4. BRAND PURPOSE AND MISSION
At the foundation of your brand promise are your purpose and mission. This is not to be confused with company values, which while important, are often less differentiating. Your purpose is about why you are doing what you are doing. As Simon Sinek famously articulated, most companies start on the outside with “What” and then talk about “How.” But companies that have really strong brands, start from the inside with “Why.” He explains that the “Why” of your company is not making profits, but the purpose of your organization. He argues that in the same way that we all want to be connected to ideas and movements that are greater than we are, organizations have to provide us with a larger purpose if they want our passionate commitment.
THE “WHY” OF YOUR COMPANY IS NOT MAKING PROFITS, BUT THE PURPOSE OF YOUR ORGANIZATION.
A brand’s purpose is about the difference it makes or is trying to make in the world. Southwest Airlines staked out its purpose as “To connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost travel.” They aligned their purpose and mission with their value proposition exactly. Walmart’s promise has always been “Everyday low prices,” which has since evolved to “Save money, live better,” perfectly aligned with Sam Walton’s founding purpose of helping people provide better lives for their families.
Consumers want to understand what a company stands for, so that they can decide if they want to stand with it. This is especially true of Millennials and Generation Z (the post Millennials). People raised to only know a digitally connected reality seem to have a more active and pronounced expectation that the companies they associate themselves with have a reason for being that they can believe in. After almost ten years, Dove’s campaign for Real Beauty has proven it has enduring resonance with millennials who yearn for authenticity. Warby Parker, an eyeglasses maker, also hits the spot perfectly for millennials with the purpose: “For every pair purchased, a pair is distributed to someone in need.”
Defining a purpose is hard for most companies. Creating a mission statement is much easier and clear cut. According to the Harvard Business Review, a company mission “describes what business the organization is in (and what it isn’t) both now and projecting into the future. Its aim is to provide focus for management and staff.” American Express’ mission is a good example of the clarity required, “American Express makes it easier, safer and more rewarding for customers and businesses to purchase the things they need.”
Purpose is a more complex concept that speaks to a company’s connection to its community, and its desire to effect change for the greater good. That change might be empowering small investors, which Charles Schwab set out to do, Red Bull’s “Give wings to people and ideas,” or Pampers purpose of “Caring for happy healthy development of babies.”
IT SHOULD BE SOMETHING THAT YOU CAN DIRECTLY AFFECT WITH YOUR BUSINESS.
Your brand’s purpose needs to be a big idea, a dream, like Coke’s “…to refresh the world and inspire moments of optimism and happiness.” It should be a long-term, unchanging goal that consumers feel is important, and that inspires, motivates and gives your organization a reason to be. Your purpose doesn’t necessarily have to be a cause, although most consumers say they prefer a company that pursues a cause they believe in. It should, however, be something that you can directly affect with your business. Unilever’s purpose is to “make sustainable living commonplace,” which they bring to life with a commitment to “reduce its [environmental] footprint to future-proof its supply base, reduce costs and provide direct benefits to consumers to help improve their health and well-being.”
The objective is to create a purpose that lives in everything your company does. That means that the language you use is important as well.
THE IDEA IS TO INSPIRE PEOPLE, NOT MAKE THEIR EYES GLAZE OVER.
A comparison of the purpose statements of Nike and Adidas reveals the difference:
Adidas - The Adidas Group strives to be the global leader in the sporting goods industry with brands built on a passion for sports and a sporting lifestyle.
Nike - To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. *If you have a body, you are an athlete.