Are you like me? You don’t own anything from Patagonia but for some strange reason you feel you should? Sure, it’s just a simple t-shirt (or sweater) with an even simpler logo, but there is something behind it that always intrigues you. Without following them on social or even receiving their weekly email, something just grabs your attention. Are you like me?
Businesses today are encouraged to see marketing and growth strategies through the lens of channels. Are you investing in social? Are you seeing your email click rate get over 15%? Can you find a new audience through podcasting? And this is all good, as understanding how you can invest in the right channel to reach your right audience is just good practise. But why is it when you meet brand such as Patagonia, Frank Green, or Pablo & Rusty’s you feel there is something more significant going on in their growth? And is this same something a goal or a gap in your marketing strategy?
You’ve guessed it. The gap is purpose.
You may be thinking ‘cliché’, right? Of course purpose is important! But have you asked your audience if your purpose was what made you memorable, what made you the one they chose? And have you truly considered why purpose is stickier than your latest campaign?
This article seeks to explore the why behind purpose as a (or the) marketing tool and introduce some implications for its investment. In the coming weeks we’ll also explore how purpose enables internal culture to flourish and how it requires a focus on developing partnerships with others.
But back to it, what is purpose and why is it so important to your marketing?
Purpose is an existential question – why do you exist? Why does your company, your idea, your product exist in this world? I think this is the first reason why it becomes a gap in many organisations and companies, for who has the time for existential questions? But what makes this question powerful is whether it is answered with the collective in mind. So, let me re-phase the question – how does your existence benefit the existence of others?
It’s this collective approach to purpose that takes it from the cheap slogan on the website to an attractive and memorable offering to your audience. It does this because it invites others to join and share with you in it. Ask yourself… what did someone wearing a Patagonia T-shirt buy? Just a T-shirt? Nope. They bought an invitation into an authentic community where they can feel connected to others for a common good. They bought belonging.
Ok, a tangent (you are warned).
This is why I often question vision statements. A vision statement is a looking forward to where one is going. In fact, there are more statements that present where one is ‘hoping to go’. But I see two problems with them. Firstly, they are so often the same when compared to others in the same sector, which hurts my soul when finding differentiation in the market brings me Marie Kondo joy. But secondly, I mostly see vision statements lead by individuals as a rally cry for others when in fact the vision is just that individuals. Vision statements so often lack a posture of collective resonance and buy-in, instead reflecting just one leaders hope for their company.
This is why I encourage clients to have their vision statement tucked away next to their bed or in their diary, and instead use their purpose when seeking to lead others. It’s because purpose is about legacy, what we want to leave behind when we are gone, a baton that is handed over to the next generation. It’s something humans rally around and where we become equals each with a role to play.
Brand Purpose = Brand Growth
And this is why purpose is the most powerful tool in your marketing – it invites your audience in as an equal rather than just a consumer. It asks them to play a role rather than draw away to hoard more. And it is this exchange that makes your business, service, product so sticky because it comes with a sense of belonging, and we all want to belong.
But here’s the catch. If you captivate others through your purpose and invite them in, you better be able to live it out with them. This is why so many companies approach purpose in a cheap slogan manner. When so much of your channel engagement can pivot and change depending on the season, the audience, the mood, purpose cannot. It is a commitment that is made and is shared. It therefore forces companies to a level of integrity and consistency that many find is (too) hard.
That’s why when we consult on Brand Purpose we recommend starting small and start with what you can commit to. This is far better than 90% of others who produce lofty statements but fail to back it up with a great customer experience. It also means that you can grow into and explore your purpose, enabling you time to develop other key areas of your business. That exploration can also be a great engagement tool for your audience as they can help you in it.
Worth the investment
Let me show you two ways which show brand purpose as a worthwhile investment:
This is the art of developing your customers into those who cannot and will not stop talking about your brand. It’s not a screen pop-up offering a 10% coupon code to share, rather, it’s becoming so memorable and sticky on someone that they don’t shut up about it. Therefore, if your product is embedded in purpose, you suddenly expand the reach and content in which your customer can now share. Your brand gets wrapped up into a bigger conversation, and your brand is seen as a courageous partner leading the way with others to a better future.
Some of the best for-purpose companies have some of the fastest growing brand communities where they offer connection through conferences, discussion forums, ambassador programs, and much more. These expand the reach of a brand as the collective grows organically and in an environment that provides them a voice and connection. This is not offering room for volunteers in your company. It is seeing a community grow around your brand and taking the initiative to see it grow.
There are so many other marketing channels that are enhanced and strengthened when purpose is clear. Your social posts find a differentiation from the millions of ads that surround them. Your sales team feel a relational motivation to growing the brand. Your advertising actually sticks when driving past.
More to come
In the coming weeks, we’ll explore purpose in brand growth with a look at its effects on internal culture and partnership development. These areas are crucial to purpose being lived out in a way that enables growth. And if done right, can see a company grow exponentially.