As branding consultants, traditionally the first question we ask any potential client is "what is your brand purpose", followed by "How are you delivering on it?". From those responses, we judge the extent to which an organisation requires a branding solution.
In the 21st century, however, standard business practices are moving on from making money, a RoI (return on investment) and shareholder satisfaction to encompass a whole new world of purpose — dovetailing consumer expectations of buying into more than just an empty brand promise.
Every company should have, a defining purpose, one that goes beyond the "sell" principle.
Questions that need to be asked and answered are why as a business you make the products you do, or the services you supply. The "what" and the "how" are for your own boardroom, not for dissemination to the public at large.
A brand-driven defining purpose can be elevated beyond an organisation's business objectives.
It answers the seemingly philosophical question of "What are we here for?" It emphasises not just the profit principle but also highlights customer satisfaction.
This is a corporate process. It needs to begin by taking the time to sit with stakeholders to reflect on the brand's defined purpose.
Once a unifying thought is reached, only then can you decide on the type of leadership needed, measures needed to communicate this message through your organisation to motivate stakeholders, and, most importantly, how to build relationships defined by this purpose with your customers.
Response to products
Connection and relevant communication is key. Customers have matured in their response to products, logos, packaging and trademarks.
They have become savvy about marketing gimmicks, and are now searching for products and services that suit their new lifestyles.
They are big on technology and strong on issues such as the environment, sustainability and morality.
The concept was perhaps typified by Wal-Mart. Other global brands that exemplify this new attitude over and beyond a snappy slogan include:
- P&G (To touch and improve the lives of those we serve);
- PepsiCo (Good for All Is Good for Business);
- Coca-Cola (To create value for everyone touched by our business by providing, with passion and focus, the right refreshment, at the right price, in the right place);
- McDonalds (To be our customers' favourite place and way to eat).
These are household names supported by brand teams that are ahead of the game.
But the smallest company can take lessons from that process of defining brand purpose.
This is simply an extension of what was once perhaps intrinsic in corporate structure but has taken on new significance in an age of mass consumerism.
Purpose driven brands appreciate the following fundamentals:
- Price differential is not enough to boost sales and customer loyalty;
- The web media landscape means that noise and clutter directly impacts a consumer's choice — any marketing budget can be wasted simply trying to be heard;
- Brands must develop not only differentiated messages but also deliver on relevance. Basing brand communications on product-based attributes is simply not enough.
Thanks to social media, there is a new breed of new brand ambassadors — online consumers who will readily share, tweet or status update their recent experience with a brand.
These can drive up important new-age measures like engagement and net-promoter scores.
In the long term, the definition of brand purpose is not only a moral imperative, it's now becoming a tried and tested strategy to, yes, make money, sell more products, and grow shareholder value.
The old parameters of business might have changed, but the initials stay the same as purpose driven brand redefine RoI as a return on involvement.
The writer is executive client director at The Brand Union, a strategic branding consultancy.