Although few people would advocate for purposeless branding – a brand that exists just for the sake of it – all too often, brands are not purpose-led in their nature.
A brand might have a personality trait like reliability, cost-effectiveness or being local, to name but a few. But a purposeful brand goes beyond this. They put their ‘why’ messaging to the fore.
A purpose-led brand is driven by a mission to achieve something more significant than the company itself.
For example, TOMS is a brand built around doing good. For every pair of shoes or glasses that a customer buys from the company, they will donate one to someone in need.
This purpose-led approach has led the brand to critical acclaim and financial success, with over 100,000 shoes donated by 2020.
Of course, explaining how your services or products are better than the competition is also important. But what’s more powerful, selling shoes that are reliable or inviting people to help you to change the world?
Giving a Brand a Purpose
It is not always easy for large companies – which may operate in many areas of commerce – to come up with a coherent purpose, other than to make money, that is.
Equally, numerous SMEs find it tricky to think of what their purpose is because they may only provide one or two products and services.
For some, the purpose of the brand seems inherent in the business that is conducted. However, this means you have to know what your business does and how it goes about it.
A purpose-led brand will convey these concepts from the get-go to people who may have no experience of your sector and who have never heard of your business before.
Therefore, your brand purpose should be different from the roles your business fulfils. An accountancy firm’s brand purpose is not to do the books, for example. Equally, a soap manufacturer shouldn’t just exist to produce soap.
Rather, the brand purpose should relate to why the business exists in the first place, its raison d’être.
So, in our examples, the accountancy firm’s brand purpose might be to deliver a passion for accuracy and excellence in customer service. The fact that this comes about in the form of accountancy is neither here nor there in terms of brand identity.
Why? Because these are relatable traits that you don’t need to be an accountant to appreciate. Few accountancy clients are well-versed in accountancy, after all. Likewise, Dove explains why it exists rather beautifully below:
The Ideation of a Brand Purpose
As mentioned, purpose-led brands convey why they do what they do in a way that their clients can readily respond to. The trouble many business owners – and even some marketing professionals have – with defining purpose is that it is not always easy to pin down. And yet, doing so can be so beneficial to building an all-round brand identity with a sense of value, mission and vision – let alone purpose.
Consequently, some creative ideation may be required to come up with a sound reason why your business exists and why it does what it does. To begin with, differentiate your brand values from your brand purpose.
You may have a brand value that favours fair-dealing, for example. This does not explain ‘why’ your business exists, however.
You need to think about the ideology that underpins all of your brand’s values. In the case of fair-dealing, it might be that social justice constitutes your fundamental ideology. That said, this might need to be tweaked depending on what your other core business values are, of course.
This is because the context you are working in as just as crucial as the ideology behind your business. Look at your chosen market sector and which niche or niches you are choosing to operate in.
There may be very sound commercial reasons for doing so but ask yourself why else these ones apply to you. Perhaps you understand those market niches because of past experience in them? Maybe you identified a group as underserved or under-represented in some way and wanted to fill the void?
If so, your ideology – the one you will convey in your purpose-led branding – will explain why you operate in such commercial contexts.
Another important step in coming up with a purpose-led brand that conveys your whole reason for existing is what you can do for customers. What problems does your business solve for them? Why will turning to your products improve the lives of your clients? What emotional impact – pleasure, sense of luxury, or loyalty – will your business offerings have on your clients?
If you can answer this question – along with the suitable business context and overarching ideology – then you will have gone a long way to identifying what the purpose behind your brand truly is.
Building the Brand
Remember that when you are establishing yourself in the marketplace as a purpose-led brand, it will not all be plain sailing.
By coherently explaining why you operate as you do, you will inevitably attract clients but also turn some away from you. This is because not all people agree on the right way of doing things. The truth is that this does not impact negatively on potential business growth greatly because you cannot be all things to all people. Trying to do so is wishy-washy anyway.
Stick to your purpose with pride and accept with stoic fortitude that not everyone will be delighted by your purpose.
Equally, therefore, you must be consistent in your messaging. Altering your given purpose dramatically will lead clients to think your heart was never in it. You’ll come across as fake and – worse still – you will destroy trust in your brand. As such, brand purpose is not a marketing gimmick but a long-term commitment that will involve consistency even as you adapt to changing market trends.