WRITTEN BY DAN SALVA
I was talking with a friend and he asked me, “So is brand purpose like when the cable company gets its employees to go out and volunteer to rehab a playground?"
My answer was pretty blunt. “No.”
I’m going to be black and white on this issue because there is something very important to understand about a brand purpose.
Meaning and money
A brand purpose is not your Corporate Social Responsibility program. It is not your charitable giving program. It is not corporate volunteering.
Those are all good and noble things. And every company should keep doing them. But they are not what your brand purpose is about.
Here is the critical difference. Those programs and efforts are all about the organization giving (selflessly) to the community. The organization expects nothing in return. With a brand purpose, we are defining how a company can make more money by focusing on the good they are bringing to an individual life, a community, or even the world.
I'm not talking about some soft metrics. For example, companies that donate time or money know that it will generate goodwill that serves their business goals – it’s just hard to measure. I’m advocating that you develop a fundamental strategy that is designed to increase revenues and profits by focusing on the meaning that you are bringing to people’s lives. That strategy is driven by your brand purpose.
Does it work? Hell, yes.
Unilever reports that their purpose driven brands are growing at twice the speed than others in its portfolio. This is not some obscure do-good not-for-profit. This is gigantic Unilever, known for beloved global brands like Dove and Ben & Jerry’s – brands that have defined a purpose.
Is this a surprise? It shouldn’t be. For years, author, speaker, and brand evangelist Guy Kawasaki has been talking about how meaning and money are inextricably tied together for organizations that are successful.
Can you imagine doubling your speed of success? Find where meaning and money intersect for your brand and you can make it happen.
But what happens if we don’t double our speed?
What happens if growth continues with your new brand purpose (and it will) but it’s not happening at an exponential rate? Before you shrug your shoulders and throw your Big Audacious Meaning on the scrapheap of business fads, be sure you are truly understanding the full impact. It will help your growth. But that’s just the obvious result. Consider all the other measures.
- Higher quality growth
A brand purpose will drive high quality growth. So you can reduce your reliance on discounts, gimmicks, and giveaways – all things that drive short term success, but also train your prospects to wait to engage until they're given some sort of deal.
- Sustainable growth
If it's just about the money, then customers will evaporate the next time that somebody else comes along with a little bit better deal. With a brand purpose, any growth you generate will have a higher likelihood of sustaining.
When you create a brand purpose, you have a higher likelihood of turning customers into advocates. In fact, it can become so important to them that they become evangelists for your brand and its purpose.
Want to hire the best and the brightest? It’s going to take more than a nice compensation package. Offer them meaning as well as money. Talented recruits will gravitate to organizations that have a well-defined purpose.
- Team member retention
Keeping your good team members just makes good economic sense. It ensures continuity in the business. And reduces recruitment and onboarding costs. A brand purpose keeps your team members engaged and passionate.
Something extraordinary happens when your people are working for a cause and not just a company. It gives everyone focus, reducing confusion. And it inspires and motivates, boosting output and resulting in better ideas.
Meaning drives money. It makes operations more efficient. It improves recruiting and team member retention. It helps attract and expand business. All of this reduces costs, builds revenue, and results in improved profitability.
Back to the original question
Meaning is no longer limited to charitable efforts. Today, it lifts efforts across the organization. From HR to sales to service. It reduces costs and increases profits.
So what about those charitable and volunteer efforts? Do they have anything at all to do with your brand purpose? Yes. They should grow naturally out of it. In fact, if there is a disconnect, you ought to seriously reconsider that charitable effort. Seriously. If you’re giving money to the Society For The Preservation Of Society Preservationists you should be able to look to your brand purpose and decide if you should really be funding the group. Then you should look for opportunities to connect with organizations and causes that line up with why you do what you do.
But don’t just stop with your charitable or volunteering decisions. Your brand purpose can become a touchstone for all kinds of business decisions. Find the good that you can do.
It will not only help you do more good, it will help you do better.
Dan Salva is a co-founder of Will & Grail, with more than three decades of experience in brand marketing and developing and implementing go-to-market strategies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.