“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” Simon Sinek famously said. Marketers are all taught to define a “brand promise”. The deeper opportunity is to understand our “brand purpose” – an ideal that drives everything a brand does.
Purpose is increasingly part of a marketer’s vocabulary, yet many brands take a tick-box approach. They may confuse purpose with signing on to a cause-marketing event. They may attempt to ladder up their brand benefits, yet come across as shallow as a bumper sticker.
Former P&G CMO Jim Stengel, along with Milward Brown, studied 50 purpose-driven brands. Last year, he released a study that showed the brands with the strongest brand ideals not only impacted people’s lives, they outperformed the market.
Jim Stengel defined a brand ideal as “the brand’s inspirational reason for being. It explains why the brand exists and the impact it seeks to make in the world. A brand ideal actively aims to improve the quality of people’s lives. It creates a meaningful goal for the brand – a goal that aligns employees and the organization to better serve customers … Some companies are very explicit about their ideals, like Zappos – their ideal of delivering happiness is on their boxes, all over their offices, even on t-shirts employees wear. Other brands, like Louis Vuitton, are more implicit about it. But all their actions – throughout their products, stores and communications – amplify their ideal to luxuriously accentuate the journey of life.”
One of these 50 brands in Jim’s study was method, where I spent 5 years. Every bottle was printed with the line, “made by and for people against dirty”. “People against dirty” literally fueled everything that we did. It reminded us that our mission every day was the make people’s homes (and the world) a cleaner place. It also blurred the lines between us and the people we served.
The challenge for any brand, large or small, is to define their purpose, and then live up to it every day. I’m interested in how you’re seeing purpose-driven branding in practice — great examples and misfires.
(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)