Purpose is promoted ad nauseam and has quickly become the latest trend in reporting and branding. Many agencies will tell you that unless you have your purpose defined (and in most cases, it will take you something in the region above 100K very quickly) your company won’t survive. Some say that purpose is the motivating force behind more engaged employees, a guiding beacon during a different marketplace and some studies suggest that purpose-driven companies grow 3 times faster than the competition.
Basically, to put it as Deloitte puts it: Purpose is everything. So can you afford to not have yours defined?
But can one purpose statement really do all of that? Don’t be mistaken purpose is definitely important, but unless it’s in sync with your business strategy, company culture and brand experiences it won’t have much impact. In fact, a purpose that contradicts your company culture can easily have the opposite effect of what was desired. And here’s the thing: if you are a successful business you probably already have a purpose, but simply may have never had the time or need to write it down anywhere.
So how do you define your purpose and how do you make sure that it’s a purpose that motivates your staff and builds brand loyalty with your customers? How do you create brand experiences that are enhanced by your company culture?
Brand consultants have been very busy in creating their own world of branding jargon. Brand diamonds, brand identity, brand experience, value propositions, positioning statements, brand reputation, brand assets, brand vision, brand values, brand tone of voice, brand mission… you get the idea. And this list is by no means exhaustive. Often accompanied by lengthy decks that show complex brand structures with eye-watering price tags that make your heart stop. The output: Usually a few statements that take months of approval by senior board members and end up on company slideshows, hallways and screensavers.
Well, it doesn’t have to be this way. In this article, we have put together the key elements of any brand and focus on the bits that matter. Because by the time you’ve had your board approving your value propositions and mission statements the world will have moved on and you’ll find yourself starting again. Here’s how to move forward faster with your brand.
Having delivered rebrands, new product launches and much more for some of the most prestigious agencies and FTSE 100 companies here’s what you really need to know about brand:
Your company purpose is a bold affirmation of its reason for being in business. It conveys what the organization stands for. A company’s purpose is the driving force that enables a company to define its true brand and create its desired culture.
So how do you work out what it is? Here’s a simple question to get you started off with: Why is your company in business? Why do customers come to you? What problem are you and have you been continually solving in this world?
Many times we’ve seen companies try to list all of their stakeholders in their purpose and then explain in very high brow language how they are solving their current problem right now. That’s not your purpose. It could be your current brand promise or your company strategy. The thing about purpose is that it should be unchangeable over a very long period of time. It’s the why not the how. And it should be simple. Something you can tell your grandmother or your four-year-old child.
If you’re a healthcare provider your purpose is most likely something along the lines of ‘enabling people to live longer’. If you’re a logistics provider your purpose could be ‘to move goods more efficiently and faster across the globe’. How you enable people to live longer would have changed over the past 100 years. And how you transported cans of food across the Atlantic is probably somewhat different to how you did it 50 years ago. But your end objective hasn’t changed.
Now, here’s the thing about a great purpose: it means that you may well be making short term business decisions that are financially not beneficial to you in the short run. You might decide to sell off a profitable part of your business because it doesn’t fit your purpose. Often it’s about what you choose not to do. For purpose to be genuine it needs to be the guiding star in your business strategy in order to build real trust with your customers and employees.
CVS health announced it would stop selling tobacco products since it wasn’t in line with its company purpose. And the impact was astounding. According to a study, smoking dropped across America.
Another thing that often gets mixed up is your brand promise vs. your company purpose.
Your brand promise is what you promise your customers. It should be supported and closely linked to your company purpose and reaffirmed by your company culture.
For BMW it is “The Ultimate Driving Machine”. This brand promise is in line with their brand purpose to “shape tomorrow’s premium individual mobility”. Now the latter you wouldn’t put on a billboard. But it defines why they exist.
We can’t stress the point of consistency enough here. Your brand promises should always be supporting your brand purpose, and just as crucial be reaffirmed through your company culture. For some companies, their purpose and their brand promise are almost identical. This will work for some, but by no means all companies.
A good example of an almost identical brand promise and purpose is Walmart. Their purpose is: ‘Save people money so they can live better’. Their brand promise: “Save money. Live better.”
The bottom line is: Your brand promise can change over time or be tweaked to accommodate company strategy or different audiences and locations. But it should always be in line with your company purpose. Consistency is key.
The third crucial aspect of brand experience is company culture. We’ve recently written on how to improve your company culture if it’s broken. The reason why culture is such a crucial element is that no matter what you state on your company website regarding your purpose and whatever brand promises you are making, neither will be believable if they don’t line up with your company culture.
Your culture is how your employees behave and therefore the customer experience it creates. It’s important to differentiate between a company’s aspirational culture and its actual culture – the way your employees behave.
It’s simple really. If your internal processes and service levels or quality of product don’t match up to the promises you make people will notice and distrust you. If driving a BMW felt anything but a premium individual driving machine then would you trust that brand again? Or recommend it to your friends and family? So anything that you do, from your customer experience, the way you develop and deliver your products and services needs to be in line with your purpose and brand promises. Only then will you gain trust. By your customers, your employees and your stakeholders.
And yes, you will need KPIs that match up to your objectives, a tone of voice and business assets to support your communication efforts, but having those three components clearly defined and aligned is the most important step to creating a consistent and successful brand experience that sticks.
Because a great brand experience is so much more than just your purpose. It’s a promise made and kept.