We go to brands when we need something from them, like a piece of software or office furniture. If a brand only provides us with what we need, we’re not likely to think about them much afterward, are we? If, on the other hand, the brand lets us know that our purchase supports a social mission, aren’t we much more likely then to feel positively towards that brand?

These scenarios highlight the distinction between a brand driven by purpose and one driven purely by profit. Read on to learn:

  • What defines a purpose-driven brand
  • Why your reputation is everything when you’re driven by purpose
  • How to balance purpose and profit

What Is a Purpose-Driven Brand Strategy?

Every company has goals and aims, but not every brand has a purpose. A purpose-driven brand is one where those responsible for it share a core mission. A mission that transcends the surface-level service or product they provide. It’s when a brand’s existence is for the sake of solving a problem or meeting a need in society. Everything brand owners do should tie back to that purpose. The purpose comes through in their mission statement, brand goals, visual identity, company culture, operational processes, and so on.

That definition might make you think of philanthropic organizations and NGOs. The truth is that any kind of organization can be driven by a larger purpose – and increasingly, larger corporations are. A few notable examples:

  • Dove: The personal care brand is on a mission to improve the self-esteem of women and girls everywhere. They do this through their products, their marketing imagery, and their social media campaigns and content that support their message.
  • The Container Store: While they’re known for selling great organizational products, The Container Store’s larger purpose is to promote Conscious Capitalism. That means that all their business practices serve to help all employees. Their communications and marketing promote the idea that people at all levels of a business should thrive.
  • Nike: Underneath the sneakers and sports apparel, Nike is driven by a goal of promoting equality in not just the sports world, but all arenas. Their partnership with Colin Kaepernick is one notable example of this. Its purpose also shines through their business practices, marketing language, and website.

As you can see from these examples, being purpose-driven doesn’t mean being a charity or nonprofit. What it does mean is that your business has a unifying and energizing goal that drives your daily work.

In a Purpose-Driven Landscape, Reputation Is Everything

Purpose-driven brands have become far more common in recent years for a variety of reasons. First, social media gives consumers much more transparency into corporate practices. It allows them to engage in direct dialogue with brands. Then, Millennials and Gen Z-ers prioritize environmental, social, and political issues, and they expect brands to align with their values.

In response to these shifts, more purpose-driven brands have popped up, and it’s become something consumers now expect. Even an excellent product or service is not enough – the brand needs to be working toward a bigger goal.

This isn’t just a vague theory – the numbers bear it out; a poll from Unilever showed that a third of consumers believe companies should be driven by a higher purpose, while an Accenture poll found that 63% of consumers prefer to buy from purpose-driven brands.

Meanwhile, research from Porter Novelli found that 79% of people believe companies should work to address social justice issues, 78% of consumers would tell others to buy products from a purpose-driven company, and 66% would switch from a product they typically buy to a new product from a purpose-driven company. What’s more, people are more likely to stick with purpose-driven brands. 79% of Americans saying they would be more loyal to a brand driven by purpose than one that isn’t.

Indeed, the public today expects more of the brands they associate with. For brands, it means they need to firmly set up their purpose and then communicate it clearly. Long gone are the days when brands could separate business from larger global issues. Today’s consumers need you to decide what your values are and see that these values inform your business practices. Your touch points shape your brand reputation, and give you opportunities to let the public know who you are.

How to Balance Purpose-Driven Strategy with Financial Demands

As the examples listed above make clear, you can be purpose-driven and still be very profitable. In fact, given the shifting expectations of consumers, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to be profitable if you’re not purpose driven. Still, idealistic missions may conflict with economic realities. There may come times when the need for cash threatens your greater purpose.

To balance your brand’s larger purpose with your financial needs and goals, keep these strategies in mind:

Remember to Run Your Business Like a Business

Just because you’re driven by a purpose doesn’t mean you’re not also driven by KPIs. Track the numbers, have benchmarks, and adjust accordingly when you’re not meeting expectations.

Get Everyone on Board with Your Mission

Everyone feels more motivated when they’re part of something they believe in. Make sure to build a team of people who care about your core purpose. Empowered and passionate employees become brand ambassadors who spread the word of your brand to their networks.

Share the Impact You’re Making

When your profits are tied to your purpose, you have a duty to show consumers how their purchase helped make a difference. Communicating these wins – big and small – will make consumers feel good and want to keep investing in your brand.

Get Funding from the Right People

Every company has difficulties, which is why it’s so important for purpose-driven brands to find like-minded investors. Otherwise, you risk getting pressured into making purely-financial choices that may compromise your ethics.

Allow for Flexibility, Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

You may need to make decisions along the way that feel slightly uncoordinated with your larger goal. You may take on clients that aren’t fully aligned with your values. Or you may need to spend half a year working on a project that feels like a distraction. These compromises are necessary to keep a company afloat during tough times or to lay the groundwork for future growth. It’s fine to be flexible here, as long as you and your team remain committed to your purpose long-term.

Defining and communicating your brand’s larger purpose may seem like an extra thing to add to your to-do list. Truth is, it makes everything that follows easier. With a purpose-driven brand strategy, you know who you are and where you’re going, and everything falls into place.

Recommended readings:

Brand Strategy: 4 Steps to Start Developing a Successful One

Luxury Brand Strategy: How to Create Exclusivity for High-End Products

A Complete Guide to a Successful Rebranding Strategy

Multiple Project Management: 22 Tips for Capacity and Competing Deadlines

Multi-Brand Strategy: Definition, Examples, Advantages and Disadvantages

Do you need more time to craft your purpose-driven brand strategy, and are you looking to automate the boring stuff? Lytho helps you streamline your entire workflow and harmonize all brand collateral under a single, uniform platform. Feel free to reach out to us by scheduling a demo and learning how our creative solutions can boost the effectiveness of your creative projects. We look forward to speaking with you!

Do you want to give yourself and your creative team more room for creative stimulation by automating the boring stuff? Lytho helps you streamline your entire workflow and harmonize all brand collateral under a single, uniform platform. Feel free to reach out to us by scheduling a demo and learning how our creative solutions can boost the effectiveness of your creative projects. We look forward to speaking with you!

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