How to Build a Brand with Purpose

A good brand helps with recognition, but a great brand resonates with purpose. Without a handle on purpose, it is difficult for potential customers to connect with a business. Building a brand with purpose is a difficult, yet vital, task.

Research shows that in today’s digitally driven world, brands will only succeed if they have a clear and credible purpose that stands out from the crowd.

Brand strength and business performance are intertwined. We all know that branding plays an intrinsic role in marketing, but a brand with purpose also boosts business resilience and helps advance customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Another area where brand purpose provides a competitive edge, and one that’s regularly underestimated by startups, is with employees. For example, a London Business School study found that companies with strong brands are able to attract better quality employees, pay less to retain them and require fewer incentives to keep them motivated.

Related: How to Tell Your Brand Story on Social Media (and Why You Should)

The daily distractions from purpose

I work with many entrepreneurs who are passionate about their businesses. Oftentimes, however, they struggle to translate that passion and the purpose that underlies it into their branding.

Why is that, given that we’re talking about talented, highly intelligent individuals here? The reason boils down to being focused on the “what” instead of the “why.”

It’s understandable why this occurs. Businesses evolve fast. New products are launched, new markets entered, new people come on board. There may be diversification, pricing changes or a fresh focus. Everything becomes progressively more complicated. With so much time and energy expended on communicating what’s going on, the “why” is easily overlooked.

Creating a brand people really relate to requires you to forge an emotional connection with your audience. Explore the truths around why you do what you do and determine what you stand for. There is both an emotional and a practical dimension to “why,” and they are equally important.

Finding your emotional “why”

You’ve probably heard of Simon Sinek’s bestseller, “Start with Why,” which argues that what great leaders have in common is the ability to inspire others by communicating the purpose, cause or belief that drives them to get up in the morning and do what they do.

While many leaders think they understand purpose, that may be just at a surface level. I always encourage them to go deeper. Like a persistent toddler, you should ask “why” over and over again. Ultimately, what is it you are trying to create, change, improve or influence in this world?

Such self-reflection is vital, but it cannot be self-serving. For your brand purpose to have emotional appeal, it must clearly be in the service of your customers.

Finding your practical “why”

The challenging, sometimes chaotic mid-period for startups is the subject of an excellent new book, “The Messy Middle,” by bestselling author Scott Belsky, an entrepreneur and Chief Product Officer at Adobe. Belsky offers some great tips on overcoming various problems businesses encounter at the most crucial stage.

Brand issues are commonplace in the messy middle. I know, as I’ve seen plenty of these first-hand. Having evolved, adapted and learned fast along the way, entrepreneurs tend to hit a moment in time where (knowingly or unknowingly) their message is muddled and often more complex than it needs to be. As mentioned earlier, all the focus goes to the “what,” to the detriment of the “why.” That has to change.

Practically speaking, your brand purpose has to serve your business objectives. The purpose you articulate must be in line with your sales goals and strategic horizon. Also, there’s generally a need for businesses at this stage of growth to create brand and customer loyalty, versus just trial.

The good news is, brand purpose can deliver potent business results.

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How purpose can drive performance

Brands with a purpose grow twice as fast as others and this trend is set to accelerate, given that two-thirds of millennials and centennials have a clear preference for brands that stand for something. Moreover, tying into the emotional aspect of purpose, there’s mounting evidence that an emotional connection motivates millennials to buy a product.

How millennials and the generations following in their wake feel about purpose is of huge significance. As Forbes magazine reported last year, 73 percent of millennials are involved in purchasing decisions made by their organizations.

Purpose matters as never before and the link between purpose and performance is now irrefutable.

Finally, keep your purpose under review

We live in an age of disruption. Circumstances change, for agile startups as well as long-established behemoths. With that in mind, brand positioning should not be set in stone. Keep your brand messages under review to make sure they remain completely relevant as your business pivots and evolves. With that said, you must always be clear about your North Star.

Good luck, whatever your business objectives!

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