Why Brand Purpose is Good Business
I’m going to start off by saying, this one is close to my heart. As a passionate advocate for the power of a brand, you’ll get no arguments from me around the importance of having a purpose that can help align a team in their day-to-day work.
But the focus on purpose in many companies has started to feel a little tenuous, and recent events have only magnified this. My mission here is to try and clear the air a little.
The recent kerfuffle about the veracity of findings in a recent study on Brand Purpose presented by Peter Field at the IPA Eff Week (which our Senior Strategist Caspar Yuill goes into in more depth in his latest piece) ultimately may have done more harm than good.
Aside from scepticism around the methodology, the issue for me is more about definition or terms of reference. Field works with a narrow definition of brand purpose as “…improving health, the environment, human development” and so on. Lofty stuff. This is often referred to as ‘cause-related’ marketing, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and more recently (yes, another acronym), ESG. And whilst it’s great that businesses want to take a stance on a topic that’s important to them, it’s also important to remember we’re not all Tesla or Patagonia. It’s often not realistic or even necessary for brands to adopt this worthy approach.
Instead, brand purpose should be more broadly viewed as ‘a reason for being, beyond just making money’. Your ‘Why do you exist?’ This is important because while pretty much every business exists to make money, to be distinctive, you need something more than a financial goal. And it needs to be core to the product or service you provide.
Whatever your purpose, it shouldn’t be an after-thought or bolt on – it needs to be central to all that you do: the way you present yourself to market; the products you make and how you make them; who & how you recruit; the associations you make; the charities you support. Everything.
Your purpose really comes into play when you start thinking about the people that make up your business. If you were to tell them your employee value proposition (EVP) was: ‘Work for me, so I can make lots of money,’ chances are they’re not going to be driven to over-deliver.
Instead, having an ownable and compelling brand purpose allows you to articulate equally inspiring employee and customer value propositions. A strong brand purpose will easily inspire initiatives and behaviours for your employees to live on a daily basis. This tends to naturally stimulate your team to generate their own ideas to organically and authentically grow your brand.
We’re the perfect example. AFFINITY’s brand purpose is around championing the power of thinking, while our EVP is for our people to go to bed smarter than when they woke up. These have been the catalysts for some fantastic initiatives which I wish I could take credit for, but it really comes down to a team that buys into the purpose of the business.
For some other examples, I highly encourage reading this HBR article on the value of putting purpose at the core of your brand. From my perspective, there’s a clear difference between the brands this article (and the eight year study that led to it) looks at, compared to the more campaign-based adoption of purpose in the Field study.
Purpose must be more than just another marketing buzzword, although you don’t need to necessarily feel pressure to save the world too. Done right it creates a genuine reason to work somewhere, to buy a brand, to recommend to others. And the commercial benefits will follow.
If you’d like help to articulate or instil purpose for your brand, I’d love nothing more than to have conversation with you about how we can help. Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Better input always leads to greater outcomes
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