16 December 2020|Business Growth, Latest Posts, Launching a business, Marketing, PR, Promotion
What’s your brand’s purpose? You’d be surprised how many companies I speak to don’t have an answer to this question. They tell me what their company does, and what makes their product or service better than the competition but that doesn’t really answer the question. A brand’s purpose is in essence the reason it does what it does, other than to simply make money.
Does it matter what this purpose is or whether you have one? I’d argue it does. Not least because consumers these days are increasingly buying based on their beliefs. They don’t simply want to buy that coffee. They want to buy a coffee with a host of other things attached to it; perhaps it has been locally roasted, created by an independent coffee producer, or it’s from somewhere where the producer gets a fair cut of the action or maybe it’s the most eco-friendly brand. I’m not saying people want corporate social responsibility or the environment attached to all their purchasing decisions, but they expect the brands they buy to have a ‘purpose’ which resonates with them.
Research bears this out. The 2019 Edelman Brand Trust study found that that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of consumers around the world now buy on belief. This is a 13-point increase on 2017. These belief-driven buyers (BDBs) choose, switch, avoid or boycott a brand based on where it stands on the political or social issues they care about.
BDBs are not some niche group. They are now the majority in every market, across all age groups and all income levels. For instance, almost as many consumers that Edelman studied aged 35-to-54 buy on belief as 18-to-34-year-olds, and the most impressive gains come from the older cohort, with an 18-point increase among people aged 55 years or more.
Knowing and communicating your brand’s purpose is vital, almost no matter what you sell, where you sell it, or who you sell it to.
What is a Brand Purpose
How do you identify your own brand’s purpose? First you need to recognise that it’s not the same as your brand’s promise. Your promise is what consumers can expect from your products and services. Your purpose is much more than this; it’s your reason for being, the stuff which gives your business its ‘passion’; it’s where your product/service and your contribution to society meet.
Let’s look at a real-world example to explain all of this. Consider Timpson, the shop that among other things repairs shoes, watches, jewellery and mobile phones, cuts keys, dry cleans clothes, engraves stuff and prints photos. That’s what it does – but the way it goes about doing this really highlights its brand purpose.
Timpson believes business should be about making a difference not just making a profit; its way of making a difference involves helping people who society perhaps doesn’t normally prioritise. A tenth of the company’s employees are ex-offenders and at least seven of the group’s 2,000-plus stores are run by people still serving their sentences, who are able to work under day release schemes. These staff members have been trained at two women’s and five men’s training academies inside prison facilities, all funded by Timpson. The company spent more than £692,000 on recruiting, retraining, mentoring and other support for ex-offenders via its charitable foundation last year, with activities including training schemes in prisons to help people prepare for when they get out.
You can see how that sense of purpose fundamentally shapes how Timpson runs its business. However, importantly for marketers, the purpose also informs the services it offers; for instance, mindful of other groups struggling to find work, the company has offered a free suit cleaning service for the unemployed attending interviews, who can’t afford the service.
Now just because Timpson’s purpose is all about doing good, doesn’t mean every purpose has to be rooted in corporate social responsibility.
Let’s look at another purpose to prove this point – Ikea. Its stated aim is “to create better everyday life for the many people.” This utterly impacts on the products it offers, the price point it operates at, the location of its stores, their look and feel and so forth.
Advantages of Having Purpose
As already mentioned, having a clear purpose which customers understand, helps with sales. But it also provides an emotional connection between a brand and its customers; this drives greater loyalty and more recommendations. Customers who ‘buy into’ a purpose are much less likely to shop around and much more likely to defend a business when others criticise it. They have some ‘emotional skin in the game.’
Companies with a clear, relatable purpose also find it easier to distinguish themselves from competitors and they recruit with greater ease. It also makes the company’s wider decision-making much easier. When you know what your purpose is, the things you should do – and shouldn’t, become much more clear-cut. Your marketing becomes more defined. It’s much easier to identify partners you should work with, causes you should support, initiatives you should start and campaigns which will resonate.
Internal communications become clearer too. If staff understand and ‘get’ your purpose, they see more clearly why they’re doing what they’re doing, they get more job satisfaction and they feel they’re part of something that matters. As a result, they’re much more likely to enthuse about you as an employer.
How to Develop It
So, I’ve convinced you of the power of purpose, but how do you develop one? Here are some golden rules to help you.
Firstly, remember you can’t just bolt it on. Your purpose cannot be some marketing gimmickry, people will see through that. Your purpose needs to resonate with what you do and how you do it.
It’s also needs to be a long-term commitment, you can’t have one purpose one year, and a different one the next. That’s a temporary marketing tactic. If you are fixing on your purpose, be prepared to live with it (and up to it) for the long-term.
Just because you haven’t already written down a purpose doesn’t mean you don’t have one. Even if it wasn’t established and expressed at the outset, you may well find that your business has a purpose which has developed over time. You will be able to perhaps see it in the way you do things, the people you work for and so forth. Sit back, think about why you do what you do; what’s the difference your business is trying to make; look beyond the bottom line, explore what excites you!
Let me sign off by sharing our purpose. At Energy PR we provide top quality, big agency-calibre communications services to great challenger businesses which deserve to be better known but can’t afford to go the big agency route.
We do this because we passionately believe these brilliant, challenger businesses are where the future growth of the UK economy will come from. Through promoting them we’re accelerating their business growth, supporting innovators and exporters, increasing employment and driving UK prosperity.
About the Author
Louise Findlay-Wilson is a regular speaker and commentator on PR, digital and social media and owns leading agency, Energy PR. In a PR career spanning over 30 years, Louise has worked with a huge array of B2B and consumer brands. From major names such as the BBC, Lloyds Bank, Capita, Cap Gemini, Schwartz, 20th Century Fox and St Paul’s Cathedral through to exciting, ambitious start-ups and fast-growing SMEs – helping them use PR to drive and accelerate their growth.
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