Where To Begin with Your Brand Purpose
Your organisation’s brand purpose describes the why behind your organisation, and its raison d’être. What impact is it that your organisation seeks to have on the world? This brand purpose transcends the financial motive commonly associated with companies in particular and offers its audience ways to engage with the brand on a more meaningful level. Buying this brand’s product or service is about more than just utility or pleasure, there is now an intent behind it that can lead to consumers valuing it more highly than other, competing organisations.
When an organisation tries to define what its brand purpose is, it should take a number of different things into consideration.
Congruency: Does your brand purpose fit with your brand as a whole?
Your brand purpose has to fit in with the activities your organisation is engaged in. If people do not understand what your brand’s purpose has to do with the product or service they are purchasing, it will carry far less weight. A burger chain positioning itself as wanting to offer quick, tasty food makes sense to people, but a burger chain with messaging surrounding restoring the coral reefs just feels odd. The actions do not fit the words – if your “Why” is restoring life in the ocean then why is your “How” selling burgers? There is no link, so there is no clear message for consumers to relate to. A brand purpose that is closely connected to the product or service is valuable: it makes it easy for customers to believe that their purchase is contributing to a cause that they care about.
Alongside congruency between purpose and product, there must also be a match between purpose and action. Authenticity and credibility are important. Brand purpose cannot be an afterthought slapped on for marketing purposes – it is something that must permeate throughout what your organisation does, otherwise, people will lose trust upon realising that the message they were sold was false. Brand messaging about sustainability and environmental restoration can resonate with many people, but if it is only messaging and no concrete steps are taken in that direction there could well be a public backlash in the future.
Your brand purpose must be clearly connected with your organisation. Perhaps it is part of the origin story – an organisation that started small and made it big could make it its mission to support upcoming companies and people, or perhaps it is a commitment you’re making within your industry, like Tony Chocolonely with their purpose to end slavery in the chocolate industry. There are many different options, and it’s up to every organisation to find and define its own purpose in a way that makes it clear why this purpose is so important to them and to then show it through its actions.
Matching your target audience
It is also important to consider the market you’re going into, and what values your audience holds dear. If the service your organisation is seeking to provide will be aimed at a particular group, whether that be in terms of age, income, or something else, it would be worth looking into what people within that group value. That way an organisation can connect its brand purpose to those values. People are drawn towards brands that embody the values they care about, and that tackle the issues they are concerned by. Now, as the previous point was about remaining authentic and true to your organisation’s purpose, it would be wrong to suggest now that an organisation should simply copy whatever their target audience’s main concerns are and then make up a story to go along with that. An audience catches on to that quickly, and they will not appreciate it.
We can easily see the importance of matching your target audience’s values through the World of Glocalities application. Looking at what type of values people hold dear, filtered by brand, shows that consumers attracted to different brands hold different values, aligned with the brand’s identity and purpose. Apple consumers, for example, are more likely to value Glamour, Luxury, and Ambition, and far less likely to value Tradition, Frugality, and Obedience. Ikea consumers, on the other hand, tend to value being Social, Vitality, and Adventurous, while being less likely to care for Obedience, Spirituality, and Wealth. These people saw something in those brands that called to them. They saw something that resonated. People valuing glamour, luxury, and ambition saw in Apple a kindred spirit and wanted to engage with it. That is the power of a strong brand purpose and identity.
Now that your brand purpose is clear and your target audience is identified, it’s time to consider how the former can be communicated to the latter effectively. The goal is for members of the audience to buy into the message, and one of the ways of doing this is to show ways that the organisation is tackling issues that the audience cares about, while connecting this to the brand’s purpose, otherwise the issue of congruency looms again. An audience connects far better to action if they believe the action comes from “personal” conviction rather than being a marketing stunt. A useful tool for this is framing – the same action with different messaging can appeal to very different audiences. We can take for example an action like a hotel asking guests not to have their towels washed unnecessarily.
Often, this is framed as an environmentally sustainable measure, to save water and energy, but if the hotel is seen to be acting unsustainably in other areas then it will quickly be seen as “greenwashing” – pretending to be sustainable for brownie points.
If the hotel is run sustainably as a rule, however, it will be far less likely to be seen this way. If the hotel recycles, reuses, and so on across the board, then saving water on the towels fits their pattern, and they could believably brand it as being a sustainable practice.
This does not mean that a less eco-conscious brand could not ask people to refrain from having their towels washed unnecessarily; they would simply have to frame it differently. An example would be that a more budget-conscious hotel could frame it as being a money-saving effort (and if they’re really going for it, they might emphasise that these savings contribute to the lower costs that their guests value!).
Congruency, authenticity, and matching your target audience are important tenets to consider when defining your brand purpose. The specifics vary by industry, product, and audience, but the guidelines stay relevant. Ensuring your brand purpose is believable, authentic, and a match with your target audience (in both purpose and tone) will go a long way in binding those customers to you on a more meaningful level than just provider and consumer.