Keeping Your Brand Purpose Credible
One of the first things we do at Zeus Jones is work with brands to nail down and articulate their core purpose. This helps their business become about more than just the products they make, but about a vision for their brand, and the impact they want to have on society. For example, Patagonia isn’t just about making coats, its mission is to “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, [and] use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” Working outward from this mission, they’ve raised the bar on their whole category, challenging their competitors to do better by the environment, and give back more.
It would seem that the formula for helping a brand find its core purpose is simple. You just dedicate yourself to the type of person who uses it, or make it about the broader lifestyle it’s a part of – and boom, there you are. A mop is all about helping busy moms be better, or a sexy car is all about inspiring people to take daring chances every day. But do those really sound convincing? Is that really what mops and cars are for? There is such a thing as having too broad and wide of a core purpose. Actions that come from these mission statements tend to feel like abstract campaigns rather than something that evidences the relevance of a business.
Look at Patagonia’s purpose. It dedicates itself to nature, which is connected to the lifestyle of its customers, but it expresses that through its environmental processes and transparency. It’s pretty evident why their purpose and actions are related to their business.
In the short time I’ve worked in marketing, I’ve noticed that communications that force customers to make a logical leap to connect them with their brand are less effective. People shouldn’t have to think, “Um, I guess I kinda see how Dr. Pepper is about declaring your individuality.” Because it’s not. It’s soda.
Here are two simple guidelines for creating a core purpose that leads to actions, communications and experiences that people will buy (figuratively).
1. It should have a clear implication on the way you do business.
Look at a brand like Warby Parker. Their mission is to create lenses at a revolutionary price point, and to act on their belief that everyone has the right to see. This is clearly evidenced to customers through their price point and the massive amounts of giving that they do. This makes it feel credible. Dr. Pepper may value individuality in their campaign messaging, but what are they really doing to promote this in the world? It would be hard to find evidence of that because it is so generally vague. Which leads to my next point …
2. It should be easily connected to your product or service.
The more abstract you get with your core purpose, the more people are going to have a hard time grasping it. For example, I recently wrote about how bizarre Honda’s Pinterest campaign seemed to me. I got that it celebrated adventurous people, but I couldn’t figure out why it was supposed to make me want a Honda, other than out of the vague argument that Honda stands for adventure. Should a car company stand for just … adventure? Shouldn’t it stand for something more car-related?
Customers don’t expect brands to be poets. First and foremost – they want them to make an excellent product, educate them on why that product is so excellent, and do business in a way that empowers people and gives back to the world. If your core purpose leaves these elements behind, then people aren’t going to work hard to figure out why it makes sense.
image from Warby Parker