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Most Brands Fail by Stopping Just Short of a Brand Purpose

Humans are driven by meaning and purpose same as the corporate entities. How does the branding of stores impact the buying behavior of consumers?

Of course, profits are key to running a business, but that’s not its purpose. The brand purpose is the reason your brand exists, which is more than just money. You created your business to improve the lives of your customers by solving their problems, and that’s where you can create an emotional connection.

What Is a Brand Purpose?

Brands used to be in the power position. They spoke to customers and dictated the terms of the relationship, regardless of what the consumer thought. The philosophy was that if a customer didn’t like the brand, they could move on.

Consumers have more choice, and more power, than ever before.

As more brands develop their online presence, consumers are given an outlet to share opinions, express displeasure, and in numbers, force a brand to change.

Now, when a customer voices an opinion, brands listen up.

The Value of Brand Purpose for Customers

Humans are driven by meaning and purpose. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, everyone has the need for love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization, which is the desire to achieve your true purpose.

People are conscious of their purpose and place and seek relationships that align with their own beliefs and values, not just with other people, but with brands. In an effort to connect with consumers, brands can show their “human side” with distinct personality traits and ideals.

Why Do Brands Need Purpose?

The internet and social media give consumers direct access to brands. If consumers aren’t happy about something a brand is doing, they can share it. If enough of them have an opinion, they can shift the decisions the brand makes.

Consumers are quick to share their opinions about products, services, or brand actions, often forcing change. This gives consumers more power.

Effective brands are proactive in controlling this narrative. They consider what customers want and how they can take a proactive approach in addressing those wants and needs, both with product- or service-related concerns or concerns about social justice issues or ethical practices.

This shift in power led to the trend of purpose-driven brands.

How to Connect with Customers Through Brand Purpose

Another aspect of this trend came from a Ted Talk from Simon Sinek in 2009. Now infamous, the “Start with Why” Ted Talk and the concept of the Golden Circle became a benchmark for brands and business leaders.

To this day, the “Start with Why” talk is one of the most-watched Ted Talks in history. Simon Sinek even created a book on the topic that’s an essential in marketing and branding.

In the book, Sinek considers the “why” or purpose in branding and the reasons behind some brands skyrocketing to success while others fall flat. Apple is a common example – for good reason. According to Sinek, that’s because “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

In essence, the brand purpose.

The Golden Circle creates a framework for how brands communicate.

Every brand knows what they do, as in the products or services they offer.

Some brands know how they do it, as in how they conduct business and their unique selling points.

Few brands know why they do it. They may think it’s about money or profits, but that’s not the brand’s purpose. They need to know the why, or the purpose or belief that spurred them to create their brand.

Regardless of the business size or industry, the most inspiring and lasting brands understand why they do what they do, and that is why they guide their communications.

Here are some questions to ask to determine your brand purpose:

  • Why did you start your business?
  • What are your unique strengths or selling points?
  • What do you want your brand to be known for?
  • What change are you trying to bring to the world?
  • What change are you trying to bring to your industry?
  • What changes do your customers want to see?
  • Why does your brand exist? And not just profits.

How to Write a Brand Purpose Statement

The idea of purpose is a good start, but it needs to go beyond just an abstract concept. You need to turn your idea of purpose into a clear and impactful statement.

Do you see common themes or trends in the answers to the previous questions? That’s a good start.

Our purpose is to [contribution] so that [impact]

It may take a few tries and edits, but it starts the brainstorming process to come up with your own unique brand purpose.

Here are some examples of brands that got it right:

Starbucks: To inspire and nurture the human spirit one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.

Starbucks has been a pioneer in the idea of brand purpose with substance. The company champions sustainability, fair trade, and farmer equity practices. It’s also involved in social causes that draw attention from customers.

Patagonia: We’re in the business to save our home planet.

Patagonia is an outdoor outfitter, and it knows the customers are adventurers. Presumably, people who spend time in nature appreciate it and want to protect it, so the purpose aligns with the customer’s beliefs.

To support their own statement, Patagonia made great strides toward protecting the environment with initiatives like supporting grassroots environmental efforts, reducing corporate waste, and switching to organically grown and ethically sourced cotton.

Expensify: To enable professionals to focus on what they were born to do.

Expensify’s brand purpose is a remarkable example. The founder, David Barrett, started the company because he didn’t like doing expense reports. He found an opportunity to give people their time back to focus on different pursuits.

If he had sold his product as a software solution for scanning and reporting receipts, it probably wouldn’t have been impactful – just like how Apple probably wouldn’t have gotten as far selling a phone. He positioned his product as a solution that allows employees to save time on manual tasks, and that’s why it resonated with companies big and small.

Find Your Brand Purpose

Having a clear, defined brand purpose that starts with “why” is crucial to developing a strong and meaningful connection with your customers. Once you understand your “why” for your business, it will shape your business decisions, relationships, and culture moving forward.

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Kyle Johnston, President, Gigasavvy
Kyle Johnston is a Founding Partner and President of award winning brand, content creation & creative agency, Gigasavvy in Orange County. After spending the last 20+ years in Southern California, Kyle recently moved his family to Boise, ID where he continues to lead the agency through their next phase of growth.

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