SMPL Q&A is a blog feature, in which we interview our branding experts on all things relevant to brand experience and design. Recently, we crossed the pond to visit our London office, and sat down with Rana Brightman, strategy director, and explored the meaning of brand purpose, how organizations can harness it, and how to develop one that the entire organization will rally around.
What is brand purpose?
Purpose is what drives us as individuals and as organizations. A brand purpose statement is an articulation of why that brand exists in the world, their role, and ultimately, their reason for being.
Why do brands need purpose?
Purpose is simple, fundamental and powerful. For large organizations, it captures the hearts and minds of employees, motivates them, and provides a rallying cry. Purpose ultimately helps them understand what their actions mean and why their work matters so much.
How do find your purpose?
You can’t make brand purpose up. Purpose comes from within an organization and it’s a case of looking at the nexus of three things through a strategic lens:
- Your unique strength
- Your moral imperative
- And the commercial engine by which you operate
Where does purpose truly make the difference?
Brand purpose creates an organizational culture with a distinct center of gravity and gives everyone—from leadership to front line staff—an emotional connection with the brand by articulating the brand’s mission and reason for being.
Particularly in service businesses, where the people are delivering the brand day in and out, employees need to understand how their contribution makes the difference. By having a strong brand purpose at the center, it gives employees a sense of the “why” when it comes to business imperatives, while also answering: “What’s the reason I get up every day, beyond just collecting a paycheck?”
Brand purpose is the motivating factor that drives an organization and shapes the culture of that brand. So when you consider potential talent deciding which company is the right one for them in terms of career progression and fulfillment, purpose can play a big role. It helps individuals identify with a fundamental human drive that breathes life into an organization—its something that they can then identify in themselves, and can help them make that career choice.
For those brands that have been established for some time, yet lack a distinct purpose, defining one can trigger much needed cultural transformation within the organization. That’s where brand-led employee engagement comes into play.
Purpose can shape the approach and the story that’s told when it comes to inspiring and engaging an individual team or even an entire workforce. It can inform other aspects of the organization that never existed, such as personality and voice, or give new meaning to what already exists—such as values or principles that drive interactions with customers and across different channels and touchpoints.
It’s not enough to have a set of words that define your brand purpose—you need to have the mechanisms in place to socialize and act on brand purpose. Whether it’s informing how you structure departments, improving ways of working together or measuring personal career development, brand purpose can also show you how internal alignment influences the brand experience for customers.
Do brands need a bigger purpose than profit?
Profit, while valuable to the business and shareholders, doesn’t accurately capture the reason why an organization exists in the world. Profit isn’t truly owned by the workforce—what is ownable is the reason for being, why you exist and what role you play in the lives of customers, colleagues, and the community.
In today’s world, it’s not enough to make a profit. You have to make your value clear, credible and compelling to stakeholders. This is what gives brands sustainable advantage—focus and clear direction on who they are and why they exist. Purpose informs what business they are in today, and where that will take them in the future.
Rana Brightman is strategy director at Siegel+Gale. Follow her on Twitter: @rana_banana