Henry Ford was quoted as saying of his vehicles ‘you can have any colour you like, so long as it is black’, but long gone are the days of businesses solely being the province of lauded-yet-feared ‘big guys’ whose words were obeyed by customers and whose way was always considered the ‘right’ way.
Now, as feedback and communication between brands and customers becomes almost instantaneous, and consumer champions continue to rise up in marketplaces crowded with new entrants and bold products, businesses must adjust and model themselves less on ‘profit first’ and more on ‘customer first’. Differentiating themselves from the competition and ensuring they are able to remain focused and working toward a common goal is imperative.
Identifying the need for a Brand Purpose may come from a variety of sources. Customers may be leaving negative reviews, consumer perception of the brand may be skewed or the business’ positioning in the market may be unclear. The companies who understand and truly learn from customer feedback, opinions and experiences are often those who first recognise the requirement for a formalised set Brand Purpose (read more about how to respond to negative reviews).
If the experience that customers are having does not match up to the achievement of work toward the overall business objective, improvement needs to be made.
What is Brand Purpose?
WARC define Brand Purpose as “a reason for a business to exist beyond making profit”, and Marketing Week suggests it is a way to embed brand values into a company’s DNA. A Brand Purpose is a long-term goal, a reason for operations and the underpin of everything the business does. While charities have long shown a brand purpose at the heart of all their activity, commercial businesses often struggle to adopt such a meaning in the same way.
Examples of Brand Purpose
A Brand Purpose is not a short-term charity-giving initiative or a CSR programme, and needn’t be philanthropic. It should be a goal toward which the business is constantly working and to which all activity the business undertakes can be focused.
Crayola’s Brand Purpose is “encouraging children to be creative and enabling parents to inspire them”, while Dove’s is “discovering the real value of beauty and improving self-esteem”. Electrical giant Apple claims to “empower creative exploration and self-expression” and Brewdog says its aim is “to bring craft beer to the people and ensure we have a planet to brew beer on”. All are not just explicitly aimed at the promotion of brand-specific products, but can be adapted and expanded to cover off a whole host of different activities along the way.
Why a Brand Purpose is essential
A Brand Purpose underpinning a business’s progress provides a consistent focus and ‘why’ for those working within it, but it is also now considered best practice. As concerns for ethical business, sustainable operations and equality programmes widen across society as a whole, consumers are continually looking to purchase from and work with businesses with a clear, set purpose. A survey by Accenture found that Millennials and Gen Z were driving this change in patronage as they looked beyond the brand basics to better understand what a business says, does and aims for. What’s more, over half of UK customers interviewed as part of the survey believed engagement with businesses was at an all-time high — believing that their words and actions interacting with businesses could or would influence a brand’s reaction to an event or stance on an issue. This highlights that it’s not just Brand Purpose that is essential, but also the ability of the organisation to learn, move and develop with it.
How to identify the ‘right’ Brand Purpose for your business
Of course, what is the appropriate Brand Purpose for one company may not be for another, and likely all organisations will have unique goals. A Brand Purpose may be derived from an existing goal or mission, and Brand Values should underpin the way in which a business works toward its purpose.
If a company is searching for its Brand Purpose but failing to identify what that should be, they should consider the products or services they provide and think deeply about why they are being offered. Does the business operate to make things easier for the customer? To make things more enjoyable for the customer? To give more empowerment or automation to the customer? All may be founding principles upon which a Brand Purpose can be created.
It is not enough, however, to just say that a Brand’s Purpose is to ‘be the best’ as an ill-defined purpose may lead to a mismatch between consumer perceptions and reality. Instead, insight can be acquired from customers (both existing customers and potential customers). Asking and understanding from them the values they expect the organisation to hold, along with how they expect to be treated, what communications they expect, and what aspects of the business hold value for them, can identify not just areas for improvement and celebration, but also underline the direction the business should be moving in.
When a business genuinely holds pride and passion in its industry and operations, it can hold purpose. And from there, profits can follow.