No brand is an island. Each is connected in a complicated nexus that interacts with people and culture in impactful ways. Brand purpose is how you moor yourself in this chaos. How your brand stays centered, relevant, and meaningful.
Consumers are pickier than ever about purpose-driven brands. Don’t be the one left behind.
Okay, so what’s the deal?
If you understand what a brand is and you know what having a purpose means, you’ve probably got a good idea of what brand purpose is. However, the term is more complicated in practice than in theory.
A brand purpose epitomizes what your brand stands for and what all messaging ultimately points to––like a North Star. Let’s take that concept and run with it for a second. The physical North Star is used as a beacon for navigation––its stable position in the sky provides reassurance that you’re on the right track. Your brand’s North Star must similarly lead your brand to your ultimate goals. Again and again.
If you have a concert ticket service and your brand goal is to create worthwhile connections, you should always be pointing back to that concept. Your brand messaging should connect people, your ads should inspire responses and community involvement, and you should have physical pop-ups that connect people. It’s not just about the concerts; it’s about who your brand’s audience shares them with and how the music makes them feel.
If you apply this concept to your brand, what are your guiding words? What are your goals? Your aspirations? And your brand messages? Brand purpose goes beyond marketing. It’s in your brand’s very DNA.
Say “audit” to anyone with a business, and their blood pressure might go up. Doing an audit for your brand is not so traumatizing, we promise. Essentially, this requires you to look at all aspects of your brand under a magnifying glass. From social media messaging to core values, your brand is a cumulation of every word and action you put out into the world.
The 2019 Brandweek conference (hosted by Adweek) revealed some interesting trends about brand purpose. Jim Stengel, of The Jim Stengel Company, said: “We’ve done a pretty good job as an industry trying to find our purpose, and then we’re doing okay on bringing it to life.” In standardized test format, he gave finding brand purpose a B, whereas executing purpose was given between a C and an F.
As far as the grading system goes, some of those are barely passing or failing. What that means is that brands have come a long way in understanding the need for brand purpose, but still need some help implementing (and living by) it. That’s why a brand audit is necessary.
How to perform a brand audit
A general brand audit “is a checkup that evaluates your brand’s position in the marketplace, its strengths and weaknesses, and how to strengthen it.” If you are specifically trying to find or strengthen your brand purpose, you should do all of the above plus identify your brand’s purpose, see if it resonates with audiences, and look at each touchpoint to make sure it communicates the purpose.
Review your marketing materials
You should begin your audit by going over your past marketing materials, campaigns, and copy. This is also where you should “identify your businesses’ mission, vision, unique selling proposition, and positioning.” Don’t forget that marketing materials also include your logo, business cards, online and social media presence, and any brand interaction you have. When reviewing everything, you should always be thinking of your core values and overall purpose. If you can’t find a cohesive answer, this is a red flag that you need one.
Speak to your customers and employees
Surveys and focus groups are a great way to understand your brand from your customers’ and employees’ perspectives. The “mixture of quantitative and qualitative feedback will provide a more rounded view” and help you understand how others see your brand and what they think your purpose is. Asking your customers and employees questions can also help you “uncover answers to questions that cannot be easily told by data.” Analytics are important but don’t get lost in the numbers. Your brand purpose doesn’t live in statistics and social reach. You’ve got to dig deep.
See what your competitors are doing
Most brands should (and do) have a pulse on what their competitors are doing. This usually would refer only to your competitors’ “SEO and rankings, backlinks, content, adverts” and generally where they stand in the market.” But that’s not all that’s necessary when auditing for brand purpose. When looking through your competitors’ materials, see if you can spot their brand purpose easily and, taking that further, if their purpose is evident in everything they do.
Monitor results (consistently)
As you continue to develop and implement your purpose, you should continuously “review the results to ensure the changes are having the desired effect.” Are you consistent with your purpose from one audit to the next? How do consumer attitudes change throughout the years? If you had a rebrand, did your purpose and core values stay intact?
Mindfulness is not just about personal wellness. It’s also crucial for brands to take a moment to think before they post and to create meaningful content. A mindful brand operates on a different plane than other brands.
A recent post sums it up: “The similarities between mindfulness, meditation and branding are very close. At the core, they’re about awareness, discovery, focus, and compassion.” When brands connect with their audiences, when they find more profound messages to create, and when they have an awareness of the world around them, they are practicing brand mindfulness.
Rather than making “decisions based on external market pressure,” make brand decisions with your purpose in mind. When you pursue the good your brand can do, when your messages are positive, and when you try to make the world a better place, you’re on your way to having a mindful and purposeful brand.
Do you have a vision, mission, and values?
