Vice President, Digital at Clearbridge Branding Agency, overseeing clients’ digital and social media efforts.
When asked to define your brand’s purpose, it is easy to reply with the flippant response of “to make money.” And as business owners and entrepreneurs — and yes, even marketers — can agree, making money is important. It keeps the lights on, staff paid and even helps brands contribute to social good. But making money is not (or should not be) the definition of your brand’s purpose.
To start defining a brand’s purpose, we need to shift our mindset to consider the emotional connection your brand has with your audience — the reason why your brand exists. For example, to solve an existing problem or make the lives of your end users better or easier. Consider how your brand, product or service makes a difference in the lives of the person who is using it. That is your brand’s purpose.
Defining your brand’s purpose should be the first step your company takes even before the vision, mission and values are crafted. The brand purpose should be used to define not only these things but everything that your company does moving forward — from hiring to marketing. Knowing your brand’s purpose also allows you to understand how you can adapt to your target audience’s needs as they change and evolve. Over the last few years, for example, a rising number of consumers have gravitated toward brands that are socially conscious and transparent about how their products are impacting the world. Consumers are searching for something bigger than just being sold to or marketed a product; they want to support values and ideologies.
In order to define your brand’s purpose, you must trace back your steps and ask yourself why. Why did you start your business? What need or market gap were you trying to fulfill? What problem were you aiming to solve? Thinking of your brand as a solution to a preexisting issue in your community or in society as a whole adds value to the products or services you have to offer.
Once you understand why your brand exists and why it is needed, you can compare your brand with others in your industry. Identify the strengths and characteristics that make you unique. You may have a compelling origination story, give back to your community in a meaningful way or offer competitive prices. Whichever way you stand out, emphasize it on all your platforms and communication channels. This will increase the likeliness of you reaching the audience that appreciates or identifies with your mission.
How you use your brand purpose is important. It must be authentic and not ring hollow or gimmicky to your intended audience. Transparency and authenticity are increasingly becoming an integral part of crafting a brand image. As consumers — particularly millennials and Gen Z — search for solutions to the social, environmental and political issues impacting the world, it is important that brands be honest about their products. Socially responsible marketing has become one of the most effective ways to connect with consumers who want their purchases to make a difference. Understanding the values of your target market and maintaining authenticity in your brand’s purpose can build long-term customer loyalty. When showing your audience how your brand is meeting their needs, be transparent about your products, your process and your story. This will create a business-to-consumer relationship rooted in trust and ultimately drive revenue for your company.
Your brand’s purpose can only help your company grow if you’re able to effectively communicate it to your audience. Consumers need to be able to identify your purpose in order to support it. Most importantly, they need to see who is behind the brand in order to connect with it on a human level. The people on your team who work together to create, sell and market your products are the ones who bring your mission to life. Put a face to your company name by showing your consumers the day-to-day work of your employees. Make your audience feel like they are communicating with real human beings who care by interacting with them through live streams, videos or direct messages. Communicate your purpose by participating in discourse that your audience is actively involved in. Don’t be afraid of sharing your stance on important issues or expressing support for your customers.
Brands do not exist in a vacuum. As society changes and progresses, your brand purpose is likely to evolve with it. Being adaptable while maintaining authenticity is key to staying ahead in the ever-changing business world. Crafting the identity and purpose of your brand is challenging, but the benefits of designing a genuine, transparent brand strategy will help your company grow in the long run. Defining your brand’s purpose gives your brand meaning and authority while showing customers that you are working with them to better their lives and their world.