Thursday, December 9, 2010

The 3 Sizes of Purpose

This is a tangent. A bit I wrote for my agency, and it applies nicely here.

See, when a brand decides to do Good, it helps if it's strategic. Oftentimes the brands that do Good are brands built with Purpose. Depending on a brand's Purpose, you can imagine the kind of strategic Good they would bring to people.

Read on:

We spend a fair amount of time here at 22 thinking about what makes people talk about a brand. There are a lot of ways to inspire conversation, and fuel it. One is to build a brand around Purpose. A Purpose-driven brand is one that has a clear reason for being, beyond just making money. It has an incredibly focused direction that inspires internal folks and customers alike. It’s a company-wide belief that sets it on a mission.

Purpose-driven brands want to change things. They exist to enact change for the better on some scale. I’ve seen great brands aim for three sizes of change – Personal, Industry, and World. Let me explain.

Some brands decide their Purpose is to make someone’s life better. That’s personal. It has to do with features, benefits, something a customer can put in their pocket to save time or effort or money. The brand with a personal-sized Purpose says, “Hey customer, we believe your life can, and should be better, and we work every day to make that happen.” They phrase their own Purpose in much more specific terms, but you get the gist. It’s not always obvious that these are Purpose-driven brands, rather than just really strong marketers. Examples include Apple, BMW, and our client Publix Supermarkets. They all wake up every day with a Purpose. They invite people to buy by overdelivering.

Other brands decide their Purpose is to fix the industry. This is a larger scale Purpose, where a brand finds a common enemy with their customers; some injustice, or conspiracy, or failure of their industry. Some wrong to be righted. The brand with an industry-sized Purpose says, “Hey customer, we believe our whole industry can, and should be better, and we work every day to make that happen.” Examples include Southwest Airlines, Method, and Ally Bank (Google them, you know the spots). These brands invite people to not only buy, but also believe in their POV.

The biggest Purpose a brand can adopt is to make the whole world a better place. These brands claim that their belief about the world is so strong that their products are merely an expression of that belief. They sell the cause. They may reach to other industries to find other like-minded companies to partner with. They invite their competitors to do as they do, and welcome it. They envision utopia. They take the high road. You know these brands, and you’re probably seeing more of this advertising out there. Examples include Pepsi, Tom’s Shoes, Dove, SunChips (with an asterisk), as well as almost every organic food product and hybrid vehicle out there (now up to 40 in 2011, btw). These brands invite people not only to buy, and not only to believe in their POV, but to join the movement. To put their higher Purpose before lesser benefits like style, flavor, or price.

You can see the power of Purpose, and probably also see the challenge. No matter how big a brand’s Purpose is, it’s up to the company to deliver on that Purpose with its product and operations. You can’t really manufacture a trumped-up Purpose, because it will feel flimsy and people will call you out. That’s why Purpose can be harder to pull off than some other ways to get people to talk about your brand.

But wow. Making some real change? That’s pretty inspiring stuff. And totally worth it.

(* Some of these thoughts started with a great book by Roy Spence called, "It's not what you sell, it's what you stand for: Why every extraordinary business is driven by Purpose." Full credit to Roy and GSDM for their bits.)
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