Six ways of building your purpose brand

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The case for brands defined by a purpose beyond the owner’s pockets is obvious to some, criticized by others. The link between belief systems of organizations and the developments in terms of financial performance is hard to make, but some studies prove the connection between companies that have a well-defined purpose and a high rate of growth, earnings, human performance, ability of innovation and more. Others are pointing to the fact that younger generations are demanding goods and services from brands who serve society and the planet. And guess who the next generation of leaders want to work for? Brands who are focused on making a positive impact while creating better business.

Lots of managers still question a company purpose as a primary factor to set a direction and answer most questions in a business. Will that really pay off? As the former CEO of Italian motorcycle brand Ducati, Federico Minoli, once said to me: “If the Catholics considered building a church, nobody asked for a business plan. They believed it was the right thing to do and started building”. Of course brand leadership today is so much more than belief and very different from religious leadership centuries ago, but in organizations that are still primarily driven by the ideal of rationalism it’s worth thinking about the accomplishments made because people believed in a common purpose.

Over the past decade the discourse of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been somewhat replaced by a dialogue, that acknowledges that any business has to thrive in order to do good for the environment it operates in. And vice-versa, the local community and the planet has to thrive in order for the business to function long term. That new dialogue has to do with defining and working from a purpose that both serves the business and society. For some companies the answer is easy – for others it takes effort to find and develop a meaningful and unique purpose. Here are six ways of building your purpose brand – or improving it if your brand purpose is already defined:

  1. There is a reason inside
    Many companies have some sort of meaningful purpose in their DNA that just got lost or forgotten as things developed. That goes for century-old organizations and for start-ups. Look into the reasoning behind the organization at the very beginning: What was the first ideas for creating meaning and delivering value – and if that was a long time ago, what is the contemporary translation of that first idea? Many organizations hold an authentic purpose inside that just hasn’t been articulated.
  2. What needs to be done?
    There are endless problems that need to be solved. Things that help people, make the everyday easier, remove harm or develop the planet into a better place. What kind of harm does your brand do? Could you be the frontrunners in your field who solve these issues? Like the car brand that makes electric cars sexy or the fashion brand who recycle plastic? Put your product innovation to good use rather than sending money to someone.
  3. Chose one meaningful mission
    In a time where so many people ask for meaning in life, in their jobs and from brands it’s essential to define the journey you are on. Most companies have endless statements, goals and targets that defocuses everyone in the organization, even in C-suite. Clean up, make the difficult choice and set one clear agenda which makes sense to both employees and customers. If you’re on a mission, everything gets easier – and the purpose of the brand becomes clearer.
  4. Create a movement
    Everyone wants to belong somewhere and take part in something good. How can you think of your organization and your brand as a movement rather than a business? The most successful brands have fans (think of LEGO’s AFoLs or Ducati’s ducatisti). How will you create a movement that connects with your services and removes the divide between “internal” and “external”?
  5. Live the brand
    One of the most convincing ways of building a brand experience is to make sure that everyone involved in delivering the brand understands and expresses the purpose and values of the brand. Bring your team together in developing a meaningful practice of brand delivery that serves a common purpose.
  6. Team up for purpose synergy
    Have a hard time developing a visible purpose? Maybe you feel your type of business isn’t relevant for creating a meaningful purpose? Team up with your business-to-business customers or the companies that source to you. They might have either the purpose or long-term challenge that you can help solve. That may be the point to start both your purpose and your next business innovation journey.

The article was written by Nikolaj Stagis for the August 2019 special edition of the internet magazine brandersmagazine.com where members of the think-tank Medinge Group contributed. Nikolaj Stagis has been a member of Medinge Group since 2011.