As the world becomes more aware of global social, political, and environmental issues, people want to make changes for the better. They become more socially conscious and adapt their purchase and consumption habits to be more sustainable. As a result, they also expect brands to take a stand and maintain a high bar of social responsibility.
The desire of people to make a difference in the world influences their customer behavior and decisions. Every purchase now becomes a vote in support of the values held by a company that made that product. To be successful in the long run, companies need to demonstrate not only financial performance but also to advocate for the same causes as their customers.
In recent years, far more companies have started to adapt their marketing strategies and redefine themselves as purpose-driven brands. But is finding a bigger goal an instant path to success for a company? Let’s dive in!
What is a purpose-driven brand?
Unlike their profit-centered counterparts, purpose-driven companies go beyond payback by putting big ideas into action. At the core of their activities, a particular mission and values are incorporated into all their business operations. The purpose may be abstract and aspirational or tied to a specific cause with reachable goals — the main thing is that, to make a positive impact, the purpose should be behind everything the company does.
The adjective “purpose-driven” is not a fancy characterization to look more attractive in the eyes of the customers. With almost instant access to the Internet at our fingertips, people can find out everything about the brand and how it operates — it won’t be long before they spot a lie. If a brand wants to strengthen how it is perceived, it needs to take action and not just talk about its purpose in marketing campaigns.
What issues can be at the center of a brand’s purpose? The list is endless. It begins with climate change, pollution, and all sorts of environmental problems, and continues with the protection of LGBTQ+, civil, and animal rights. It depends on the brand’s values and vision, but the main thing is that the commitment needs be authentic. If a brand states sustainability as its primary purpose, it can’t use non-recyclable plastic during a production cycle. A purpose-driven brand needs to be consistent in its actions and revise all stages of production so they align with its intentions.
Why do brands need a purpose?
1. Purpose drives brands to perform better
Compared to profit-driven companies, purpose-driven ones are more likely to grow sales in the long run. They set themselves aside from their competitors because they give their clients more — not just a product to spend money on, but an opportunity to contribute to a social initiative. When a brand promotes something customers believe in, the brand itself will be relevant to them apart from the products it sells. This simple reason is precisely why purpose-driven companies report more customer satisfaction and grow faster than their competitors.
2. Purpose accumulates employee loyalty
Not only customers but also employers who feel motivated by a bigger goal tend to perform better. Knowing that a particular ethos of social responsibility is behind a company’s KPIs and financial performance drives employees to be more productive and committed to their role. For a company, keeping employee loyalty is essential for building an effective workforce and advancing within the industry. Besides, it is also good for maintaining or enhancing a company’s image.
3. Purpose helps to build a brand’s community
Having a shared purpose helps brands connect with clients on a deeper level and nurture strong relationships with them. Such an approach gives customers a feeling of belonging to the brand’s community and transforms them into brand advocates. When people feel the company cares not only about the profit but also about their customers’ needs, and takes action in this direction, they are more likely to stay with the brand.
How to become a purpose-driven brand
The brand can’t just turn purpose-driven overnight. Your motives should reflect your brand’s vision and products while resonating with your customers’ values. If you adopt a purpose just for the sake of doing so, your strategy won’t last long. A clearly articulated motive answers three general questions:
- why your company exists.
- what problems it wants to solve.
- how you are going to tackle them.
Answering those questions may not be easy, so take your time and gather some advice to guide you!
1. Put people first
A brand with purpose thinks about the people it addresses, so start by identifying all stakeholders. This is necessary to understand how your company can meaningfully affect the lives of those it interacts with and show that you care about them.
What you can do?
Create a list of all stakeholders, which may often include not only customers and employees but also local communities, business partners, or stockholders. Think about their needs, values, and the ways you can meet both.
2. Determine what you stand for
Define the problem that resonates with your company and how you can contribute to its solution. Once you identified your stakeholders, listen to them to find out more about their passions. It’s all about the common aspirations that drive everyone involved with your brand to change something in the world.
What you can do?
Talk to your stakeholders: conduct interviews, surveys, or focus groups to understand what they stand for. Find similar interests and think how you can turn them into a purpose that will resonate with them.
3. Be transparent
There is nothing you can hide about your company’s operations that sooner or later won’t become known to the public. Open up to your customers: if you want to be more socially friendly, show them exactly what you do. That’s the only way to earn their trust.
What you can do?
Start to communicate more about your company’s operations: supply chains, production materials, and work process. Show your products’ positive influence on customers or the environment.
4. Integrate purpose
Once you have identified your purpose, it shouldn’t be just stated on your brand’s website — bring it into your company’s operations and integrate it into your marketing campaigns. Your activities should mirror your purpose, but it doesn’t mean you have to make major changes all at one time. Start small and then continue to develop your potential.
What you can do?
Develop special marketing to communicate the changes you implement into your business operations. For example, if you reduce packaging or make it eco-friendly, make sure your customers are aware of it.
Purpose-driven brands that lead market
Patagonia is one of the most striking examples of purpose-led brands. Its mission is to save our home planet. The company embraced the purpose by centering business practices and marketing language around the notion of protecting nature. How does the company deliver on its purpose? For several decades Patagonia has been donating 1% of profits and 100% of tax savings to preserving and restoring the natural environment.
Dove is known as a company that aims to make beauty a source of confidence, not anxiety. Its purpose is to redefine beauty standards and help everyone experience beauty and body image positively. How the brand company addresses this purpose? Dove conducts research and reaches young people with self-esteem education, helping them build body confidence. The brand is also known for representing diversity in its ads.
Nike’s purpose shines through its business operations and marketing communications. The brand aims to move the world forward by promoting equality, diversity, and environmental awareness. How does the company implement its mission? Nike reduces GHG emissions by using environmentally preferred materials and restores water-stressed ecosystems.
To sum up
In the world that faces more and more pressing issues, companies are expected to take action. For a brand to be successful now, it’s not enough to create a great product — it also needs to deliver added value to the world. Embracing purpose will reward your company in the long run by growing your income, enhancing your public image, and developing loyalty to the brand. We may not know exactly what the future of the market holds, but we can predict that a clearly articulated purpose helps brands to perform better in a long run.
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