New in Business? Be a Brand with a Purpose

Brand purpose lies at the centre of your brand vision. It connects consumers to the brand on an emotional level.

Times are changing and so are the people’s preferences. When choosing a brand, consumers are caring for more than just products. They are considering the impact that brands are creating on the world. Take, for instance, Chennai-based Zoho Corporation’s ‘Made in India, Made for the World’ advertisement. The tech firm’s touching campaign focused on India’s traditional cultural diversity and integrated technology as a core part of our life. Want to feel trendy? Look no further than the Delhi-NCR-based start-up Lenskart and its BLU campaign. Developed in-house, it tickles the funny bone and brings India together with the binding power of cricket. In spite of the stark contrast, both brands tell us stories which go much beyond what they are selling – software and eyewear. Instead, one brings forth a nation’s splendour and another, its undying passion for wielding the willow. Look around and you are bound to find that top actionable strategies to build your brand – yes, even a young yet-to-be-discovered brand – is no longer limited to its products. Brand purpose is becoming more important than ever for connecting with consumers.

So, what is Brand Purpose?

Brand purpose is simply the reason why your brand exists beyond making money. It answers the question what does your brand stand for? Brand purpose lies at the centre of your brand vision. It connects consumers to the brand on an emotional level. It is about product-led initiatives that strive to simultaneously achieve business profits and benefit society. A brand purpose offers a clear sense of meaning and direction and inspires actions. It sets the brand on a path towards achieving meaningful goals by adding value to the business and enriching customers’ lives and society at large. 

Brand purpose is at the intersection of a company’s reason for existence and its solutions to its customers’ problems. In his book on ‘Start with Why’, Simon Sinek pointed out that ‘people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it’. He described the golden circle of brand communication through three questions – What, How, and Why. Every company knows ‘What’ they do. It is the products or services they sell. ‘How’ is the process of doing it. It varies from company to company. ‘Why’ is the cause or reason behind a company’s actions. It is not money, as money is the result of these actions. ‘Why’ is the purpose of a company for doing what they do and how they do. Hence, is the most important question among all three. Yet, surprisingly, very few companies know their ‘Why’.


People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it

- Simon Sinek, Authour, Start with Why

Importance of Brand Purpose

There is no denying that profit is the bloodline of the business. But apart from making money, what you do and why you do it matters a lot. Your identity as a brand has a bigger role to play. Brand purpose shows your customers that you are more than your products or services. You are not just selling solutions but contributing to the world. 

The new generation of customers is drawn to the idea that their spending should not only buy products but also help create a difference in the world. Consumers see their purchase as a participation in the greater good by investing their money, time, and goodwill into a purpose. They want to buy from brands whose purposes they personally identify with and whose values and beliefs they reflect on. 

Brand purpose is the underlying essence that makes your brand necessary and relevant to the consumers and makes it irresistible for them. It is the centre of attraction for your company that helps you build wholesome brand-consumer relationships, leading to the long-term success of your brand. 

How to Find Brand Purpose

Brand purpose is unique for every company. Finding the right purpose of your brand is crucial to your business success. It should be steeped in authenticity and have genuine roots. If you try to fake it or create one just for the sake of it, it would not work. 

Brand purpose is a double-edged sword. A lot of brands that do not get it right have to deal with its consequences. A misleading brand purpose is called out by consumers for its inauthenticity and opportunism. A recent example of this is the customer outrage against Pepsi when it featured an ad framing Kendall Jenner with a can of soda as a peacemaker between civil rights activists and police during the US racial discrimination protests. The ad was seen as a capitalizing move on a social cause and was highly criticized, which resulted in Pepsi pulling out the ad and apologizing publicly. 

The right brand purpose is about having a moral value relevant to your brand and industry. It should give a reason for your customers to believe in you and choose you over your competitors. Dove is a successful example of a powerful brand purpose. Its ‘beauty for all shapes and sizes’ campaign has been so successful that the brand became synonymous with self-esteem. Dove took on a noble cause and executed it with authenticity at its core. As their purpose impacts women’s lives and improves society, their brand grew manifold. 

