By Peter Maiden, CEO and Founder, CONVICTS
By now we all know that brand purpose is dominating conversations in the business world. We were all there for 2020. We saw what happened. We understand, on a gut level, why consumers want to know what the core intention of a brand is. And, we know that a vote with our wallet matters.
We want to give our dollars to brands that are working toward a vision of a better world that aligns with our own. Brands that have a purpose other than profit – whether that’s supporting black-owned businesses or getting more people to enjoy the great outdoors – are the logical choice for mindful consumers in the saturated marketplaces of today.
Between two products of identical quality and cost, today’s consumers will choose the product that stands for something they support ten out of ten times. We promise. So how does a brand manifest a purpose that is actionable, sincere, and inspiring to consumers?
We’ll unpack the answer to that question in three parts.
WHY IS PURPOSE IMPORTANT?
A brand’s mission anchors the identity of a company: it’s the reason for existing, the why that keeps everything focused. The glue of purpose holds a company together through the disagreements and challenges that any business inevitably faces. It’s intuitive that employees want to be a part of an organization that aligns with their core values. TINYpulse’s most recent Employee Retention Report found that employees are likely to be more productive and happier in their roles when they feel personally fulfilled by their jobs.
Plus, purpose is a key driver of perceived brand value. According to the Porter Novelli/Cone Purpose Biometrics Study, 86% of individuals stated that they are more likely to trust a company that leads with purpose. Accenture found that consumers prefer to purchase products or services from companies that are rooted in purpose. This is especially true of younger generations. Fifty-five percent of Gen Z and 60% of Millennials choose to buy from brands that reflect their stance on social issues.
And, the Zeno Strength of Purpose Study found that an engaged consumer is 5 times more likely to champion a brand to friends and family. What’s better than word of mouth to help spread a message?
HOW DO YOU DEFINE YOUR PURPOSE?
Brand purpose anchors the identity of a company: it’s the reason for existing, the why that keeps everything focused.
The definition or redefinition of a brand’s purpose begins with a sincere inward look. Connecting with teams across all levels provides insight into the things employees are passionate about. This opens a space to ask questions about the core “whys” and “whats” of the business: why do we exist, what do we do, how do we behave, and how do we want to be perceived as a brand?
Next, a brand needs to examine external cultural factors to see what resonates and aligns with the insights gathered internally. A valuable resource is the UN Sustainable Development Goals which is a compilation of “17 interlinked global goals designed to be a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.”
Developing a true purpose is not easy. That’s where purpose-driven agencies can help. With the support of a dedicated purpose agency of record, brands can effectively define and act upon their purpose. This can be achieved in part through a series of steps that include countless hours of discussion and dissecting what a company aims to achieve as a business, how that goal is threaded throughout company touchpoints inside and out, and how employees’ words and actions bring purpose to life. This allows brands to keep their guiding purpose as responsive and relevant, as it is consistent.
HOW CAN BRANDS BRING PURPOSE TO LIFE?
One of the most crucial aspects of successfully maintaining brand purpose is making sure it comes through in everything a brand does. Being true to purpose means being consistent with messaging internally and externally and showing how deeply committed the brand is to purpose when aligning with tentpole events or reacting to newscycle events. As a brand just brandishing pink in October for Breast Cancer Awareness or a rainbow across your logo in June to support PRIDE Month is not enough. Employees, partners, and customers want to know that along with distributing pink ribbons at the 3K road race, the brand also financially supports increased women’s health research or that in addition to sharing the stories of LGBTQ employees on social media, the brand is also willing to legislate for trans rights.
The same holds true of news cycle events that lead to social movements. The racial reckoning that followed the murder of George Floyd and led to black squares across Instagram feeds and statements on racial equality across LinkedIn from CEOs is a prime example of brands taking a position to show solidarity. But what matters, if brands are truly committed to purpose and change, is their actions after; how did a brand change its practices to follow through on what they say they support? Customers, partners, employees, and media are holding companies accountable.
PURPOSE DOES NOT HAVE TO BEEN ALWAYS SERIOUS. IT CAN BE FUN. OUR WRITER ONCE SAID, WE ARE “NEVER SERIOUS, ALWAYS SINCERE”.
As an example, we were deeply disturbed by 2021s wave of hatred against Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities so we partnered with Some Neat Place, to produce a series called TRUTH AGAINST HATE. This series consisted of short films featuring interviews with prominent AAPI community members about their experiences of navigating racism in America. In production, we made ourselves invisible in order to provide an unfiltered platform for the voices of those brave enough to share their stories. Not only were these stories raw, heartbreaking, and inspiring in their resilience, but they successfully resonated with a huge audience.
We sincerely feel that TRUTH AGAINST HATE helped to make the world a better place.
When it comes to purpose, you have to really mean it. If a company’s purpose reads as jargony, insincere or exploitative – if the purpose even feels jargony, insincere or exploitative – consumers will rake the company across the coals. A posturing purpose is worse than no purpose at all — keep asking why? Until you get there.
And a sincere purpose is more important than everything else a company does.