All for one and one for all: are you harnessing the unifying power of brand purpose?

All for one and one for all: are you harnessing the unifying power of brand purpose?

Has your organisation defined its brand purpose yet? If it’s something you’ve always dismissed as touchy-feely marketing stuff, you’re probably not alone. But you are almost certainly missing out on its potential to increase your profits, attract talent, and inspire brand loyalty. According to Richard Branson: “The brands that will thrive in the coming years are the ones that have a purpose beyond profit.” And he knows a thing or two about making a business fly.

What is brand purpose?

Your purpose is why you do what you do. It determines the way that you do it. And it sets you apart from your competition.

Think of it as a unifying statement that takes in your relationship with your customers, employees and the wider world. It’s the reason you exist, the reason why you make money, and the driver that gives your business direction and meaning.

A clear focus for everything you do

Identifying your brand’s purpose helps ground your organisation. Take Waitrose’s “Food to feel good about”: it’s a clear statement that ensures employees, customers and stakeholders know why they’re in business, and helping them focus on what’s important. It’s the key to an effective, long-term brand strategy.

With a clearly defined brand purpose you’ll find it easier to:
• find customers who share your outlook and build a strong relationship with them
• recruit team members who believe in what you do and work hard to achieve it
• identify a clear difference between you and the competition, and
• make strategic business decisions.

Simon Sinek puts it like this: “In order to stand out, we first have to know what we stand for.” In fact, his seminal Ted Talk: “Start with Why…” is a useful place to begin if you’re trying to identify your brand purpose.

His central idea is that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Sell to people who buy into ‘why you do it’ and they’ll become a loyal customer and brand ambassador. Hire people who buy into ‘why you do it’, and they won’t just work, they’ll be motivated, engaged and stay with you longer.

Why it matters

Sinek’s ideas are borne out by a quantity of research that suggests customers now expect purpose-driven brands, something that we highlighted in our recent article on marketing to Gen Z.  A 2018 report from Accenture found that increasingly, consumers are not just making their choices based on product selection or price: “They are assessing what a brand says, what it does, and what it stands for. They support companies whose brand purpose aligns with their beliefs. And they reject those that don’t, with one in five walking away forever.”

In the same way, purpose, more than money, motivates the best employees to work, make a difference, and bond as a team. Organisations with a clear purpose are more likely to attract and retain the best talent.

Your purpose may not be to change the world. It may simply be to create tastier, fresher soup. But people still want to see your values, and if or how they align with theirs.

Though price and quality are still vital, research by Porter Novelli in 2020 found that:

• 79% of people believe companies should work to address social justice issues
• 78% of consumers would recommend products from a purpose-driven company
• 66% would switch from their usual supplier to buy from a purpose-driven company
• 79% would be more loyal to a brand driven by purpose than one that isn’t.

Their report comes to a simple conclusion: Purpose-driven business is smart business.

How to define your brand purpose – our top tips.

1. Start by asking why your brand exists:

• Why and how did you start your business?
• What problems are you trying to solve / what solution do you offer?
• How will you make life better for your customer?
• What are your unique strengths?
• What are you passionate about as a brand?

2. Distil your answers down to a simple statement:

“Our purpose is to [action] so that [outcome]”. 

Keep it as short, simple and focused as possible. Crayola’s ‘Unleash the originality in every child’ is a great example. Your purpose doesn’t have to matter to everyone – but it should matter to your target customer.

3. Add some feeling

Bringing some emotion into your brand purpose is a sure-fire way to connect with your audience. Do you want to make your customers feel excited, safe, optimistic, part of something useful?

Jim Stengel, former CMO of Procter & Gamble, suggests choosing a brand purpose from one of five human values to drastically improve your results:

Eliciting Joy – activating experiences of happiness, wonder, and limitless possibility
Enabling Connection – enhancing the ability of people to connect with each other and the world in meaningful ways
Inspiring Exploration – helping people explore new horizons and new experiences
Evoking Pride – giving people increased confidence, strength, security, and vitality
Impacting Society – affecting society broadly, from challenging the status quo to redefining categories.

When Pampers shifted its focus from trying to sell the best disposable nappies to helping mothers care for their babies’ and toddlers’ happy, healthy development – enabling connections – the brand tripled in size over 15 years.

4. Put it into practice

Your purpose should provide you with practical guidance. Dove’s purpose “To make a positive experience of beauty accessible to every woman” feels genuine because they guarantee to feature women rather than models, and portray them as they are in real life without digitally altering their images.

5. Don’t be afraid to evolve

Your brand purpose can evolve as your brand does. Yvon Chouinard founded Patagonia so that people could explore wild places, which eventually led him to the conclusion that the company should also protect wild places, and exist for the good of the entire planet. The purpose has grown with the company.

Quality, price and value will always be the bedrock of any business’s success. If your soup is bland or over-priced, then a strong purpose won’t necessarily fix that. But if your soup is good and tasty, then the new question is not ‘what do you do?’ but ‘why do you do?’ And if you’re not ready with an answer, expect your customers to go looking for their lunch elsewhere.