How to define your brand’s purpose

Brands with a purpose connect emotionally

“What a tragedy it would be to climb the ladder of success only to find it’s leaning against the wrong wall.” Success is all about having the right purpose. This is not so much about what you are doing but why you are doing it, and is something to be thinking of when creating your brand. Brands that have a clear purpose and a deeper meaning are very attractive and resonate with their customers with authenticity.

As the world moves away from traditional mass media like radio and TV, and into the fragmented world of online channels, the job of the brand in creating its audience is that much more important. Traditional mass media tends to deliver you to an existing audience, but in the digital world, this onus falls onto the brand to attract and appeal to their ideal customers, and to stand out in the vast sea of competition. Only a few get this right.

Brands that have had success with this, have built their followers by standing for something much bigger than the products or services they sell. These brands know that people gather around ideals and causes that resonate with them, and so create their purpose around these.

A decade ago Dove turned a bland soap pack that claimed to be ‘creamy’, into a purpose-driven brand on a mission to ‘make women feel comfortable in the skin they are in, to create a world where beauty is a source of confidence and not anxiety’. They have done this in a way that feels really authentic, and so have built a loyal following of believers that are attracted to this message and purpose.

Some other examples of brands that have clear purpose and meaning are:

  • TED – Ideas worth spreading. ‘We believe in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately the world.’
  • FedEx – The world on time
  • Amazon – to be the earth’s most customer-centric company
  • Starbucks – ‘To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.’

While this sounds great for the bigger brands, you may be thinking but what about my small or medium-sized business? Well, all who are now big were once small too, and they would have faced the same challenges and successes that you do. The difference these established brands have is that they have had more energy – energy born from their desire to fulfil their purpose and make a change.

How do you dig deeper to define your purpose?

Define your big ‘why’
  • Ask yourself the following questions:
  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • Why does it matter?
  • This helps you work through where you are now in a practical sense and connects to your higher purpose. You are not trying to create a slogan but a clear statement of why you exist. The slogan may come later. Keep on asking yourself ‘Why does it matter?’ until you get down to your core purpose.
Define your enemy

Working out what you are fighting against can help define what you are fighting for. Are you against bad design, pollution, poor customer service, ignorance or lost potential. The list is endless.

Keep it simple

Try to wrap your thinking up in a simple statement or a few words. You want something that is easy to work with and easy to communicate. The ultimate is to get your purpose down to one word. The first word that comes to mind when you mention Volvo is ‘safety’. If you can do the same you will be doing well.

Make it emotive

You can make your purpose easier to remember if it has emotion or if it makes some kind of promise and provides hope. Emotive words such as vitality, adventure, freedom, achievement are examples of words that connect emotionally and can make a purpose pack a punch.

Defining and creating a purpose statement is just the beginning. The real exciting step is making it a reality through every part of your organisation. Getting all stakeholders onboard with your purpose, living and breathing it is the challenge of a life time – let me know how you get on?

Brands that have a clear purpose and a deeper meaning are very attractive and resonate with their customers with authenticity.

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