Brand purpose - the essence of a corporate identity
Brand purpose – the essence of why a business exists beyond making a profit – has become a crucial component of corporate identity. While the objective of every business is to make money, having a purpose lends meaning to a brand’s place in the world and shows how it can have a positive impact.
Moreover, staid vision and mission statements no longer cut it with consumers who increasingly look for brands that align with their values. Research carried out by Accenture shows 62 percent of consumers want brands to take a stand on important issues while a study by Kantar Consulting indicates brands perceived to have a strong purpose grow faster than those that don’t.
Not to be confused with CSR or social initiatives, it is important to bear in mind that brand purpose needs to be product led. A leading brand such as Nike for instance states its brand purpose as being to “unite the world through sport to create a healthy planet, active communities and an equal playing field for all”. It is clear this is not about corporate responsibility – as important as that may be – but about the sporting goods that Nike makes while targeting values such as a healthy lifestyle and equality.
This rise of purpose driven branding has coincided with the spread of social media over the past decade. Technology has been a great equalizer, in many ways levelling the playing field to offer brands exposure and opportunities to promote themselves irrespective or how large or small they are. Social media has at the same time put brands under the spotlight. From review sites to dedicated Facebook groups to comments on a brand’s own channels, consumers are quick to express their views on the many digital platforms available to them.
Some 53 percent of consumers would complain on social media if a brand’s actions on an issue disappoints them according to the Accenture survey, while nearly half said they would walk away from a brand in frustration.
Navigating this court of public opinion and meeting consumer expectations can therefore be a daunting task. Nevertheless, the constant flow of opinions expressed by consumers on social media also presents an opportunity in the form of an “always on” focus group that gives companies insights into their customers’ way of thinking.
The starting point is for brands to listen carefully to what consumers are saying. By monitoring social media platforms, companies can not only pick up on what is being said about their products but also better understand what drives their customers.
The key to successful social media intelligence is to read beyond the comments and understand the intent behind the words to identify themes and commonalities across a customer group. Brand values can then be matched against customer values and aligned with what a company can actually deliver.
On the flip side, it is important for companies to articulate their purpose and authentically illustrate their positive impact on the community. As with listening, digital platforms provide the tools for engaging with consumers through authentic content. Moreover, by emphasizing purpose companies can focus their messaging on consumers whose values align with those of the brand, in the process creating a stronger customer experience.
At the end of the day, social and digital platforms provide an important vehicle for companies to define their purpose. Companies can anchor their place in consumer’s hearts and minds by listening, analyzing and subsequently focusing their engagement on consumer segments that are aligned with the brand and thus more likely to take a desired action such as making a purchase.