An important step when starting, rebranding, or doing a brand audit is to check if you have the following: a mission, a vision, and brand values. These ingredients help to make up what will become your brand purpose.
When creating or honing in these concepts, keep in mind that they are “the building blocks of your brand, [and] think of your brand purpose as the foundation.” If you arranged these concepts on a triangle, the brand purpose would be at the top with your vision, mission, and values beneath.
Another way to think of it: “Your brand vision is where you are going. Your mission is how you will get there. And your values define how you will act along the way.” Having a brand purpose makes it easier to define these three as well.
Creating a brand purpose statement
Now for the good stuff. Your brand purpose statement is the shining North Star that sits above all other brand concepts. Your brand purpose statement needs to answer the all-important “why.” Why do you exist? Why are you passionate about your product/service? And why does it make a difference?
Just take a look at some of the most famous brand purpose statements for inspiration:
“To use the power of sport to move the world forward. We believe in a fair, sustainable future—one where everyone thrives on a healthy planet and level playing field.”
“To establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles while we grow.”
“Dove believes that beauty is not one dimensional; it is not defined by your age, the shape or size of your body, the colour of your skin or your hair – it’s feeling like the best version of yourself. Authentic. Unique. Real. We invite all women to realise their personal potential for beauty by engaging them with products that deliver superior care.”
Think about these statements and then all corresponding ads and interactions from these brands, and it just makes sense. That’s the power of a purpose-driven brand.
What is your brand’s goal?
Are you looking for profits, power, or purpose? Sure, you want to do well––maybe even be a household name––but is that your only goal?
Once you’ve clearly defined your brand purpose, you need to set goals for your brand that align with it. Let’s say you own a photo gift brand, and your purpose is to create and preserve tangible souvenirs of life’s fondest memories. Your goal is to spread this message and make your services available to anyone. So, you offer free photo workshops where adults and kids make photo gifts, provide discounts and regular sales, and source your materials so they are sustainable.
If you’re wondering how profits figure into the higher goal of purpose, they’re kind of the same now. Or, instead, one can lead to the other. A recent survey showed that 63% of global participants “prefer to purchase products and services from companies that stand for a purpose that reflects their own values and beliefs.” What’s more, these consumers want companies to stand for something (social, cultural, environmental, etc.), use quality ingredients, treat their employees well, and improve the environment.
Now those are some lofty and purposeful goals.
To drive this point home, 47% of participants said they have “stopped doing business with a company in response to a moment of brand disappointment.” We can’t think of a worse way to lose profits and people than lacking purpose.
Are you making the world a better place?
This is a heavy one. Maybe you think, But I only sell water bottles. How can that possibly make the world a better place? The thing is if you have an authentic and valid purpose, and you follow through with these goals in everything you do, you can reasonably make an impact. Your goals could be creating a more sustainable water bottle, or creating a nonprofit sub-brand that is working toward cleaning the world’s water supply or even protecting the world’s natural springs and waterways.
The idea here is thinking beyond your brand. Some of our favorite brands are doing this in leaps and bounds:
The snack company’s purpose goes further than encouraging its consumers to lead healthy lifestyles. They also create opportunities for their employees to work actively through the KIND Foundation to “foster communities that are healthier, more empathetic and embrace our shared humanity.”
Salesforce is a global CRM platform that has made connections an integral part of its brand. They put “the world’s best technology in the hands of nonprofits and educational institutions, so they connect their organizations and accelerate their impact.” The company makes a point to treat their employees well and encourage them to volunteer in the community to put their purpose into practice.
Ben & Jerry’s
Ben & Jerry’s could have created delicious ice cream and stopped there. But they decided to make their brand meaningful from the beginning. Their three-part mission consists of their product mission to source the best ingredients, economic mission for sustainable financial growth, and their social mission to “operate in a way that initiates innovative ways to improve quality of life.” They also give away 7.5% of their pretax profit each year through the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation.
The affordable glasses company uses each month’s glasses tally to donate to their nonprofits. They also work with partners to “train men and women in developing countries to give basic eye exams and sell glasses to their communities” at affordable prices.
The Canada-based Northerly Farms is on a mission to give back and fight hunger. Their give-back initiative, For the Grainer Good, recently announced a partnership with the United Food Bank and “is set to donate over 142,000 servings of food to hunger relief organizations across North America.” By supporting transparency, improving food accessibility, and building stronger communities, they are showing how all brands have the power for good.
Purpose is powerful
Brand purpose may have gained traction as a buzzword the last few years, but the best brands have been doing this for decades. Pursuing purpose means that you have a clear vision, mission, and goals for your brand, and your every interaction strengthens them. Purpose-driven brands are helping to change the world. Will you be one of them?