Purpose – the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.
I contend there are three key dimensions upon which to build a brand purpose and all three can happily co-exist:
Profit is an expression of purpose for the benefit of the organisation; promise is an expression of purpose for the benefit of those whom the organisation serves through the product or service it delivers; and planet is an expression of purpose for the benefit of humanity.
A declaration of purpose reveals the motivation behind why an organisation does what it does. Herein, lies the purpose of expressing a purpose – helping people understand what you stand for and helping employees answer the question ‘why I am here’.
Not-for-profit organisations, as one would expect, typically express their purpose on the planet dimension. This makes perfect sense given they exist for the greater good. For instance, Kiva’s purpose is ‘Connecting people through lending to alleviate poverty’ and the RSPCA’s purpose is ‘With the community, achieve outstanding animal welfare through education, advocacy and protection’.
With the marketplace characterised by fierce competition and product commoditisation, I believe that for-profit brands which express a purpose beyond (in addition to) the profit and promise dimensions, will give themselves a distinct competitive advantage in both profitability and reputation.
As a marketer, my general experience is that most for-profit brands express their purpose on the profit dimension (eg, we want to be the biggest and best) and / or the promise dimension (eg, we want to make you look, feel and live better by using our product) only.
A global survey of business executives conducted in 2015 by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services and EY Beacon Institute1 spotlighted the advantages of expressing purpose beyond the profit and promise dimensions.
Those companies which clearly identified their purpose (defined in the survey as ‘an aspirational reason for being which inspires and provides a call to action for an organisation and its partners and stakeholders, and provides benefit to local and global society’) enjoyed higher growth rates and higher levels of success in transformation and innovation initiatives. They also reported that their customers were more loyal and their employees more engaged.
There are many examples of large businesses showing how they continue to strengthen their brand and build reputation by making a positive difference in the world through a higher purpose, while also being highly profitable and delivering on their brand promise to consumers. Brands such as Dove, The Body Shop, TOMS Shoes, Warby Parker, Starbucks, Walgreens, Patagonia and the like. The B1G1 (Buy1Give1) initiative, on the other hand, provides a wonderful vehicle for small and medium-sized businesses to fulfil a higher purpose by embedding giving activities into their everyday business operations that result in positive social impacts.
While it’s a fundamental reality that businesses have a purpose to make profits and deliver on their promise to customers, the opportunity and challenge for business leaders of today, is to embrace the power of a higher planetary purpose as a way of connecting more deeply with customers, driving greater organisational performance and building reputation.
©Ros Weadman 2018 Ros Weadman is the creator of the Reputation Equation™, founder of Melbourne PR & Marketing Group and author of BRANDcode®, a marketing guide for small business. Connect with Ros on LinkedIn or via www.rosweadman.com