Brand Purpose
Finding Your Why
By Camilla Allen · 04.01.2019

Brand purpose is trending in today’s era of distrust as customers search for meaning before handing over their money. But how can a company pinpoint its purpose? The journey to finding your company’s why starts with yourself 

 What is your purpose in life? It’s a bold question. But it’s one that every individual and business should answer as we move into a more transparent, socially conscious world. The figures back this up. Research carried out in 2017 by communications and marketing agency Havas Media found that people would not care if three-quarters of brands disappeared tomorrow. Yet the brands that people do care about reap the benefits. Meaningful brands outperform the stock market by more than 200% over a 10-year period. It pays to have purpose.

What is brand purpose and why is it trending?

Your company’s brand purpose tells your customers why you exist. Nike, for example, sells great running shoes to “bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete”. Brand purpose is so crucial to a company’s success that some are putting purpose at the heart of their business; snack giant Mars has created a new role of Global Corporate Brand and Purpose Director.

The concept isn’t new, but it has taken centre stage as a reaction to world events. A succession of data breaches has eroded customer trust. Figures show that customers want businesses to restore trust and bring about positive change. The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer found that more than half of people think that companies that only think about themselves and their profits are bound to fail. Six in 10 agreed that CEOs are driven more by greed than a desire to make a positive difference in the world. However, 64% believe that a company can take actions that both increase profits and improve economic and social conditions in the community where it operates. The message is clear: customers want to know what companies stand for and how they make life that bit better.

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it

Thought Leader Simon Sinek put purpose on the map with his now-famous Ted talk, “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”. This 18-minute talk, given in 2009, was an overnight success, and his accompanying book flew off the shelves. Sinek says, “The goal is not just to sell people what you have, it’s to sell to people who believe what you believe.”

“When we communicate from the inside out we’re talking directly to the part of the brain that controls behaviour, and then we allow people to rationalise it with the tangible things we say and do. This is where gut decisions come from. You can sometimes give people all the facts and figures and they say, ‘I know, but it just doesn’t feel right’. If you don’t know why you do what you do, how will you ever get people to vote for you or buy something from you?” says Sinek.

Finding your why

It was Socrates who said, “People make themselves appear ridiculous when they are trying to know obscure things before they know themselves.” The journey to discover brand purpose starts on an individual level. Find your own why first.

Author Ben Renshaw spent years soul-searching to find his why, even backpacking across India in search of spiritual leaders. His years of self-study, followed by work with some of the world’s biggest brands like Sky and Sainsbury’s on leadership-development programmes, inspired him to write his book, Purpose</a, a how-to guide on finding your purpose.

Purpose is “your true north, your big why, why you do what you do,” says Renshaw. “It brings meaning, a sense of direction and a sense of belonging. What I’ve noticed in my work is you have a purpose and it translates itself into all roles in your life.”

The benefits of finding purpose can trickle down to the bottom line: purpose-led companies outperformed the S&P 500 by 10 times between 1996 and 2011, according to stats from author Raj Sisodia’s book, Firms of Endearment.

Finding purpose-driven staff

Furthermore, companies that mark themselves out as having integrity can attract employees that also show integrity, says Katie Hill, Executive Director at certification provider, B Lab UK. Certified B corporations balance profit and purpose. A survey of 92 B Corps in February 2018 found that almost half reported that employee candidates were attracted to the company because it was a registered B Corp. “Businesses that are committed to going beyond making profit attract a different sort of employee,” says Hill.

The benefits don’t end there. More than two-thirds surveyed believed that being a B Corp is likely to contribute to future business growth. The verdict is clear: it pays to have purpose.

Now you know how to find your why, find out how you can go about Telling Your Why. TRUE 212 speaks to the top marketing experts sharing a purposeful brand message to customers in an authentic way

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