Could the current crisis facing Facebook be stemming from the lack of a clearly defined/ understood/ practiced Purpose? It may well be so. Facebook grew because it gave people a platform to connect with one another beyond boundaries. However, Facebook continued to, consciously or unconsciously, position itself as a platform, the best out there yes, but still just a platform. There was no personal or emotional connect that Facebook could forge with their users… simply because they only focused on delivering a functional service and made no attempt at showcasing why they did what they did, something that is essential to create a connect with the brand. As a result, the people on Facebook began to view it as a utility -like their electricity company! Possibly as a direct result of this, Facebook today is easily losing users in the face of the public backlash it is experiencing.
What does Purpose actually mean?
A report by HBR defines purpose as “the aspirational reason for being which inspires and provides a call to action for an organization and its partners and stakeholders and provides benefit to local and global society.”
Purpose is the reason a brand exists. It is the core that drives all organizational decisions and is the reason that drives every call to action. Purpose highlights the inherent, intrinsic, authentic, and inspiring strengths that are fundamental to a brand and helps flesh out the shared values that construct it.
If you take a look around, some of the most successful Brands have always seemed to have a very strong sense of Purpose. Tesla, Amazon, Apple… all companies that we love have a strong sense of Purpose that breeds loyalty and love, even in the face of adversity. Take Apple for example. The company is driven to challenge the status quo by thinking differently. And even though we know that Apple slows down the batteries of older phones, it doesn’t deter us from being loyal to the brand.
Having a strong Brand Purpose matters…
Purpose, clearly, is not a marketing tagline used to influence and impress. Purpose-driven brands have more engaged employees and loyal customers. They manage transformational change better and are better at innovation. And yes, Purpose-driven brands also make more money. But why is this? Rebecca Henderson, the John and Natty McArthur University Professor at Harvard Business School says, “The sense of being part of something greater than yourself can lead to high levels of engagement, high levels of creativity, and the willingness to partner across functional and product boundaries within a company, which are hugely powerful…Once they’re past a certain financial threshold, many people are as motivated by intrinsic meaning and the sense that they are contributing to something worthwhile as much as they are by financial returns or status.”
With a strong brand purpose, organizations can align their products, services, experiences, and offerings to their customers and clearly define their value proposition. It is the reason why within an organization different products, services, the marketing programs, the business units, and extensions are related to and are differentiated from one another. Purpose gives a brand all its meaning and that defines its personality… the traits that a brand would display should it assume a human form. This complex identity that a brand creates, fosters loyalty, that of its customers and of its employees. That’s because a brand with purpose has a clear sense of direction.
According to Harvard Business Review, “64% of consumers cite shared values as the primary reason they have a relationship with a brand.” By tapping into its inherent Positive Valence to define its Purpose, brands can reduce Entropy, the chaos that is pervasive in an intensely competitive market. This helps them to not only identify who their customer base is but also helps them articulate clearly what they stand for. This is how these brands resonate with their customers without getting trapped in a competitive frenzy.
A clear brand purpose brings more coherence to the brand strategy, provides greater brand clarity, opens up opportunities, provides credibility, and instills a strong sense of confidence and optimism among all stakeholders. Simply put, Purpose, paves the way for creating an ‘Authentic’ brand experience. And an ‘authentic’ brand experience is a powerful differentiator.
Where does Purpose stand today?
Brand Purpose cannot, indeed, must not, be solely leveraged for marketing purposes. Purpose must resonate as real and have the capability to persist over a long period of time. It has to show a societal impact…something that cannot be achieved with just a new advert or shiny new packaging. Pepsi’s advertisement featuring Kendell Jenner witnessed a spectacular backlash within 24 hours of airing. The memes surrounding this promotional campaign were savage as they ripped apart this awkward political campaign because people perceived the campaign as an opportunistic attempt to tap into the Black Lives Matter movement.
In his book “Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies”, author Jim Stengel says, “Purpose creates a meaningful goal for the brand—a goal that aligns employees and the organization to better serve customers.” Purpose clearly is the silver bullet that gives an organization the capability to make strong, impactful and clear decisions…those that create a distinct brand perspective and influences what the organization does and doesn’t do.
Companies like The Body Shop have become strong brands because they have a clear sense of purpose. The Body Shop specializes in selling all-natural products. They are visibly directed by the “Enrich, Not Exploit” purpose. The organizational goals, product goals, and social goals are all aligned to this purpose. Airbnb is another great example of a purpose-led brand. Their purpose was to make people across the world feel that they could belong anywhere. It helped address the “universal human yearning to belong” and helped people to become better and more complete versions of themselves.
Purpose has to be true to the business, the organizational culture and to the products and services it delivers. It has to be the single criteria by which an organization evaluates ‘all’ its actions…to its consumers, its products, and product launches, to the partner strategies, organizational structure, employee interactions…everything. And when it does so, it creates a meaningful impact in today’s’ world and this has a world of benefits -the most key being a meaningful existence!
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