Steps to Find Brand Purpose

Finding the right brand purpose is a result of different meaningful actions. The first and foremost one among them is listening to your consumers at different stages. Since your purpose is something greater than only commercial gains, you should look beyond the purchasing habits of the customers and find out what their values are.

Understand consumers’ perspective:

The sentiments of your consumers vary widely. They change across borders, countries, or even neighbourhoods. You need to identify the personal values of your consumers that triggers a buying action. For this, you should focus on the key psychological indicators such as: 

  1. Attitudes and interests
  2. Lifestyle motivations
  3. Self-perceptions
  4. Perceptions on wider life

Find out the reasons for starting your business: 

The fundamental origins of your business play a major role in your brand purpose. Ask yourself why you started the business in the first place. It can be for financial freedom, to solve a problem, or to share your talent or craft with the world. Whatever it is, be completely honest with yourself to find out the true values that your business stands on.

Identify the change your customers want: 

Think about your ideal customers. What values do they have and what change they want to see in the world? What are their beliefs and worries and what issues are important to them? The answers to these questions will provide you with a basic understanding of the parameters on which your brand purpose should be based on. 

Discover your strengths and uniqueness:

In today’s world, where the marketplace is populated with similar products and services, it is important for you to understand what makes you unique and sets you apart from your competitors. What is it that you are really good at? What are the strong characteristics that define you as a brand? 

Create an exclusive brand experience: 

To establish a meaningful brand purpose, you need to have a distinctive brand identity. And for this, your brand must provide special and memorable experiences to its customers that become the defining adjectives for your brand. Notice what emotions does your brand trigger when your customers talk about you with their peers. 

Analyse brand and competitor data: 

Brand data provide you realistic figures about the reception of your brand among its consumers. It enables you to see your brand reputation along with that of your competitors. It uncovers customers’ opinions and attitudes. Thus, helping you develop an action plan on how to challenge their perceptions, improve opinions, and develop positive sentiments.

Test your ideas and concepts: 

A misguided purpose can backfire on your brand. Therefore, it is important that once you create a message and develop an action plan for your brand purpose, you must test it. You need to ensure that your brand purpose must relate to people and is transparent in its intent. 

What the World Is Doing (for Better and Worse)

A brand purpose can be a tricky thing. If it is not done right, it may bring more harm than doing any good for the company. Many big brands and business leaders struggle with their purpose either because they do not understand it fully or their purpose is not rooted in authenticity and relevance. On the other hand, some businesses elevate from zero to millions solely because of their purpose. Many start-ups that get their purpose right benefit highly from it. 

For instance, Warby Parker, an eyewear brand, broke into the market in 2010 with the purpose of making eyewear affordable for everyone. Their brand purpose was derived from their observation of the eyewear market. They found that the majority of the eyewear brands are dominated by a single giant company, ‘Luxottica’ as it had licensing deals with brands like Versace, Ralph Lauren, Ray-Ban, Oakley, etc. So, the market price was set by them. Warby Parker challenged that domination with the concept of affordable glasses. They leaped from not even having a website to a $3 billion value pretty quickly. Not only this, but they also expanded their purpose through their non-profit works and distributed more than 4 million pairs of glasses to people in need. Warby’s brand purpose is an inspiration for many start-ups looking to make a big name in their industries.

Another great example of brand purpose is Axe/Lynx. It is an established brand that reviewed their purpose when they discovered that more than 72% of guys in society are told to behave in a certain way to become manly. This led to increased searches on google with questions like ‘Is it ok for guys to do this or that?’. Axe, with their ‘find your magic’ campaign, established the purpose to help guys celebrate their individuality. They encouraged guys to be themselves and be as attractive as they can be. Any established brand can learn from Axe as to how to ace their brand purpose with the changing time. 

