By: Shaun Northrop
Purpose/ Noun: The reason why something exists. For companies, it is the foundation of every experience. It is the underlying essence that makes a brand relevant and necessary.
Ten years ago, if you created amazing brand experiences and delivered excellent customer service, you probably had customer loyalty in the bag. Today, it isn’t enough. Consumers want brands to take a stand on issues – in fact, 88% said they would buy a product from such brands, and 66% said they would switch from a product they typically buy, to a new product from a purpose-driven company. Clearly, consumers are voting with their wallets, and loyalty is shifting to the brands with a purpose.
We’re looking at how brands with purpose can make a difference. Not only to their bottom line, but to the world.
It seems that no matter where you are in the world, or what age you may be, brand activism is becoming increasingly more important to consumer purchasing and messaging decisions. People want to invest in companies with a purpose. They want to share the burden. And they want these brands to integrate with their everyday lives.
If you are a brand, what is your purpose? Does it only exist to fuel your own growth, or does it move people to join, grow and celebrate with you? Have you discovered your purpose yet? If not, how do you start?
Choosing a purpose is more about choosing your enemy. Whether it’s poverty, hunger, pollution or women’s rights, it must come from inside the organisation. However, it can be difficult to find or even choose the enemy – Unilever has decided to select a whole range of things to address. Its new mission is that every brand they own must have a purpose. Brands that step up and claim a purpose embark on a long and often difficult journey. There must be commitment and momentum from the very top down.
And, companies that don’t step up pay the price. More than half (53 percent) of consumers who are disappointed with a brand’s words or actions on a social issue complain about it. That’s not surprising. Customers have always complained. What’s different now is that 47 percent walk away in frustration, with 17 percent never coming back. Ever. Consumers’ expectations that brands align with their personal values is a challenge for companies that underestimated the bottom-line impact of neglecting to stand for something bigger than what they sell. Or falsely believed they could avoid taking a position on hot-button issues. So, think hard about what it is you want to change. Choose your enemy wisely and let it become part of your organisation.
Creating and deploying your purpose can feel like an impossible task; it doesn’t have to be. There are many companies out there who have succeeded and simply want to help you succeed. By reaching out to brands you believe are making a difference and talking openly, you can easily share thinking and gain energy and momentum. Don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to your heroes, they really do want to help.
Your passion is infectious. Not only to customers but inside your organisation. Your energy, commitment and belief will drive purpose and help to create leaders within your company. Give them a purpose to believe in and they will change the world with you. Your passion is the fuel for change – turn it on.
If you’re going to try, go all the way (Charles Buckowlski). That says it all when it comes to purpose. It’s not a short-term fix, a way out of a slump. It’s not a marketing campaign. It’s something deep inside you that must find a voice. It isn’t something you can stop if it gets difficult – it’s always going to be difficult. But the rewards are enormous. Now, with consumers having a real stake in a brand’s success, it’s time to rethink engagement models. Think about it before you jump in. Are you really ready to go all the way?
In the end, consumers need brands they can look up to and respect. Companies are under the spotlight like never before as they struggle for competitive advantage. Their customers aren’t just making decisions based on product selection or price. They’re now assessing what a brand says. What it does. What it stands for. The closer a company’s purpose aligns with their own beliefs, the better. That’s why a company needs to think hard about what the change is they want to make. How far they are willing to go and what price they are willing to pay. Believing in a purpose isn’t free. Companies need to dedicate time, resources and capital into it. But the rewards are far more than financial – they can be life changing. So, what are you waiting for?