?

Focus on your people and the Employee Experience

Get the right people in your organisation, people who fit with your values and can believe and work for your purpose. Value them and interact with them in positive ways aligned to your values. Honestly assess gaps in your current organisation that mean there are operational or procedural risks that will undermine your purpose and business objectives and remedy those. Attract the right people and keep them to reduce the risks of negative reports and rumours. Understand the opportunities for improving the employee experience within the business.

Focus on your Customers and the Customer Experience (CX)

How much fun is it, how easy is it to interact with your organisation currently? How accessible and available are you? Is it sufficient for your customers? Is it acceptable? Will they leave you given the chance because it is such a faff to get someone to talk to? If switching costs aren’t high, are they disgruntled and likely to speak negatively about you or ask others not to adopt your service? Honestly assess areas where you are not delighting the customer and consider how and when these can be improved through technology, digital or business transformation. Then find interesting ways to engage and entertain customers through the digital opportunities available.

Find out the things and activities that your customers are interested in and get involved in it but only if you care about it, or somebody in your organisation with the emotional intelligent and social nous cares about and can champion it, rally a team to sustain it, and will not get bored spearheading it, and will not be a liability.  Do good visibly and consistently.

Strive for Excellence

Keep an eye on your competitors and how they are changing or improving their delivery or fulfilment processes and consider how this changes the options for your customers so that you can make the moves required not only to maintain your customers but increase opportunities to gain more business and acclaim.

Protect the brand during Business and IT Transformation

Change and business transformation is increasingly necessary for all businesses. Ensure that your brand and impacts to it brought about by new projects are not dealt with as an afterthought. They must be front of mind.

Chinenye Ikwuemesi
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