How do you transform a purpose from a buzzword into a powerful strategic tool? At Re:define we discussed how a clearly defined brand purpose sets the strategic direction and creates a strong narrative that not only increase profit, but more importantly strengthens your organizational brand and culture. General Secretary at DanChurchAid, Birgitte Qvist-Sørensen, shared her experience with finding unique brand value from a purpose and using it as a strategic and organisational compass. Stagis founder and Director of Strategy, Nikolaj Stagis, gave us an introduction to the importance of having a purpose like DanChurchAid. Because without a purpose you risk being judged irrelevant by consumers.
The strongest brands are purpose-driven
Defining a purpose is a journey through the core identity of the brand. At Re:define Nikolaj made it clear that if a brand aspires to be perceived as authentic by consumers, it must not only identify what justifies the brands existence in society, it must constantly revisit this justification when making strategic decisions. All too often brands claim to be purpose-driven through a CSR profile and other buzzwords but fail to live and express their promises. A purpose must become the main driver of the brand. When a brand is solely driven towards profit maximization and commercial success, it risk being seen as inauthentic by consumers and therefore outcompeted by the true purpose-driven brands. Among several examples, Nikolaj mentioned Tony’s Chocolonely. A chocolate brand who makes “100% slave free” as a result of a Dutch documentary, which uncovered slavery-like production conditions among the world’s largest chocolate manufactures.
Discover the brand’s original reason for exisiting
Considering society and culture is vital for building a strong purpose. Nikolaj presented how a purpose not only is rooted in the core identity of the brand, but is found and cultivated in the intertwinement between a brand’s identity and its touch with society and culture. Brands are advised to live and express a core narrative that commits the brand to a position against issues and dilemmas in society. When a brand achieves a strong and relevant position, its image will be built from a purposeful drive and not a commercial drive. But is it possible for any brand to find a purpose? For Nikolaj it is achievable for any brand if you spend the time to rediscover the brands original purpose that drove it to exist.
Stagis helped Hedeselskabet define their brand identity by disclosing their original purpose. By mapping the authentic strengths of Hedeselskabet, Stagis rediscovered the brand’s original motivation to help poor farmers and foresters to cultivate the Danish soil. From this insight Stagis narrated a redefined brand purpose for Hedeselskabet, which was not only expressed through new design and communication, but has become a strategic tool that guides the company in making strategic decisions.
As Nikolaj underlined: a good purpose is not only expressed through words and design, but is lived within the organization, and acts as guidelines for how brands should behave.
A purpose drives the organisation forward and gives stability
General Secretary at DanChurchAid, Birgitte Qvist-Sørensen, talked about the value of a brand purpose becoming a strategic driver and compass for an organisation. In 2016 DanChurchAid teamed up with Stagis to identify a new core narrative for the brand. Birgitte had felt the need for a common identity which could assist the organization in making decisions based on shared values that were true to the heritage of the brand. The case of DanChurchAid exemplifies the challenge in identifying a purpose which all employees can recognize and wish to commit to. Stagis and DanChurchAid succeeded in formulating strengths which were recognizable, but the process also uncovered values in the brand that were inexplicit but a core part of the brand’s purpose. The strengths were formulated into a core narrative, which should steer the long-term strategy for DanChurchAid. “This narrative is what our members and employees now subscribe to” as Birgitte highlighted.
Revisit your purpose
Birgitte emphasized the important value in a purpose becoming a strategic tool. “It gives a calmness” she told. Meaning that whenever the organization is in doubt, they turn to the core narrative for guidance and inspiration. Revisiting the purpose, as Nikolaj specified, is crucial for living it, and as Birgitte proudly told, it gives the organization stability by always having a strategic vision defined in the brands core narrative. This illuminates the points made by both Nikolaj and Birgitte. A brand’s purpose and identity should both respect the brand heritage, but also grant the organization with possibilities of remaining relevant in society, so the brand can repetitively make strategic decisions that justifies its existence.
As soon as the purpose is recognized and integrated in the organizational culture, it not only acts as an internal pillar of the brand, but it becomes the unique feature that sets the brand apart from competitors. Birgitte clarified how the authentic strengths and the redefined core narrative identified by Stagis, helped her recognize the uniqueness of the brand, and made clear to her what the brand is really all about.
DanChurchAid succeeds in defining a purpose and convey a narrative that gives organizational stability, but also a foundation for making strategic decisions and a frame for their behavior. As a key argument, Birgitte told how their purpose assists the organization in not making decisions that conflicts with their true identity and heritage. Because, as we learned that evening, it is in the moment you compromise and go against your purpose that your brand becomes irrelevant for consumers and society.
Following a constructive discussion on the topic, Nikolaj gave a copy of the two bestsellers ‘Brands with a conscience‘ and ‘the Authentic Company‘ to the two attendees with the best questions of the evening.
The evening continued with cozy chats and the sharing of ideas and thoughts on the importance of purposeful brands in today’s society.