However, there have been times when many big and established brands have drastically failed in implementing the relevant purpose or communicating it rightly with their audience. This has caused great damages to brands, including massive public outrage for their opportunism. Starbucks, a brand purpose pioneer, has been a victim of misleading communication of the brand purpose. During the racial protests in the US, Starbucks with its ‘Race Together’ campaign, invited baristas to write ‘race together’ on their coffee cups to stimulate conversation and compassion for races. But the public saw this as an inauthentic move from Starbucks since only two of its 19 executives were black. Moreover, people also criticized the photos of the campaign as there were no black hands for the representation of races. The audience outrage to this campaign was so strong that the head of communications of Starbucks had to suspend his Twitter account temporarily. 

Another tragic brand purpose failure was from Coopers Australia when the company joined forces with The Bible Society Australia. In their ‘Keeping It Light’ video campaign, their guests discussed same-sex marriage which led to a public backlash within minutes of the launch of the video. People criticized the brand with #BoycottCoopers on Twitter and commented ‘never drinking Coopers bear again’ on their Facebook page. There was a nationwide boycott of the brand and pubs switched off Coopers tap. At last, to stop the criticism, the brand had to come in front of the camera and issue an apology with full support on same-sex marriage.

These examples show that brand purpose can be the true asset on which your brand stands or it can be a weapon that does your self-harm. It all depends on clear communication, authenticity, timing, and execution of your purpose. Without all these factors in place, you will look like just another business trying to leverage a social cause or sensitive issue. A brand should give proper thought and consideration to its brand purpose, to reap its benefits without any harm. To establish a relevant brand purpose, you should:

  • Dig deep into the roots of the company
  • Understand the pain-points and beliefs of the stakeholders
  • Identify the motivation of leadership

The most important thing to keep in mind is to not do something you are not committed to. Keep your brand purpose contextual and actionable. Take up a cause that your values reflect with. It does not have to be a revolutionary idea. A small business or start-up can start by taking up smaller everyday causes to tackle and further develop as a brand purpose along the way. 

Outcomes and Benefits

Brand purpose is the foundation of your brand. Building a strong and meaningful brand purpose has endless benefits. It helps you build customer recognition and drive a competitive edge in the market. Customers that share the same values as that of your brand purpose become loyal to your brand. It also enhances your credibility and reputation in the marketplace. A powerful brand purpose alleviates your brand socially as well as commercially.   

Commercial benefits:

Havas’ Meaningful Brands study suggests that a relevant brand purpose multiplies the wallet-share of brands 9 times. Brands with an active purpose outperform the stock market by 206 per cent over 10 years span. A meaningful purpose helps increase KPI’s of brands by 137 per cent in comparison to those that do not have one.    

A strong sense of purpose has a positive impact on:

1.Brand Advocacy

2.Customer Loyalty

3.Higher Quality Products & Services

4.Employee Satisfaction

5.Transformation Efforts

Social benefits:

Brand purpose also benefits social causes that include the environment, races, individuals, sexes, groups, genders, countries, cultures, and continents, etc. Reports suggest that brands that empower society and improve sustainable living grow over 50% faster than the rest of the others. Purpose-driven brands help society by:

1.Inspiring actions and positive change

2.Impacting communities

3.Improving the health of the planet and society

4.Creating value for customers

5.Providing employees with a sense of meaning

6.Creating a better world for future generations

Activate Brand Purpose

The first and foremost way of activating your brand’s purpose is by implementing it in your company culture. Your employees should live your brand purpose every day. Your brand is the co-creation of people inside, that is, your employees, and outside, that is, your customers. Customers are active stakeholders who invest their time, money, and attention in your brand. So, all your important decisions should be based on them. 

Brand Purpose is not just a word. It’s an action. Having a meaningful purpose is important, but it is equally important to put it into constant action. Once you formulate the right purpose for your brand, the focus should be on keeping it relevant in the fast-changing environment. With changing times, your stakeholder’s interests and priorities also change. Having a robust brand purpose means you need to re-evaluate your values, solutions, and customer-experiences regularly to stay at the top of your business game. 

Your brand purpose is your lasting legacy for change. So, establish one that connects consumers, tells your story, and build authentic relationships that ensure business success. 

DU Desk
DU Desk
Stories from DU Desk are the collective efforts of our in-house authors, guest authors and subject matter experts who collate and distill their ideas and thoughts to bring out actionable insights for our readers.

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